INDYCAR's Swintal balances motorsports officiating and art

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On most INDYCAR race weekends, Jim Swintal can be found in Race Control, serving as the group’s communicator to officials and teams on pit lane and the pace car.

But he is also known in the racing world for another reason – his art.

Since 1991, Swintal has been a motorsports artist whose work been commissioned by a variety of motorsports events, racing teams and individual enthusiasts. Some of his work is seen

On May 24, Swintal and Rene Crigler, another artist with ties to motorsports officiating, will host an exhibit at Indianapolis’ Stutz Business Center, Suite A-280 to show some of their Indy car related works in celebration of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

“The iconic nature of the facility and how it’s changed itself (lends IMS to be a subject),” said Swintal, was an architect in Chicago for a dozen years before becoming a full-time artist and race official. “It’s an important place and it needs to be rendered with care. I try to do that with my pieces, as I know the Speedway staff does with the facility that they have.”

Among the works that Swintal will display in the exhibit are three original paintings, including one created in honor of current Verizon IndyCar Series driver Gabby Chaves’ Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship in 2014.

Swintal also plans to unveil of a piece depicting the closest 1-2-3-4 finish in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - the 2013 Freedom 100, which was commissioned by Brian Belardi and Belardi Auto Racing.

 “I’ve gathered 14 or 15 (Indy-related) pieces that I have – going back to one depicting A.J. Foyt’s four wins when I first started out in the 90’s and going through the last major Indy piece I did that which was the Turn 1 spin of (Takuma) Sato of the 2012 race – the original of which was purchased by Dario Franchitti.”

Swintal, who rose through the officiating ranks from volunteer corner official to chief starter and clerk of the course in Champ Car, said the act of balancing between creating his art projects against his nearly 180 days away from home in Southern California can be challenging at times. 

Having people wanting your work is good, but making them wait can be frustrating.

“The travelling around gets me involved in the INDYCAR community,” Swintal said. “But the travelling around also keeps me away from the drawing board. I actually have people waiting – some who have been waiting for a couple of years. I’d hope one day to reach the point in my (art) career where people had to wait on my work. But now that I’ve reached that point, it isn’t what I thought it would be.

“I’ve always felt I have to be careful when I’m being paid by INDYCAR or IMSA to be at the racetrack,” he added. “That’s why I’m there. If we have conversations on the side here or there (about art), they understand because I do work for both of them, too. When I’m in Race Control, all the other stuff disappears. It doesn’t matter.

“When I’m walking around the paddock or need to see someone about something we’re talking about, it’s convenient that I’m at every race. There’s a natural synergy between being an official and being self-employed able to be at the races to get the work.” 

Jim Swintal

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