June 02, 2014

Growing up in Indiana, my family attended the Indy 500 throughout my childhood.  My father and I have traveled and attended numerous races on the schedule and still do to this day.  As a longtime fan of the sport, I was thrilled when we won back the opening ceremony production contract for the series earlier this year.

I wasn’t working at JHE when we worked with IndyCar previously so this was a new experience for me to be behind-the-scenes at the races. While the sport itself is a different style than NASCAR, the production of opening ceremonies falls right in JHE’s wheelhouse.

When I arrived at the first race, I was excited to embark on my new journey into IndyCar. New title sponsor, Verizon has created a layout for the pre-race entertainment with the focus on fan engagement. Driver interviews, VIP speeches, flyovers, sky divers and more have become a staple each race weekend. JHE’s role is to support IndyCar as much as possible throughout race weekend which includes audio packages, coordinating TV coverage and managing the fan entertainment.

John Sheppard and Brad Baker are the dedicated truck drivers for the program and both worked with IndyCar at JHE years ago. Their knowledge has been invaluable in helping us get ramped up this season. JHE came onboard last minute this season so it has been a quick learning curve for most of the team members. However, our experience in opening ceremonies for other sports has made it an easy transition.

Our first logistical challenge came during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. After the Stadium Super Truck race concluded, we had 25 minutes to bring the stage on track while maneuvering it under two crossover bridges and several tire barriers. We then had to build and raise the pre-race stage. At the conclusion of driver introductions, we had only 10 minutes to tear down and lower the stage to clear the two crossover bridges and exit the track before the skydivers jumped. Thanks to hours of practice that weekend and similar experiences during NASCAR opening ceremonies at Martinsville Speedway, our team was able to complete the task in less than six minutes.

Our reception during IndyCar race weekends has been wonderful with everyone from clients to track representatives showcasing their support of JHE returning to the series. I’m excited to see how our influence can continue to grow in one of my favorite sports.

– Cody Kauffman, @TheVanWilder27

Cody Kauffman, IndyCar, Indy 500, opening ceremonies, John Sheppard, Brad Baker, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, NASCAR