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

Leave a comment

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 

 

Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

Honda Photo
Honda Photo
Leave a comment

One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

Getty Images

Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500