The future of the Brickyard 400 suddenly seems much more secure under new ownership.
In announcing his company’s purchase of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCAR NTT Data Series, Roger Penske voiced unwavering support Monday morning for the fabled track’s NASCAR race.
Next year, the Brickyard will move to the July 4 weekend after a two-year run in September, raising questions about its long-term viability amid a decadelong trend of plummeting attendance.
But Penske said his new leadership would “get behind (the Brickyard) in a big way” and cited its longevity – next year will be the 27th Brickyard — as a reason why he wants to look at adding a 24-hour sports car race and possibly bring back Formula One.
“I think you look at 27 years, there’s no reason to break that string of races,” he said.
Penske called NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France late Sunday night to inform him about the transfer of ownership at IMS, which has been owned by the Hulman-George family since 1945.
“(France) obviously was excited,” Penske said. “We’ve worked together. We were partners with ISC at Homestead. We actually sold our business to them back several years ago. So we have a very close relationship and certainly with Jim and with (NASCAR president) Steve Phelps and (senior vice president) Steve O’Donnell and the entire France family. We would expect to take this for many, many years.
“They need to run at Indiana. 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.”
In a statement from NASCAR, France said, “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. 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.”
Penske also has voiced his support for an IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader weekend and said Monday he wanted to evaluate the concept in the wake of Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden turning laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway in an exhibition run during the track’s NASCAR weekend.
“I think it was interesting to see Newgarden run around what they call the Roval, and I think it was pretty exciting,” Penske said. “I think some of the fans had never seen an IndyCar on an oval or a racetrack.
“Are those things we can do? Can we execute those so we bring value here to the speedway? Look, we’ve got to break some glass on some of these things, don’t we. We’ve got to try some of this. I’m prepared to take a risk. No risk, no reward in many cases.”