George Steinbrenner IV grew up around one of the winningest, richest and most prestigious franchises in American sports: the New York Yankees.
But how about this—a World Series or an Indianapolis 500?
“Though World Series games are raucous, and during the game, it’s exciting,” Steinbrenner says. “There’s nothing as ceremonial as the Indy 500, and the energy…Nothing beats it.”
Steinbrenner is the grandson of legendary Yankees owner George Steinbrenner III. Now, the younger George has forged his own road to team ownership. At the ripe age of 22, he’s the youngest team owner in IndyCar history.
A first pitch ceremony on September 17 Yankee Stadium made it official: Steinbrenner Racing, a team that had previously competed in the Indy Lights Series (which Steinbrenner compares to Minor League Baseball) merged with with Harding Racing to form Harding Steinbrenner Racing. Furthering the youth movement, Steinbrenner’s two drivers on the new team, American Colton Herta and Mexican Patricio O’Ward, are just 18 and 19, respectively.
Steinbrenner now owns a professional team at an age where many of his peers are just kickstarting their post-college careers.
“Thankfully, the IndyCar series is more than welcoming,” Steinbrenner said. “They’re not only excited to have the Steinbrenner name and Yankee tradition involved, but they want young owners. Recently, there have been a few younger owners, but of course not as young as I am, bringing new blood into the series.”
While baseball is his family’s calling card—his grandfather delivered seven titles to the Bronx during his iconic 37-year tenure as “The Boss,” and his father Hank is currently a co-chairman of the franchise—Steinbrenner has loved racing since his childhood. His cousin, Tony Renna, was an IndyCar driver in the early 2000s. His uncle, Chris Simmons, serves as the engineer for 2008 Indy 500 champion Scott Dixon.
“I grew up up around racing, with it being a family atmosphere, going to the paddock and all,” Steinbrenner said. “And growing up, my heroes were always sports management figures. I always looked up to the guys on the pit stand. To choose racing as a branching-off point for me was a no-brainer.”
Steinbrenner first seriously considered plunging into racing as a 12-year-old. And just because he comes from a family synonymous with New York baseball lore, don’t assume Steinbrenner was gifted team ownership on some sort of Yankee Stadium-shaped silver platter.
He did the dirty work. He got on his hands and knees and mopped floors, literally. For his first racing gig, Steinbrenner’s worked for Herta’s dad, Bryan, in the Global Rallycross series.
“In the shop, I answered phones, mopped floors, filled coolers and filled fridges,” Steinbrenner said.
“Bus boy,” Herta chimed in, also explaining that his owner learned a great deal about how a race weekend works from the team side. Steinbrenner sat in on engineering meetings and calls the experience a sort shadowing program that readied him for team ownership.
But first—in true Yankee fashion—to the barbershop. Steinbrenner had long, brown hair flowing near his shoulders until last month.
“I could just imagine becoming an IndyCar owner and still having that hair, and my grandfather looking down on me with a very sour look,” Steinbrenner said. “If he could, he would manifest in front of me and say, ‘Cut your damn hair.’”
The newly short-haired Steinbrenner still can’t legally rent a car, but he’s the newest boss on the IndyCar tracks.