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Penske Purchase of INDYCAR/IMS should be complete on Jan. 6

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INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles has confirmed to NBC Sports.com that Roger Penske’s purchase of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500, INDYCAR and IMS Productions should be completed on Jan. 6, 2020.

Penske, though, already is having a major impact on the speedway since the announcement of the impending sale last month.

Penske has spent a great deal of the past several weeks in Indianapolis reviewing the acquisition and taking a full inventory and survey of the property. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is already a beautiful “Cathedral of Speed,” but Penske plans to make it shine like a diamond.

“People call it ‘Penske Perfect,’” Miles said. “This is a massive place, and it’s a venerable place. It’s hard to keep it up to that standard, and we haven’t. But it’s also habits. The way you look at your desk or a storage room or a closet.

“The day of the announcement, Roger walked around and looked in great detail at everything. I began to see the place differently within an hour. I saw it through Roger’s eyes.

“In a way, it was embarrassing. Under the excuse of budgets and tight money, we had not really been as attentive as we should be taking pride in the place.”

After Penske’s first visit, Miles assigned a “block captain” to each department and spoke to employees saying, “Tomorrow, the Dumpsters are arriving.”

Large dumpsters began to arrive at IMS, and the cleanup began.

“If we are going to clean it up, we have to clean it out,” Miles said. “At a place like this, nobody ever threw anything out. Under the new leadership, we said, ‘If in doubt; throw it out.’ We have made some room to clean up the place and that is just good housekeeping.”

Penske and his regime are looking to see what impact can be done by next May so fans can see the additional care and visible improvement to the facility, from cleaning the place to a fresh coat of paint on much of the facility.

Expanding the speedway’s business

Bigger projects likely will start after the July 4 NASCAR weekend, according to Miles.

From the INDYCAR side, Miles believes the series is doing pretty well. He wants to improve its footprint in eSports and in gaming now that gambling is legal in Indiana and many other states.

“If we can figure out how to do more to help our promoters be more successful and put more people in the seats at the races throughout the series, those are the things to think about,” Miles said.

Expect to see some of the corporate partners and business-to-business relationships of the Penske Corporation become key partners of INDYCAR and IMS.

“It’s a remarkable opportunity with the ‘B-to-B’ opportunities the Penske Corporation brings to sponsorship is very, very special,” Miles said. “It’s not just that, but Roger himself and his senior team members have great access to companies.

“There is a major Fortune 500 company we thought we should have a conversation with because we could see them being a sponsor. We had not gotten through to a high level at that company. We mentioned that to Roger. The next day, there was a conference call with the COO, the CMO and the Director of Operations.

“Roger’s ability to access and prompt conversations and to do it without a lot of wasted motion is a great value.”

A race to the finish

Miles spent Christmas Day with his family in Jacksonville, Florida. He returned to his office at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway bright and early on Thursday, Dec. 26 working on the final details of the acquisition.

“If I were to put a pin on the wall on the calendar, it would be Jan. 6,” Miles told NBC Sports.com in an exclusive interview. “There are standing starts, and there are flying starts in racing.

“Roger wants to be at absolute full speed on the day we close, and that makes this a priority.

“There is no time to waste between Christmas and New Year’s. In the first week of the new year, we will be closing, and then we will be ready for that ‘flying start.’ ”

Once it is completed, ownership of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR will transfer from Hulman & Company to the Penske Corporation.

If Miles and the Penske Corporation hit their goal of Jan. 6, that will conclude the 74-year run that Hulman George Family had as owners of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“The Hulman George Family didn’t need to sell this place,” Miles said. “But it made sense at this day and time.

“It is in a much better place than it was 10 years ago.”

Tony Hulman purchased Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 from Eddie Rickenbacker on Nov. 4, 1945. Since then, the Hulman George Family built the speed classic into the largest single-day sporting event on Earth.

The sale to Roger Penske and the Penske Corporation was announced on Nov. 4, 2019.

“That was a historic day for sure and a fabulous transition is now under way that is going to be really good for the Speedway, for INDYCAR and for our fans,” said Miles, who will be retained as CEO along with current INDYCAR staff (including president Jay Frye). “Our board of directors and a committee of our board were engaged in thinking about an array of strategic options for the last two and a half years.

“There were always rumors that something was going to happen. Once we got connected with Roger Penske, he said he was very interested.”

