Penske wants full crowd at Indy 500: ‘Never been more motivated, excited’

Chris Owens/IndyCar
0 Comments

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Roger Penske will watch the IndyCar season opener from a suite at Texas Motor Speedway, which will be mark the first time off the pit stand and on the other side of the fence since his teams failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in 1995.

His relocation is partly for safety.

Penske, 83, is considered at high risk for contracting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and he will avoid large crowds by working inside the paddock from a transporter separate from the rest of his team. But as the new owner of the IndyCar Series, he also has relinquished his role as a strategist for Team Penske to avoid conflicts of interest.

“I don’t know if I will be able to stand it. We’ll have a conversation after the show. I guess it will be like a NASCAR race,” Penske, who watches NASCAR events from a suite, said in an interview with The Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer.

The pandemic has disrupted Penske’s first year as the owner of iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series, which suspended its season March 13 just 48 hours before its opening race in Florida.

The schedule has been overhauled, his beloved Indianapolis 500 moved to August from the Memorial Day weekend date it held for 73 years, and Penske has spent nearly six months focused on improvements for his newest properties.

Penske said he is at IMS at least two days a week overseeing massive upgrades. He is involved in every detail, from freshening public bathrooms to paving parking lots, lowering television monitors and creating a lift to an elevated winner’s circle.

Fans won’t get a true sense of the changes to the national landmark built in 1911 until at least August.

Its first event, a doubleheader between NASCAR and IndyCar Series, will run July 4 weekend without spectators. In making that decision earlier this week, Penske said it moves the speedway closer “to execute with full fans” for the Indy 500, which recently has drawn crowds of more than 250,000.

“We really wanted to go forward with fans, but it wasn’t realistic,” Penske said. “If we had fans and had any problems, that would absolutely close the door on for us for the 500.”

The auto racing magnate addressed a number of topics in the interview:


HIS HEALTH: Penske said he travels from his Michigan home to Indianapolis twice a week and wears gloves and a mask while working. His Bloomfield Hills office is a three-minute drive from his home, and he said a nurse is on site, and “everybody has to go through a temperature check.”

Penske, a cancer survivor who received a kidney transplant in 2017, said Penske Corp. practices social distancing at work.

“I’ve been at home with my wife and have been careful on any interface,” he said. “All my transportation has been from Pontiac Airport to Indianapolis and back. I’ve not gone downtown. I haven’t gone anywhere. I’m not, you know, in trouble.”

He said most of his meetings are done over Zoom and are scheduled in shifts throughout the day so he can conduct business globally.

“We start early in the morning in the U.K., then we do our U.S. businesses and then we talk to Australia at night. It’s been a good tool,” he said.


THE SPEEDWAY: The coronavirus has given Penske additional time to raise the speedway to his standards.

All work on the track was halted early in the COVID-19 pandemic under stay-at-home orders, but moving the 500 to August allowed time for capital improvements.

He often likens his visions for the speedway to pristine Augusta National.

“Every time I walk around I find something else to do,” he said. “I thought there were only so many chapters in the book. Every time I get to the last chapter, there’s one or two more to look at. Time is always beneficial.”

He said new video boards at the speedway would not have been in place for the 500 if had been run in May as scheduled.

“I’ve never been more excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said. “The future is very, very bright. I’ve never been more motivated, never been more excited.”


INDYCAR SEASON OPENER: Penske said he is proud of IndyCar’s top two leaders, Mark Miles and Jay Frye, for getting the season on track. The series will practice and qualify before Saturday night’s race, unlike NASCAR, which has cut both so far.

He said both worked to get the series’ foreign drivers back into the United States in time for the opener, and Penske believes IndyCar’s teams largely have weathered the financial shutdown.

“They’re all ready to go racing ourselves. No question about it,” he said.

As for his own team of reigning champion Josef Newgarden, and back-to-back Indy 500 winners Simon Pagenaud and Will Power: “Texas at those speeds, I told them they are going to have to have their heads on.”


NASCAR: Team Penske has four wins through nine Cup races even after the boss swapped all three crews for drivers Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

Logano won two before the shutdown and Blaney inked a contract extension. Keselowski, who is in a contract year, won two Cup races last week and is fourth in the standings.

“I certainly am not saying he’s not going to run for us,” Penske said of Keselowski. “We have to talk to Brad, and we have not done that during this pandemic. Quite honestly, we’re not negotiating something with a driver over Zoom. We’ll get together with him.”

He said Team Penske is working in split shifts at the shop for social distancing, and he’s holding out for economic impact analysis before he gives an opinion on NASCAR’s frantic current schedule.

To make up its postponed events, the three national series raced nine times over 15 days. There have been two midweek races and all have been without spectators.

“We’re happy with the outcome of operations but I think the more important thing is what’s the impact on the sport? You know, what do our races look like in the future?” said Penske. “As competitors and for our sponsors, there’s a comfort level that we’re back racing. Now is a time to see what we can do moving forward for both NASCAR and IndyCar.”

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
0 Comments

The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)