Team Penske considers return to sports cars; ‘We could move a program in tomorrow’

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MOORESVILLE, N.C. –Team Penske’s sprawling headquarters occupies more than 400,000 square feet, 90,000 of which remain undeveloped.

Could the team that has stakes in IndyCar, NASCAR and V8 Supercars (with a base in Australia) be considering another racing series to occupy its vacant space?

Yes, and it would be a familiar operation: Sports cars.

Team Penske president Tim Cindric said a sports car team would be a virtual plug-and-play endeavor for the storied organization, and he believes a prototype push in sports cars might drive the funding to return.

“We have the flexibility to do that, and we’ve pursued that really since 2009,” Cindric said during an episode of this week’s NASCAR on NBC podcast.

“A factory-type program. But essentially the prototype side of it really hasn’t had a lot of factory support up until now. I think you’ll see in the next two to three years a lot of factories coming in and supporting this new IMSA series to where you have four different manufacturers now of the cars. There’s going to be a lot more factory support.

“So we’ll continue to look at that as far as a program to bring in-house here. But the moons haven’t aligned. But we could move a sports car program in here tomorrow and replace the one we had before.”

Team Penske raced an LMP2 class Porsche RS Spyder in the American Le Mans Series from 2005-08, winning three consecutive championships, and ran the GRAND-AM Series in 2009. Those circuits merged as the rebranded IMSA championship in 2014.

If Penske were to restart its sports car team, Cindric said it might affect how any possible expansion plans for its two-car Sprint Cup operation.

“If we were to do sports car and add in NASCAR, we probably would have to add a little architecture to the place,” Cindric said. “But we’re well positioned to expand.”

Team Penske also is intrigued by the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, which has drawn entries from fellow IndyCar teams Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing, SH Rallycross and Bryan Herta Rallysport.

The Red Bull-sponsored OMSE team also races Global Rallycross from a base in Mooresville near NASCAR’s Technical Institute. Cindric’s son, Austin, raced GRC Lites for OMSE last season.

Tim Cindric said Global Rallycross is “something we look at” but wasn’t a short-term priority for Penske.

“But it’s an up and coming sport,” he said. “It’s a differentiator. It’s the right demographics.”

Of course, a return to another racing series would make the biggest splash: Formula One. Penske fielded F1 cars in the 1970s, winning the 1976 Grand Prix of Austria with John Watson.

Could an F1 operation slide onto the same campus with NASCAR and IndyCar teams?

“Roger’s been there and done that,” Cindric said. “So I don’t think that’s something he’s interested in doing right now. But I guess within the Penske family, (sons) Jay, Greg and Roger Jr. all have the racing bug. They haven’t been there and done that. Jay has a Formula E team, and he races throughout the world in the electric series right now.

“So I wouldn’t say never. I’d just say Roger probably isn’t going to be the one to push the button on that one.”