Miles and Penske kept a very limited group of people involved, and that is why the biggest auto racing story in the last 50 years was kept a secret.

Hulman & Company is transferring the “stewardship” of the Indianapolis 500 and Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the perfect person. Penske is the most successful team owner in Indy 500 history with 18 victories, 16 NTT IndyCar Series championships and a record 545 victories in all forms of racing.

More importantly, he has a deep love and respect for the traditions, heritage and importance of IMS, the Indy 500 and INDYCAR.

“Who has been more a part of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway other than the Hulman George Family than Roger Penske,” Miles said. “He is very studious and knows all the background.

“He is the right guy to carry the torch forward and take it to higher heights.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Charlie Kimball joins A.J. Foyt Racing; Tony Kanaan expected back

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A.J. Foyt has hired Charlie Kimball to drive its No. 4 Chevrolet in the 2020 NTT IndyCar season.

Kimball will return to a full-time schedule after seven races last season with Carlin Racing. This will mark his 10th consecutive season of driving in IndyCar. In 141 starts, he has one victory (in 2013 at Mid-Ohio).

“I wouldn’t have survived another partial schedule, and I’m not sure my marriage would have survived,” Kimball said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters. “It was really tough watching in races when I wasn’t in the car. The consistency allows me to stay in the rhythm.”

A.J. Foyt Racing fielded cars last year for Matheus Leist in the No. 4 and Tony Kanaan in the No. 14. Team president Larry Foyt told reporters that the No. 14 car’s 2020 schedule was “a work in progress and hopefully have some news on that in the next few weeks.”

Asked if Kanaan, who has driven for Foyt since 2018, still will be with the team, Foyt said, “I’m sure he will. We’ve been working together and getting everything buttoned up.”

Here’s the full release from A.J. Foyt Racing:

Veteran IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball joins AJ Foyt Racing as the full-time driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet with backing from his long-time sponsor Novo Nordisk. The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season marks Kimball’s 10th consecutive season in IndyCar and his 12th season of partnership with the global healthcare company.

Kimball, who ran a partial season of seven races in 2019, returns as a full-time driver in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series this year. The No. 4 car will carry a Novo Nordisk branded livery in the following races: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, GMR Grand Prix (Indianapolis), Texas Indy 600 (Ft. Worth), Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway (Madison, Ill.) and the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Novo Nordisk will be an associate marketing partner in the remaining 11 races.

“I’m excited and honored to join AJ Foyt Racing and be a part of a team that has such deep roots in history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar,” said Kimball, who lives in Indianapolis. “Continuing the partnership with Novo Nordisk is also special since they have been an integral part of my career since I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I’m more motivated than ever to work with the team to succeed at every IndyCar race in 2020. Thank you to AJ Foyt Racing, Novo Nordisk and our other partners for this opportunity.”

Team President Larry Foyt expects the partnership with Novo Nordisk and the addition of Charlie Kimball, an IndyCar Series race winner at Mid-Ohio (2013) and a pole winner at Texas Motor Speedway (2017), to invigorate his No. 4 Texas-based team this season.

“Charlie brings a great deal of experience and skill to the team,” Foyt said. “He is motivated to show what he can do behind the wheel, and his recent experience of helping develop cars will be beneficial as we work to get the 4 car moving up the grid. Novo Nordisk has been a long-time supporter of Charlie and IndyCar. We want to welcome them to AJ Foyt Racing and we look forward to joining them in their effort to increase the awareness of diabetes.”

Kimball has posted six podium (top-3) finishes, and an additional eight top-5s. He has finished in the top-10 (6th through 10th) 41 times and has led 163 laps in 141 races.

“We are proud to continue our long-term partnership with Charlie Kimball and look forward to an exciting 2020 IndyCar season with the legendary AJ Foyt Racing,” said Brian Hilberdink, Senior Vice President, Commercial Diabetes at Novo Nordisk. “For more than a decade, we’ve utilized our involvement in IndyCar to share Charlie’s inspiring journey living with diabetes through the Race with Insulin initiative. Charlie is one of the most active ambassadors in the diabetes community and his passion and commitment to making a difference in the lives of those who are living with diabetes is unwavering. We look forward to continuing this tradition with AJ Foyt Racing, Charlie and the diabetes community throughout the IndyCar season.”

Foyt expects to make further announcements regarding new primary sponsors for the team in the near future.