The New Kings of Indy: Meet Ohio's Mike Shank, Who's Building a Racing Powerhouse
How Meyer Shank Racing built an unlikely winner at America’s most revered track.
Less than two minutes after Hélio Castroneves took the checkered flag at the Indianapolis 500, he began climbing the chain-link fence in front of the roaring crowd. Mike Shank, not the type of team owner to wait for the celebration to reach him, jogged onto the asphalt track and scaled up next to his jubilant driver.
In a July interview, Shank describes that feeling of triumph as “euphoria—just shock more than anything.” Indeed, the path to victory before the May 30 race was circuitous and improbable. Castroneves, then a three-time Indy 500 champ whose future seemed dim, was competing for the first time with Meyer Shank Racing, in only its second full season of the IndyCar Series, where the team had never won.
Shank, 54, was raised in Gahanna and had dreamt of winning the Indy 500 since he was introduced to racing by his dad, who crewed for his Western Electric co-workers at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Shank started racing right after high school and financed his career by opening a shop in Columbus to prep and tweak cars for other local racing enthusiasts. He rose through the lower circuits and even made one start at the top tier, finishing 16th in Las Vegas in 1997. But that was it. The prep shop was a success, and around that time, he decided to focus on the business and owning a team rather than driving.
With his wife, Marybeth, as vice president, Shank’s racing team found success on the Indy-style secondary circuits and expanded into sports car racing as well. Shank met Castroneves in 2007, and the driver’s team during that era—the Team Penske powerhouse—allowed him to compete once for Shank at that year’s prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona, where they finished ninth. Five years later, Shank’s team notched its biggest victory to date at the track.
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In 2017, he finally arrived at the Indy 500, entering rookie driver Jack Harvey as a one-off. Harvey was taken out by someone else’s crash, but it was the first time Shank began to believe that maybe they could compete there. That was also where he met SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer, who invested and became a co-owner. They patiently increased their IndyCar participation each of the next three years.
The final piece of the puzzle arrived in 2020, when Penske released Castroneves after two decades. The 46-year-old driver, brimming with energy, believed he was still in his prime. “I can’t just let it go because I know I still have a lot to give,” he says. Meyer Shank Racing signed him for six contests.
And so Castroneves arrived in Indy, where he hadn’t won in 12 years, for what became his inaugural Meyer Shank race and his coronation. As Shank says, they look like rock stars for their decision to roll the dice on the veteran, now tied for the most all-time Indy 500 wins. Castroneves has already signed on for the full 17-race 2022 campaign with Meyer Shank, and his goal is clear—win the IndyCar season championship that has long eluded him and take home his history-making fifth Indy 500 victory along the way.
Shank wants to win it all from Central Ohio. Last October, the team broke ground on a new headquarters in Pataskala, not far from the current one in Etna Township. The facility, set to open this fall, will expand Meyer Shank’s space from 18,000 square feet to 44,000 and offer technical upgrades like dedicated engineering offices and 3D printers for parts. It would have made sense to build it in Indy, where many racing teams operate, but Shank’s family is here, as is Marybeth’s, and he remains loyal to the local community. Relocating, he says, goes against how he built everything to this point.
Meyer Shank continues to run sports cars, and in 2020 the team signed a multiyear deal to race Acura prototypes in a top international division. Now, Shank has his sights set on the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, two of the world’s top endurance races.
Regardless of what the future holds, he and Castroneves will always have that unbelievable moment on the fence near the grandstands at Indy. They hung there briefly, and then Castroneves dropped into a crouch on the concrete barrier below, head in his hands. Amid the din of 135,000 fans, Shank hugged his driver, told him how much he deserved the victory and thanked him for changing his life forever.
This story is from the September 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.