The Duo Have Partnered to Back Teams and Drivers for Four Decades
By David Phillips
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Curb-Agajanian. It’s a moniker nearly ubiquitous in American racing. From NASCAR, IndyCar and USAC to the World of Outlaws. And, of course, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the form of Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian and IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian.
But what exactly is a Curb-Agajanian? The answer is a partnership between two of the most ardent supporters of auto racing you’ll find: Mike Curb and Cary Agajanian.
Partner in a Los Angeles-based law firm, Agajanian has managed the careers of Herta, John Andretti, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Christopher Bell to name just a few. He comes by his interest in racing naturally, given that his father, the late J.C. Agajanian, was the long-time impresario of the legendary Ascot Park dirt track and owner of the No. 98 Agajanian Specials Troy Ruttman and Parnelli Jones drove to victory in the 1952 and ’63 Indianapolis 500s, respectively.
Curb may not have the racing heritage of his partner, but his back story is fascinating given that he is the namesake of The Mike Curb Congregation pop music group (think “Burning Bridges,” theme song for the classic movie “Kelly’s Heroes”) and founder of Curb Records, not to mention former lieutenant governor of California and co-chair of Ronald Reagan’s successful presidential campaign.
The pair first met at a political fundraiser, where Agajanian initially passed off Curb’s professed interest in racing as smooth talking. That is, until they sat down and talked racing, when Agajanian learned Curb knew almost as much about it as he did.
Thus were the seeds sewn for a Curb Agajanian Performance Group that has owned or sponsored cars across the racing spectrum the past four decades, even as Curb independently backed an emerging stock car driver named Dale Earnhardt and formed the Curb Racing team with which Richard Petty scored his 200th NASCAR win. In the process, they got to know a race driver-turned-team owner named Mike Shank whose sports car team punched above its weight, scoring several wins and finishing runner-up in the Rolex 24 At Daytona on a modest budget.
“I first met Mike at the racetrack and I knew immediately that I wanted to work with him,” says Curb. “He had been, and still is, such an integral component of sports car racing and that made it an easy decision to join Mike and his team.”
In the second year of the association, Mike Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian captured the 50th running of the Rolex 24 in 2012.
“That moment set so many things in motion that continue today,” says Shank, who later began fielding IndyCars and whose partners now include Liberty Media, owners of Formula One. “Literally, 2011 and 2012 spawned the really good stuff that’s going on in our life today.
“Mike (Curb) is one of the most hard-core racers I’ve ever met. He has an ability to sniff out people who are in this for the right reason, and he chooses to support those people. Without his support, and I think you can say this in the music business too, there are a lot of people who wouldn’t have made it.”
A lot of people can say the same thing about Agajanian, including Bryan Herta.
“I got to know Cary and his father when I raced quarter midgets at Ascot Park as a kid,” Herta says. “Later, Cary helped me along the way to IndyCars. Then when I started running an IndyCar team, Cary got involved and we wound up winning the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon (in 2011) and Alexander Rossi (2016) in the No. 98 cars.”
Shank enjoyed a similar level of success in sports cars. The team’s prototypes scored a number of wins, including the 2016 Motul Petit Le Mans, before switching to the GT Daytona (GTD) class in 2017. After capturing back-to-back GTD championships with Acura, the team returned to its prototype roots this year as Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian to reflect Shank’s partnership with Jim Meyer, CEO of SiriusXM as well as a long-lasting relationship with Curb and Agajanian.
“Mike (Shank) and I have become very good friends over the years,” says Agajanian. “I’m sure Mike (Curb) feels the same way. I think as long as Curb Records keeps selling records, you’ll keep seeing Mike Shank with Curb-Agajanian at races.”
Likewise, Curb-Agajanian are in it for the long haul with Herta, whose Hyundais finished 1-2-3 in the 2020 Pilot Challenge Touring Car (TCR) standings and who, once again, fielded the No. 98 entry in this year’s Indy 500 for one Marco Andretti. In addition, Curb-Agajanian also were listed on the No. 26 entry for Bryan Herta’s son, Colton Herta.
And while Curb and Agajanian were certainly rooting for Andretti and Herta on Memorial Day, suffice to say they were almost as happy to see Helio Castroneves take the checkered flag in the No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing entry as they would have been to see the No. 98 or No. 26 car win the Indy 500.
Not to worry. Given their involvement in sports cars, stock cars and open-wheel racing in its many forms, the Curb Agajanian Performance Group is certain to visit many a victory lane well into the future, from Daytona and Indianapolis to Road America and Long Beach, Eldora and Knoxville.