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 

 

Rolex 24 at Hour 8: Acuras, Cadillacs look strong in GTP; tough times for Tower in LMP2

Rolex 24 at Daytona
James Gilbert/Getty Images
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The premier hybrid prototype era of the Rolex 24 at Daytona began with a relatively smooth start Saturday through the Hour 8 mark.

Though two of the new Grand Touring Prototype cars fell out of contention within the first six hours, seven cars representing four big-money manufacturers were setting the pace (albeit conservatively at times) after eight of 24 hours in the endurance race classic.

The Cadillacs of Alex Lynn (No. 02, Chip Ganassi Racing) and Jack Aitken (No. 31 of Action Express) held the top two spots with a third of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship completed.

RUNNING ORDER: Standings through eight hours l By class

Brendon Hartley was running third in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura, followed by Nick Tandy in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963, Renger van der Zande in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac and Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura.

The No. 24 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 ’s No. 24  was the first GTP car a lap down, but in better shape than its sister. The No. 25 BMW pulled off track for major repairs near the end of the first hour and was classified 133 laps down in 59th in 61 cars.

Misfortune also befell the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport, which was forced into the garage for a battery change with 18 hours and five minutes remaining. The 963 was 19 laps down in 22nd.

But all things considered, the debut of the GTPs had belied the hand-wringing and doomsayer predictions that had hung over Daytona the past two weeks. Cadillac Racing’s three V-LMDh cars had avoided mechanical problems (needing only typical body repairs for the front end of the No. 01 and rear end of the No. 31 for minor collisions in heavy traffic throughout the 61-car field).

Its stiffest competition seemed to be the Acura ARX-06s, which led more than 100 laps in the first eight hours.

Pole-sitter Tom Blomqvist built a sizeable lead in the No. 60 (which won last year’s Rolex 24) while leading the first 60 laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course.

“That was my longest time in the car since we got it,” said Blomqvist, who led the car to the IMSA premier championship last season. “We’re driving it into the unknown now. We’ve done everything we can. We know it’s a strong, fast car, but there are so many things to learn it almost feels like we’re winging it. It’s a constant learning curve, for both me as a driver but for the whole team. We’ve had a good start to the race, but there’s a lot of race to go and anything can happen.”

The No. 60 lost positions when Helio Castroneves spun just short of seven hours remaining but later soldiered back into the lead with Blomqvist.

“That was a wild ride,” Castroneves said. “I just got caught up in the moment and I’m not sure what happened. It locked the rear so unexpectedly. Certainly, the car is fast. There’s a lot of traffic. It was very, very difficult. The Acura has good pace so far, and we are learning a lot in a short time.”

Two days after predicting the race would be an “old-school endurance race” with conservative driving and setups, Simon Pagenaud said his forecast has been realized.

“Totally,” the Meyer Shank Racing said after completing his first turn behind the wheel of the No. 60 shortly before Castroneves’ incident. “It’s been rare that I’ve been saving equipment this much here. In any of my experience in sports car racing, I’ve rarely driven this cool, basically trying to protect everything. It’s what we’ve got to do. And we’ve got the advantage having pace with the Acura.

“So for us, this time of the race, we’ve just got to build the foundation of our race. There’s really no need to dive into the Bus Stop on somebody right now. Six hours to go is a whole different story. If we’re there, there’s no problem. We’ll do it. We have the capacity to do that, which is honestly such a luxury. But at this point to me, we’re just going to save the equipment, get there and see where we are because the car is extremely fast.”

Pagenaud was involved in one when he was warned by IMSA stewards for “incident responsibility” on a spin involving the No. 8 Tower Motorsports LMP2 that is being co-driven by Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin (two of the 10 active IndyCar drivers in the 2023 Rolex 24).

Tower driver-owner John Farano was in the car at the time, but Pagenaud joked he thought it was Newgarden, his former IndyCar teammate at Team Penske.

“I thought the Tower car, that must be Newgarden,” Pagenaud cracked. “Was it him? Don’t tell me. I know it was him. Doesn’t matter. Let me just take it. I’m going to say it’s him. Please tell him I said that when you see him.

The 2019 Indy 500 winner and 2016 IndyCar champion chalked up the run-in with Farano as “a misunderstanding. He hesitated passing the car ahead of him and gave me the left side, so I dove in on the outside, and he basically released the brake and hit my rear. So you could say it’s on me. You could say it’s on him. Honestly, I was confused as to what happened because I just saw him spin in the mirror. I don’t think we had contact.”

It already was a long day for the No. 8 Tower, which had to pull off the track on the first lap. A water bottle fitting leaked onto the ORECA LMP2 07’s electronic control unit, which malfunctioned. The team lost 10 laps while being towed to the pits and repaired as the first yellow flag flew less than five minutes into the race for the incident.

By the time Newgarden handed off the car to McLaughlin, the No. 8 still was nine laps down with eight hours to go.

Last year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona LMP2 winner, which also featured two IndyCar stars in Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward, rallied from five laps down, but Newgarden lamented missing three opportunities to regain a lap under yellow.

“We’re trying to chip away at it; it’s just difficult,” the two-time IndyCar champion said. “I feel solid, and it’s very fun to be in the mix the first time. Very special to be out there in the action. Just wish we were on the lead lap. Our pace was solid. We were strongest on track, but that’s going to change in the later hours with the hot shoes in the car. It’s not going to be easy to pull laps back on this field. It’s a very stacked contingent. They’re all good teams, lot of good drivers. Put ourselves in a hole not a good situation to be in, keep fighting at it. Felt like our pace was good.

“It’s not looking good now. You get toward the end of race, you won’t gain laps back on pace. There are too many good teams and drivers. … We need 8 or 9 yellows to go our way. It just doesn’t look good. But never say never. What if all the GTPs just blow up? I don’t know what’s going to happen. They look really good right now. This is not what everyone predicted. Let’s see. You just never know in racing.”