The announcement Monday morning that Roger Penske would buy the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hit the motorsports world like a bombshell.
“The fact Penske purchased IMS and IndyCar isn’t just the biggest news of the 50 years I’ve covered this sport, it’s also the best news,” veteran motorsports writer Robin Miller, a Southport High School alum, penned Monday for Racer.com.
This is the result of a comment at the final IndyCar race of the season that Hulman & Company board chair Tony George made to Penske about getting together and talking about stewardship.
And that is what this is about – the stewardship of an iconic company whose roots go back to Clabber Girl baking powder and the legendary Speedway that George’s grandfather Tony Hulman purchased in 1945.
There had been rumors, but facing facts, attendance and interest in most major auto racing events in the U.S. has been on the decline. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was not immune to that until a revival 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Coupled with limited resources, the Hulman-George family could not invest in the massive Speedway grounds and facilities.
Penske, whose name is synonymous with winning, not only at the Indianapolis 500 as a team owner, but with a conglomerate with revenues of $32 billion and 64,000 employees worldwide. He has a knack for hiring the right people at the right time and is affectionately known as The Captain.
His motorsports fame is widely known and respected with more Indianapolis 500 wins than any team owner in history. It began 50 years ago when he brought a new team image to IMS. Since then, he has transformed the sport and has won IndyCar, NASCAR and international sports car championships.
The agreement opens the door to new interest and investment in the facility and events that have grown under IMS president Doug Boles, a former IndyCar team co-owner.
The Speedway bonds Penske and Boles together for the future.
“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,” Boles said. “We’re confident Penske Corporation will be a faithful, vibrant steward of this great facility and its events, ensuring a bright, successful future.”
Penske’s move was welcomed by Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.
“If anyone can make IndyCar more relevant 11 months of the year, increase the purses for the Indy 500 and the series, secure another engine manufacturer, and put the right people in the right places with a master plan for success, it’s The Captain,” contended motorsports columnist Miller.
Monday at IMS was an emotional, but very welcoming day, in the history of the Speedway.