What they are saying about Roger Penske’s deal to buy INDYCAR, IMS, Indy 500

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Famed business leader and motorsports legend Roger Penske’s decision to buy INDYCAR, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 from the Hulman George Family is arguably the biggest auto racing story of this century.

It preserves the history, heritage and tradition of one of the greatest sporting events on Earth and puts it under the control of one of the most successful business leaders in the world.

The reaction to the stunning news is positive, although there remains much to be determined about what the actual changes in ownership will be.

But one thing is certain – this is historic news.

Here is a sampling of opinions regarding Penske’s purchase of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, INDYCAR and the Indianapolis 500.

ROGER PENSKE (Chairman and Founder, Penske Corporation): “My passion for racing began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1951 when I attended the Indianapolis 500 with my father. We have so much respect and appreciation for the history and tradition of the Speedway and the sport of INDYCAR racing. I want to thank Hulman & Company for the opportunity to build on this legacy, and it will be an honor for Penske Corporation to help lead these great institutions forward into a new era.”

TONY GEORGE (Chairman, Hulman & Company): “We recently approached Roger Penske and Penske Corporation about this opportunity and began working to put an agreement in place. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the centerpiece and the cathedral of motorsports since 1909, and the Hulman-George family has proudly served as the steward of this great institution for more than 70 years. Now, we are honored to pass the torch to Roger Penske and Penske Corporation, as they become just the fourth owner of the iconic Speedway. There is no one more capable and qualified than Roger and his organization to lead the sport of INDYCAR racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway into the future.”

MARK MILES (President and CEO, Hulman & Company): “The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and the NTT IndyCar Series have enjoyed considerable growth over the past decade, with significant increases in television, digital and social media audiences combined with record attendance at many of our race venues. With their track record of business success, their venue, operation and event experience and their passion for motorsports, Roger Penske and Penske Corporation will help us take the IndyCar Series, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all of our properties to new heights. Everyone on our team looks forward to working with them to capitalize on the momentum that the Series and the Speedway have achieved.”

DOUGLAS BOLES (President, Indianapolis Motor Speedway):“The professionalism, integrity and values of Penske Corporation match perfectly with those of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Roger Penske and his entire company understand the history, legacy and tradition of the Speedway, and their passion for IMS is known and respected worldwide. We’re confident Penske Corporation will be a faithful, vibrant steward of this great facility and its events, ensuring a bright, successful future.”

JAY FRYE (President, INDYCAR): “The stewardship of this sport will have the unique opportunity to transition from one iconic institution to another in the Penske Corporation. This scenario for the future growth of the sport could not be more perfect. Roger Penske has been an integral part of this sport for more than a half-century, and his passion, vision and business acumen will ensure its future growth. We also would like to thank the Hulman-George family for their dedication to the sport and building the Indianapolis 500 into one of the most successful sporting events in the world over the past seven decades.”

ERIC HOLCOMB (Governor, State of Indiana): “The biggest single-day sporting event on planet Earth is about to get even bigger and better. I couldn’t be more excited about the future of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with ‘The Captain’ Roger Penske at the helm. Mr. Penske’s vision, team and high expectations will ensure Indiana’s most iconic asset continues to grow. Along with INDYCAR, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway forms the core of an entire racing industry that employs thousands of people and pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy. As a racing fan, my excitement is only equaled by my appreciation for the longtime Hulman-George commitment to the past and future of the sport of racing and to our great state.”

JOE HOGSETT (Mayor, City of Indianapolis): “Today marks the start of a new chapter for the city of Indianapolis, as the torch is passed from the Hulman-George family to another leader who shares a passion for the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the legacy of INDYCAR. For decades, Hulman & Company has overseen one of Indianapolis’ greatest assets, acting as community partners and stewards of our state’s most prized tradition. Residents across the city and around the globe all have stories of the wonder of IMS, thanks to the dedication of the Hulman-George family. I know Roger Penske and the Penske Corporation will continue this legacy, acting as ambassadors for Indianapolis and presiding over another century of progress, innovation and sporting excellence at the world’s greatest racetrack.”

The start of the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500. Photo: IndyCar

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Owner, Andretti Autosport): “I think it’s positive news. Roger has always strived to do great things for both IMS and INDYCAR racing, and I’m sure he will continue to do so in this new ownership position. Both the Indy 500 and NTT IndyCar Series have been on a rise, and I look forward to the continued climb.”

