Jay Frye gets pulled in all sorts of different directions.
He oversees an entire NASCAR Nextel Cup motorsports team. He deals with sponsors and drivers. Then there’s NASCAR’s biggest free-agent, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who Frye plans to speak to about the possibility of joining his team, Ginn Racing.
And don’t forget the interview he’s a little late for.
After graduating from MU with a degree in marketing, Frye is now the CEO and general manager of Ginn Racing, a NASCAR motorsports company. Formerly known as MB2 Motorsports, Frye was instrumental in making Bobby Ginn the main financial force for the team.
He also was able to bring in Mark Martin, one of the most respected drivers in NASCAR, who was looking for a part-time schedule on his way to retirement.
Rookie driver Regan Smith, who shares seat time with Martin in the U.S. Army Nextel Cup car, said Frye and Ginn Racing are perfect for him at this point in his career.
“Jay’s somebody that, anybody you ask in this garage area, they’re going to tell you he’s one of the best guys in this garage area, guaranteed, hands down,” Smith said. “I’ve gotten to experience that first hand. He’s an awesome guy to work for. He cares about his employees, and he cares about the people here, and he’s passionate about the racing, too.”
Frye, who said he had always been interested in cars, worked at Anheuser-Busch for a few years, where he became connected with auto racing. It was during this time he met Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, who inspired Frye to become involved with NASCAR 16 years ago.
“I think being out here as long as I have, all you have in the world is your reputation and how you operate,” Frye said. “At the end of the day, you look in the garage, everybody’s got money and everybody’s got resources. What can differentiate you from others and part of it is how you treat people and your reputation in this sport.”
Smith, a Syracuse fan, said he talks about football — especially Missouri football — with Frye all the time.
“When I see the results, I say, ‘Hey Jay, how about that game last night?’” Smith said. “He always knows everything that happened already. He’s on top of it.”
Frye, a native of Rock Island, Ill., played as a linebacker for Missouri from 1983-1986, under coaches Warren Powers and Woody Widenhofer.Frye said he wished his football career had been better,but has no regrets.
“I tell people all the time, my number’s been retired there,” Frye said. “Their eyes perk up, and they think that’s cool, until I tell them that Kellen Winslow wore it before I did. It was my number (No. 83), though.”
One of Frye’s most memorable games as a player came during his senior season in 1986against Oklahoma.
It wasn’t a good memory, though.
The Tigers were so far behind at half time, that Brian Bosworth, the Sooners’ star player, came out in street clothes after half time out of mockery. Missouri lost 77-0.
“It’s funny,” Frye said. “I tell people I was a part of the downfall. We went to a bowl game when I was a freshman, and after that, it was slim pickings.”
His racing schedule has allowed him to get to only one Missouri game since he graduated. He’s a member of the list of alumni organizations. He can rattle off the favorite MU student haunts, both past and present: the Field House, Harpo’s, DeJa Vu Comedy Club and Shakespeare’s Pizza.
“The football career was not quite what I hoped it to be, but it was OK,” Frye said. “The school is a great school. I really enjoyed going there, very proud that I went there.”