My Thoughts on Leadership: The man behind HMD’s rapid expansion, Mike Maurini
Published October 16, 2023
by Jack Benyon
For some people, HMD Motorsports has come out of nowhere, but its success has been in no small part down to its general manager, Mike Maurini.
The team was founded by Henry Malukas to support his son, David, into IndyCar. That was done, first with HMD's own team in Indy Lights and then with a partnership with Dale Coyne in IndyCar that delivered two podiums and rocketed David to an Arrow McLaren seat for 2024.
But even with one job of the team seemingly done with David now a professional driver, Henry has been as committed as ever to maintaining the Indy Lights - now NXT - success, with two straight drivers' championships and with the focus on another next year.
The dream is for HMD to become an IndyCar team in its own right and a huge new factory is the biggest step yet towards that, coming online next year.
Maurini is the man behind the scenes pulling the strings and running the day-to-day of one of junior single-seater's most successful teams in recent years.
Thrust into the role, tasked with rapid expansion and immediate success, we asked Maurini his thoughts on leadership.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in motorsport?
The biggest lesson that I learned was to never stand still. It does not matter how far ahead you may be, if you slow down for any reason, you will be overtaken. Kind of like what I learned at my very first job at McDonald’s, if you have time to lean you have time to clean.
With that being said, the goal for HMD Motorsports is to continue to expand, grow, and be the ultimate powerhouse in INDY NXT, and hopefully be a competitive force in INDYCAR in the future.
Who are your mentors? Who do you look up to?
Honestly, there are so many in different areas.
For an all-around person, I have always admired Tim Cindric for what he does, how many hats he wears, and all that he has going on. He seems to always be calm, cool, and collected and whenever I have had the opportunity to chat with him or work with him, he has been 100% focused on the conversation which I appreciate.
He has a son who races so he understands the business side, and the dad side as well.
Also, Henry Malukas has an amazing business story about where he came from and his success, so I admire that and am thankful that I get to play just a small role in the big puzzle that he is growing.
I also am very interested in Zak Brown’s story. He came from a marketing company to be where he is at McLaren, so I’d like to learn all about that process and how he got to where he is.
Are there any books, podcasts, or films that have shaped your leadership?
I do not have the opportunity to read much, and I spend a lot of time in the car and on the phone. I think the leadership qualities come from trial and error. I am a strong believer that a builder does not always build a perfect house so in my world, a leader is not always the best leader.
For me, the shaping of leadership comes from mistakes that have been made along the way and the fear of failure. It is a lot easier to be a leader with a great support staff so that is the focus to build the best team that is all working toward a common goal.
What is the best piece of advice you've received?
There are two. First, work harder because nobody cares.
Second, don’t be afraid to take chances. All my life I have always worked on being polite and professional but have also learned that sometimes I need to be aggressive and a little off the cuff.
I am still trying to learn when the best time is for each scenario which is difficult for me. I am a conservative type of person, but Henry brings out the other side for sure.
You were kind of dropped in at the deep end in your role at HMD. Did anything you'd done previously help you prepare for being kind of thrust into the limelight that way?
I may have been dropped in the deep end but that is something that I relish in. I enjoy being busy and trying to build things.
I have done that in my own business, RTD Media and Management, growing it from just my wife and I to eight people in total.
The great thing about Henry (Malukas) is that he has given me the keys to the business and has me run with it.
I rely on him a lot and we speak every day but we both have a similar goal and we think a lot alike. There are a few areas that I think I support him in where I may be better and there are a lot that he supports me in.
Again, the success that we have had is not just from one person but the 50+ that we have at the shop and the constant forward thinking that our engineering team and mechanics who are employed at HMD Motorsports.
I did own my own karting team at the same time David (Malukas) was racing in karts.
A big hauler, a large and professional team, and I busted my butt to make that successful before karting became too political, and I decided to get out of it. At the time, the business was over $3 million in revenue, but the expenses were quite high, so I really learned a lot about what not to do.
Karting teaches so many fundamentals to the driver, but also to business owners and I still go back to scenarios in karting that help the business side of HMD Motorsports today.
What are some of the biggest challenges of rapid expansion? You've gone from nothing to a huge factory, targeting an IndyCar team of your own, and running nine Indy NXT cars!
Like many teams in motorsports, the main issue of rapid expansion has been the hiring of people.
In the off-season from 2022 to 2023, we grew from 15 full-time and 15 independent contractors to more than 50 people.
This was the same time that McLaren was in a hiring spree of 40+ people so we kind of had to play second fiddle but we made it work with some outside-of-the-box thinking.
Honestly, that is done by AJ Smith (Team Manager) at the shop as he went into different forms of motorsports and took a chance on some younger mechanics who needed to be taught.
Our experienced mechanics took a leadership role, and the new guys were up to speed quickly. Now, entering 2024 we are looking to hire 10-15 more people, so we are starting the process all over again but this year we are competing against other organizations who are also in expansion mode.
As for INDYCAR, that has always been the dream, maybe not the goal…but of course a dream. We need to make sure that we do not disrupt the bread and butter of our business, INDY NXT, to enter INDYCAR.
If, and when, we do, we want to be successful and reach all the goals that we set. It is never easy in motorsports, and INDYCAR is the most competitive motorsports program on the planet.
Working with a driver's dad as an owner can have its challenges, but it seems like Henry has been nothing but helpful and supportive and has his own goals as well as just advancing his son up the ladder?
Honestly, it has been very easy with Henry. 95% of the time I ask Henry for something, and the answer is yes. If the answer is no, there is a reason why, and we accept and adjust that.
Henry wants to win as much, if not more than some of the guys in the shop. He knows how much winning helps sell the program the next season.
In the end, Henry does not feel like a boss. He is one of the guys, and his wife Daiva is incredible and 100% involved in HMD Motorsports. They are more than leaders rather than a boss or an owner. They definitely bring the energy on race weekends!
What does the future of racing look like to you?
In motorsports, there are always job offers, and I have had several in the past few years, but my goal is to help HMD Motorsports get to the top and stay there.
Obviously, we are looking to continue the success in INDY NXT and look to go three in a row in drivers championships in 2024.
If INDYCAR is in the cards in the future, my goal would be to be part of that program and look to build that similar to the NXT program.
Again, I can’t stress enough that we don’t want to do anything that will hurt the success of our NXT program.
One thing is for sure I will wear just as many, if not more hats in 2024 within the HMD Motorsports family.
One of the stars behind the rise of juggernaut team HMD Motorsports, general Manager Mike Maurini, discusses leadership
For some people, HMD Motorsports has come out of nowhere, but its success has been in no small part down to its general manager, Mike Maurini. The team was founded by Henry Malukas to support his son, David, into IndyCar. That was done, first with HMD's own team in Indy Lights and then with a...