ZAK BROWN (CEO, McLaren Racing): “I cannot think of a better owner than Roger Penske and his corporation to ensure the growth and future of INDYCAR. His business acumen and dedication to the sport and passion for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are second to none. This is a landmark announcement that delivers confidence in a bright future for INDYCAR.”

CHIP GANASSI (Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing): “This is great news for the industry. The news will provide a shot in the arm to both the sport of auto racing and specifically to the IndyCar Series. Roger is a good friend and a class act, and all of his businesses are run well and with integrity. I couldn’t be happier for all of us that are involved with the sport.”

BOBBY RAHAL (Co-owner, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing): “Roger Penske’s commitment to the sport we love is over six decades long, and I am confident that his stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series will ensure a great future for the sport. His many successful business ventures underline the fact that he is the perfect custodian of one of the most historic venues in the world and is the perfect architect to build the foundation for the next 100-plus years of the sport. We look forward to working with Roger in order to make the IndyCar Series and the Indy 500 the best it’s ever been.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (NTT IndyCar Series driver, Team Penske, 2017 and 2019 NTT IndyCar Series champion): “What the Hulman-George family has been able to accomplish and do, and the amount of interest they brought to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series is something that we will all forever be grateful for. The love and passion they’ve had for our sport over the years is evident and a reason we are where we are today. The future of the sport is bright with Roger Penske and everyone with Penske Corporation behind it. Getting to work with Roger over the last few years, you see the desire that has always set him apart, as evident by what he’s done in the business work. The amount of respect and confidence he has for the people who work with him is unparalleled. You’ve seen that already with the amount of integrity that has been shown from his peers – from other drivers and owners – who are excited for the future under his leadership. Today is a big day for open-wheel racing, and I think we all have to be excited about what’s to come.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (NTT IndyCar Series driver, Team Penske, 2019 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner, 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion): “The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is such a historical place. It hosts the fastest and one of the oldest car races in the world. Beyond that, it is a place where passion starts for kids and families to experience an incredible event together. What the Hulman-George family has done with the Speedway is phenomenal. They have created a legend, and I can say that on a personal level IMS and INDYCAR have both changed my life. Walking into IMS gives you chills, and I’m very excited to see what the future holds. Roger Penske knows so much about IMS, and his passion for the Indianapolis 500 is unmatched. It is very exciting to think about how the Penske Corporation will grow the sport, and I can’t wait to see how things develop going forward. IMS and INDYCAR are in great hands, and it makes me feel extremely positive about the future.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (NTT IndyCar Series driver, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing): “I can’t help but think that our series and IMS are in great hands. If you know anything about Mr. Penske, it’s that he holds his work to the highest of standards. I have no doubts that we will see INDYCAR and the Indy 500 rise to new heights.”

CURTIS FRANCOIS (Owner and CEO, World Wide Technology Raceway): “Roger Penske and his management team have been tremendous supporters of our efforts to improve our facility and grow motorsports at World Wide Technology Raceway. Roger is a respected visionary and has been a significant part of the past, present and now future of INDYCAR racing. Our team looks forward to working with Mr. Penske and the entire Penske Entertainment organization as we plan for the future. We also want to thank everyone at Hulman & Company for believing in us and providing St. Louis with the opportunity to host the greatest Saturday night event of the season.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

 

NHRA: Antron Brown takes major step toward team ownership

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There will come a day that when three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown wants to talk to his boss, he’ll need to look no further than in the mirror.

The New Jersey native announced Tuesday that he has begun to lay the groundwork to own his Top Fuel team, eventually branching out from Don Schumacher Racing.

“It’s definitely exciting, but at the same time, it’s also nerve-wracking because the buck stops here right now,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Now the coolest part is you get to help and drive and motivate and push the team forward, to make decisions and leave a legacy behind for my family.”

Brown will continue racing for DSR this season while beginning the transition to eventual sole ownership of the new AB Motorsports in the future. Even when he officially leaves the DSR camp as a hired driver, Brown and his new team will retain a technical partnership with the Schumacher organization.

Moving toward team ownership is just a natural evolution for Brown, who previously ran his own Pro Stock Motorcycle team from 1998 until joining DSR in 2002. It’s also a move that potentially may lead other current drivers to start thinking about their own futures.

It’s no secret that many of the biggest names in drag racing – both drivers and owners – are getting up in years. John Force will soon turn 72, while Schumacher is 75. They’re among several others in the sport who are making contingency plans for their teams to continue to operate once they’re gone – and Brown wants to do his part to help the sport grow and flourish.

“When you’re able to have ownership, you’re looking at the talent coming up,” Brown said. “You’re able to reach down and see and give other people opportunities that you had. When I came to race for Don Schumacher at DSR, he’s given all these people at his place this opportunity to drive.

