Motorsports mogul Roger Penske voiced his support Monday for NASCAR’s annual stop at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and an expanded relationship with stock-car racing, saying he also hoped to promote the historic track’s reach as an entertainment destination.
Penske’s comments came hours after Monday morning’s blockbuster announcement that the Hulman & Company ownership group would sell the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions to Penske Entertainment Corp. It’s the first change in ownership for the 110-year-old Speedway since 1945.
Penske, who owns a three-car Monster Energy Series operation in addition to championship-winning IndyCar teams, said he planned to walk around the facility as early as Tuesday to form a top 10 list of ideas and improvements. In addition to floating the concept of a 24-hour sports-car race and a possible return for Formula 1, Penske backed a strong commitment to NASCAR and its future in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been on the schedule for NASCAR’s top division since 1994, when Jeff Gordon won the first running of the Brickyard 400.
“I think you look at 27 years, there’s no reason to break that string of races,” said Penske, a 2019 inductee to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “I had a chance to talk to (NASCAR Chairman & CEO) Jim France late last night to tell him that we were going to have this conference here in the morning, and he obviously was excited. … We would expect to take this for many, many years. They need to run at Indianapolis. We want them to, and there’s no question that we’re going to look at opportunities to expand the relationship with them in the future.”
Penske said that a closer-knit partnership could include possible doubleheader weekends with NASCAR and IndyCar, noting the interest in two-time IndyCar champ Josef Newgarden’s exhibition run in a Team Penske car at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval layout in September.
Penske said he would consult with Hulman & Company executives Tony George and Mark Miles to explore those possibilities, hinting that he was not afraid to push the boundaries of tradition and status quo.
“Look, we’ve got to break some glass on some of these things, don’t we?” Penske said. “We’ve got to try some of this, and I’m prepared to take a risk. No risk, no reward in many cases. … I wouldn’t say it’s out of the possibility.”
Penske’s cars have won a record 18 Indianapolis 500s, but he’s also been a longtime team owner in NASCAR, dating back to the 1970s. The 82-year-old Penske indicated he would dial back his influence as a strategist for his racing operations.
France acknowledged the contributions of Penske’s predecessors at IMS as he welcomed a new era of leadership.
“The Hulman-George family has been instrumental in the growth of motorsports through their passion for racing, elevating Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series to a global scale, and we thank them for their leadership and significant contributions to NASCAR,” France said in a statement. “Roger Penske is incredibly accomplished across both motorsports and business and we look forward to the successful operation of these properties under his experienced leadership.”