You don't want to miss this year's Indy 500. One of our Converge pastors has a car in the top 10. Root for #77! Bob Putman, Converge's director of communications, was able to ask Will Marotti, the faster pastor, a few questions before the big race.
You are an owner of car 77?
I am a co-entrant, so it’s our team [that owns], Marotti Racing, that we started last year. We are partnered with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. It’s a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports/Marotti Racing entry. It’s our first time and we’re pretty excited.
We saw the CNN article and posted it on Facebook this morning.
The Lord has been so good about giving us opportunity for publicity. This is an incredibly difficult sport to break into. Particularly the way we did it, kind of grassroots. Everything right now is about establishing the brand and building for the future. We’re so grateful. The Lord has opened so many good doors for us.
On the front of the body there’s a list of names. Are they co-sponsors?
We have about half a dozen sponsors right now, and I’m meeting this morning in the garage area with two more potentials. It goes right down to race day. We have 52 names we put on the car. Two are in memoriam. One is my mother, Loretta Marotti, who passed away about eight years ago. The other was a guy I found on Facebook, Ray Owen, who died recently. His son said, “I’ve not only lost my best friend, I’ve lost my father, whom I’ve gone to Indy with for 45 years. Before he died, he gathered my friends and me and made us promise that we would go to Indy without him this year.” I was so moved by it, I messaged him and said, “Hey, Mr. Owen, if it’s OK with your family, I’d like to put your dad’s name on our car.” They were extremely thankful and happy we were willing to do that.
I saw you placed 10th in the time trials. That’s amazing for a first-timer.
Actually on the first day [of time trials] we had the fourth-best time, and we stayed there most of the day. But we got bumped off because track conditions change so radically between the morning and afternoon we couldn’t come back with that same speed. So the next day, we came back and 10th was the best we could do that day. And two other cars on our team got the pole position and number seven [position]. So we’re the only team that has three cars in the top 10.
I bumped into one of the giants of the sport last night, Roger Penske, who was celebrating his 50th anniversary in racing. I introduced myself, “Hello, Mr. Penske, I’m Will Marotti.” He said, “Oh, boy, have we been watching you guys.” I said, “The truth is, when I grow up I want to be like you.” He said, “Well, at this rate you’re catching up pretty fast.”
How can a pastor afford to be a co-entrant in an Indy car?
It’s a grassroots thing. There’s not a penny of church money invested in this; my trustees would not allow that. We started asking help from sponsors. Many, many phone calls. We’ve gone out to more than 200 companies with sponsorship requests. God is rarely early, but he’s never late. We literally signed the sponsors that made it possible for us to be on the car the Friday before the deadline for entry. That Monday morning the money was wired to our account and we were able to sign the deal with Schmidt Peterson and be part of the team. It highlights the absolute sovereign timing of God. He comes through when you need him to come through. He’s done that in our church for 16 years, and right now he’s proving himself faithful in the auto racing endeavor as well.
How does a pastor have time to get into the racing business?
We’ve worked really hard in our church. The Lord has blessed it and we’ve developed it over the years. I have a fantastic staff and a great team of lay leaders. So I’ve been able to take off these last few weeks and literally the church not miss a beat. They’re totally able to carry on. We have elders preaching, our associate pastor is preaching. I’m checking in daily with staff. God has blessed us. We have a very mature congregation and mature leaders. They take the lead on all of it.
I’ll be watching this race with enormous interest.
Tell the folks to root for number 77. We always hoped that doors would open for the gospel. We’ve been praying for that since day one. Every opportunity we have to give an answer for the hope that lies within us, we’re doing that with fans, crew members, anybody that will talk to us about the Lord. And we’re going to continue to do that right through the finish line.