Indy High is Same 30 Years Later for McArdle
Furniture Row Racing's competition director has enjoyed an envious history of success at IMS
DENVER, Colo. (July 21, 2010) -- Mark McArdle says he still feels a buzz when he drives through the tunnel at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). As an engine specialist, his record at the internationally-famed venue includes three Indy 500 victories and a close working relationship with some of the top drivers to ever compete at the 2.5-mile oval.
McArdle, who is now the managing director of competition for the Denver, Colo-based Furniture Row Racing Sprint Cup team and driver Regan Smith, is feeling the same high for this weekend's Brickyard 400 as he did for his first Indianapolis 500 in 1979 when he worked as a mechanic for driver Bill Vukovich Jr.
"This is the reason I got into professional motorsports -- to have the opportunity to drive through that tunnel," said McArdle. "It's hallowed grounds to me and I have the utmost respect for every inch of the facility and all the tradition that goes with it. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is to motorsports what St. Andrews is to golf."
The list of Indy drivers who McArdle worked closely with since 1979 reads like a Who's Who in motorsports. Rick Mears, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr., Tom Sneva, Michael Andretti, Danny Sullivan, Paul Tracy and Bobby Rahal are some of the blue chip drivers with whom McArdle has had an association.
"A privilege and honor to have had the opportunity to work with these drivers who not only brought the sport to a new level, but also are responsible for creating a strong national and international awareness for American auto racing."
McArdle served as the engine specialist for Roger Penske's Indy car teams from 1989-1993. During those Penske years, he saw two of the team drivers capture the big prize with Mears winning the 1991 Indy 500 and Fittipaldi winning the 500 two years later.
A year after Fittipaldi's victory, McArdle went to work for Ilmor Engineering and was the engine builder for the Mercedes-Benz pushrod engine project that powered Al Unser Jr. to the Indy 500 victory in 1994.
"I am well aware of how fortunate I have been to be surrounded by talent and dedication," noted the 52-year-old McArdle. "Being part of three Indianapolis 500 victories is more than I ever bargained for when I started as a junior mechanic. But once you kiss the bricks, you want to go back again and relive that special moment. I would love to do it again."
For the record McArdle had mixed feelings when he first heard in 1993 that stock cars would compete at IMS the following year.
"I kept on saying this is our house and what are they (stock cars) doing here," recalled McArdle.
But five years after the inaugural Brickyard 400 (1994), stock car racing came calling for McArdle, who joined Cal Wells' PPI Motorsports Cup team in 1999. After two years at PPI, he became general manager of Yates Racing Engines from the fall of 2001 to the spring of 2003. He joined Evernham Motorsports (now Richard Petty Motorsports) in May 2003 where he directed the team's engine program for more than six years.
McArdle was hired by Furniture Row Racing at the end of the 2009 season to lead the competition side of the program. The results during the first half of the season have trended upwards for the young Furniture Row organization with Smith driving the No. 78 Chevrolet to six top-20 finishes.
"We're six months into a three-year process and I feel we're right on track," said McArdle, a native of La Crosse, Wis. "We've seen nothing but improvement by the team and I see this trend continuing in the right direction. What is appealing about the Furniture Row organization is the team’s unyielding commitment to build on an already-solid foundation.”
Smith, the 2008 Sprint Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year, feels that McArdle's experience and organizational skills have been a huge benefit to Furniture Row Racing.
"Mark is a great organizer and has a clear vision and a clear path to where he wants to take this team," said Smith. "He's been with winners and knows what it takes to be successful. When the leader has a plan then we all have a plan. Mark is a big asset to our team."