“But what happens when the Don Schumachers, the John Forces, the Connie Kalittas go? You lose all the owners of our series, so who’s next in line to take over that lineage or carry that torch? It’s a necessary means for the future for the upcoming people.

Antron Brown’s plans to become a team owner were embraced by his current team owner, Don Schumacher. (Getty Images)

“I’ve been in this sport for over 20 years. This is the next evolution of my chapter, the next page of my book. What am I going to do when I decide to hang the helmet up one day? I want to be there to bring that new crop of drivers and talent up and help mold them to be the best version of themselves to carry the sport forward and to share with them what was shared with me over all my years in the sport, from Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Big Daddy Don Garlits, Mark Oswald and Don “Snake” Prudhomme, all the people I looked up to.”

While Brown will start as a single-car team once he transitions to ownership, he hopes to eventually build AB Motorsports into at least a two-car operation, with his Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car.

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The path to eventual ownership began nearly a year ago when Brown and Schumacher discussed the future.

“Me and Don had a heart-to-heart talk,” Brown said. “When I told him what I wanted to do, Don said, ‘Antron, I know this is what you want to do. I’ll support you in this.’

“That’s a cool experience when you have a gentleman that has done everything in this sport, from over 350 national event wins, 17 world championships – and I’ve done three with him – and is in every motorsports hall of fame there is.

“What is he going to do next? He’s making the sport better by pushing people like myself to do what I’m doing now. No matter how long it takes, I know I have him on my backside, pushing me to get to that point.”

Like father, like son: Antron Brown and son Anson, who is following in his father’s drag racing footsteps. Photo: Antron Brown’s official Facebook page.

His family’s future also figured into Brown’s decision. His oldest son, Anson, soon turns 16 years old and is heavily involved in NHRA’s Jr. Dragster program, as are Brown’s other children. It’s likely his son some day will follow in his father’s footsteps.

But don’t think that the elder Brown, who turns 44 in March, is ready to hang up his firesuit just yet.

“I’ll stop driving when I feel I’m not capable to drive no more and I’m not having fun no more,” he said. “That’s nowhere in the near future. I know I’m going to drive for at least another 15 years.”

Heading into this season, Brown will retain current sponsorship from Mac Tools and Toyota, as well as associate sponsorship from Hangsterfer’s on his 11,000-horsepower dragster. Global Electronic Technology also has signed on as a new associate sponsor in a multiyear deal.

“It’s no secret this has been a goal of Antron’s for a while now, and I’m happy to be able to provide the tools and resources needed for him to be able to successfully branch out on his own,” Schumacher said in a team media release. “It’s important for me to see my team members grow.”

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Brown burst upon the NHRA scene atop a Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, earning 16 wins over the next 10 seasons. He joined DSR in 2002 and made the switch to Top Fuel in 2008.

Since then, Brown – who now resides in suburban Indianapolis – has gone on to become one of the winningest drivers in Top Fuel history with 50 national event victories, as well as three championships between 2012 and 2015.

That performance recently earned him AutoWeek magazine’s Top Fuel Driver of the Decade.

Brown also announced Tuesday he is reuniting with former crew chief Brian Corradi, who returns to the team after spending the last two seasons as co-crew chief for 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. Corradi will share crew chief duties for Brown with NHRA veteran Mark Oswald.

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When he won his first title in 2012, Brown became the first African-American world champion in Top Fuel history. He hopes his move to ownership will continue to grow NHRA’s already significant focus on opportunities for minorities and females in the sport.

“I think it’s important across all spectrums, period,” Brown said. “I think a lot of fans see me, and they can relate to me because I am them. I came from a good, hard-working family in Chesterfield, New Jersey, which is right next door to Trenton.

“Everybody in my family from my great uncles to my grandpop made their own way, had their own businesses, from swimming pool to paving to septic tank businesses.

“One thing my grandpop said to me is the world is wide open. He said, ‘Son, you can have anything you want in this world, as long as you put the effort and put the work towards it.’ If people can resonate with my story from where I came from and where I’m heading, I hope it gives them this energy, this ray of hope that ‘if Antron Brown can do this, so can I.’

“That’s the only way for motorsports to grow. It’s for the young ones to get interested in it and I want them to know the opportunity is there. All they have to do is take it.”

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Brown will be among more than 30 Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers who will take part in this weekend’s annual preseason “spring training” test at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals Feb. 6-9 in Pomona, California.

Follow @JerryBonkowski