Ball State junior Michael Goodyear, the son of a two-time Indianapolis 500 runner-up, is poised to spend the summer’s biggest holiday weekend competing on an Ohio track as he charts a course to follow his father into the big leagues of open-wheel racing.
But as far as father and son are concerned, it’s Goodyear’s school-year priorities — juggling two majors, putting academics ahead of socializing and wowing faculty with his will to succeed — that come first.
“I was either doing homework or studying all the time Monday through Friday while at Ball State, but I absolutely loved it,” said Goodyear, a double major in accounting and risk management/insurance in the Miller College of Business. “I’ve got a big calendar in my bedroom at my house that keeps track of all my classes, assignments and weekend racing commitments.
“As a student, I don’t have a lot of extra time for any extracurricular activities because my education simply comes first. I want to be successful in life after college. I like (the saying), ‘Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.’ ”
Goodyear expects to drive professionally for the first time at the Formula 4 U.S. Championship, a series of races July 2-3 in Lexington, Ohio. F4 is similar to IndyCar racing, in that it involves open-wheel cars, but is intended for younger drivers like Goodyear.
Upholding a family tradition
When Goodyear slid into a new car for practice last week, he joined his father, Scott, and late grandfather, Don, as a professional race car driver. But he’ll be limited to racing during the summer until he has a bachelor’s degree — something his parents insist on.
“Education is the key in our household. All my wife (Leslie) and I have told our children is that you are going to college and finish,” said Scott Goodyear, who now does broadcast work for ABC/ESPN at the Indy 500 and other races after a long career in open-wheel racing.
“I grew up in Toronto and only spent a few weeks in college before I decided to leave classes and start racing. I didn’t have a plan, but I had been successful in karting, and I had heard about a team in Europe that needed a driver. So, off I flew. I got lucky.”
Big changes in racing
The father wants his son to be successful, whether it’s on the track or in the business world.
“I’ve watched the industry change so much over the years. When I was coming up, it was about your driving abilities, and the good drivers got jobs,” the elder Goodyear said.
“Today, there aren’t as many jobs available for young drivers, and racing has become more about the money and financial support a driver has than about their talent. Too many talented kids come up through the system and in the end cannot find a ride with a team. And, unfortunately, many of them do not have an education to fall back on if it doesn’t work.
“My son is driven. He is doing well in class and is very dedicated to the business world. A few years ago, he asked for a subscription to the Indianapolis Business Journal and then The Wall Street Journal. He’s up every morning, prepping for his future. I feel like I am a lucky dad.”
And Michael Goodyear’s work in the classroom has caught the eye of faculty in his college.
“He came to every class and was an outstanding student,” said Greg Arnott, an instructor who had the young Goodyear in a basic accounting class. “He was the student that did all of the extra credit projects, even though he was already getting an A in the class.”
Starting the race
The Goodyear family has a long tradition of racing. Don won a few major races in Canada in the 1950s. Scott won the Michigan 500 in 1992 and 1994 and twice came in second at the Indy 500, including the race’s closest finish, just 0.043 seconds behind Al Unser Jr. in 1992.
“I’ve told Michael that a career as a driver means you live, eat and sleep the profession 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Scott Goodyear said. “You put it first and everything else second in order to be successful.”
That dedication has been the underpinning of the family’s racing history. Michael Goodyear got his first taste of it at 11, when the family visited a go-kart track while on vacation in northern Indiana.
“We were at a track near out cottage on Lake James. It was overcast, so we took the kids to the track,” Scott Goodyear said. “A couple hours and a few hundred bucks later, we were ready to leave, but Michael didn’t want to go. At that point, we knew.”
During the next few years, Michael Goodyear developed into one of the top kart racers in North America, winning six national championships. He competed regularly at New Castle Motorsports Park, a short drive from the family’s home in Carmel.
This summer, he is driving for the newly formed GMV Motorsports, a venture created by his father, former racer and dentist Jack Miller and Adam Vinatieri, the Indianapolis Colts kicker.major
“My dad plans on being at my races this summer,” Michael Goodyear said. “I am excited to get in the car, which has a carbon fiber chassis, paddle shifters and the latest electronics. It’s basically a mini-Indy car.”
Readying his body for racing
Throughout the school year, the younger Goodyear not only focused on his school assignments but also prepared his body for the rigors of racing.
He ran up to 8 miles several times weekly and hit the weight room every other day.
Goodyear compares handling an F4 car to holding a 15-pound weight in front of his body for 20 minutes while battling hairpin turns of road courses in a car with no power steering or brakes.
“A lot of people don’t understand that driving a car for several hundred miles is extremely taxing,” he said. “After working the clutch for 20 minutes, your leg will be burning. So, being in tremendous physical shape is the key to success in racing.”
Both father and son believe that no matter how successful the racing team is, a college degree is the ultimate goal.
“I’ve always wanted to be in business,” Michael Goodyear said. “And that’s why I came to Ball State. The school is the right size, and the professors are incredible in the way they prepare us for the future.
“College life has been a blast so far. I lived in LaFollette (Complex) my freshman year with a high school friend and really enjoyed it. Now, unfortunately, I don’t have time to hang with my friends as much or stay out socializing, but that isn’t what I’m here to do. I want to focus on my education and my career. I think I will be successful no matter what I do.”