- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - At least half of the Indianapolis 500 field will share more than steely nerves and a love of speed. They have the same agent for insurance, including some policies they’d rather not contemplate.

Life insurance.

“To a T, they all want to make sure that if something happens, they’re properly insured,” said Darren Hickey, who specializes in professional motor sports at Gregory & Appel Insurance of Indianapolis. “But they don’t want to think about it. They can’t. They can’t be going 200 mph and thinking about getting hurt.”

Or worse.

“Or worse,” he said.

Hickey is the one who talks about it.

“We don’t dwell on it,” Hickey said. “But, yeah, it’s very serious.”

James Hinchcliffe would know that better than most, having survived a near-fatal crash in 2015 during practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It’s one of those mental things, right?” Hinchcliffe said. “A guy who’s in our profession doesn’t want to think that could happen and doesn’t want to think he needs that. It’s almost like jinxing it. It’s a difficult mindset to get over, but you have to get over it. I had to do that before 2015, and it holds so much truer now.”

Drivers are independent contractors. If anything happens to them, Hickey said, “they’re on their own.”

“Some of the race series will provide what’s called an accident-medical policy to help with the medical bills,” he said, “but we take the approach with our driver clients that that’s gravy. We want to make sure if you get hurt, your policies are going to take care of you.”

Life insurance for IndyCar drivers is a flat surcharge on top of a policy whose price is otherwise determined by factors that apply to everyone - age, health, whether the person smokes.

For a $1 million term policy, Hickey said, the surcharge is about $8,000 annually for an IndyCar driver. For a NASCAR driver, it’s about $4,000.

If that seems low, Hickey said, it’s because of advancements in safety for cars and racetracks. That comes not from a racetrack public relations person but from someone whose business is all about risk assessment.

Derek Daly, father of driver Conor Daly, said he doesn’t recall ever having life insurance while competing as a driver in the 1980s.

Regardless of the vast improvements in safety, though, danger is always present when racing at more than 200 mph.

Asked if he ever had a client who was killed in a race, Hickey’s demeanor changed suddenly. He merely nodded his head. His eyes became watery. Hickey was at the race when a driver - he did not want to identify him - was killed.

“There are still parts of that day I don’t remember, because it was so dark from a mental standpoint,” he said. “You wake up and go, ‘Did that really happen?’ And to be there, it was just horrible.”

The driver was insured.

“He was,” Hickey said, “but it still doesn’t replace him.”

Hickey estimated that at least 80 percent of the Indy 500 field will have life insurance. Young, single drivers without kids might choose to forgo that coverage.

Everyone, however, will have disability insurance.

Hickey, who’s from Pittsburgh, described himself as a motor sports fan long before making the sport his professional specialty.

He works in a downtown office that’s filled with racing photos and memorabilia. There’s also a Motley Crue poster and a photo and autograph from Stevie Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and the television drama “The Sopranos.”

Hickey said he has 15 drivers in NASCAR’s Cup series and more than 10 in the support series as clients. He also works with drivers and teams in Global Rallycross and SportsCar.

His company is hardly the only one working in motor-sports insurance. One of Hickey’s selling points is that he can be a one-stop shop for all of a driver’s insurance needs, including business liability, motor coaches, homes and boats. Part of the gig is going to races on 20 to 25 weekends per year.

The drivers, he said, “like seeing you there. It keeps your finger on the pulse of the industry and what’s going on.”

Hickey said it’s hard not to become friends with his clients.

“It’s business, but you have to take it personal,” he said. “You have to have a passion for it and make sure they understand that, and that you understand what they’re doing.”

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Source: The Indianapolis Star, http://indy.st/2qjmLny

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com

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