Roger Penske, the owner of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, believes “you’re going to see more” NASCAR/IndyCar doubleheaders in the future.
Penske’s comments Thursday on NBCSN’s “Lunch Talk Live” represent just how quickly the idea of doubleheaders with NASCAR and IndyCar has taken hold over the last two years, resulting in the first doubleheader scheduled for July.
In November 2018, NASCAR President Steve Phelps thought the prospect of an IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader “would be a good show. We would have to figure out how that works.”
Just last year, the idea of a doubleheader between the NASCAR Cup Series and IndyCar was gaining steam, but it was considered a “long shot” by IndyCar CEO Mark Miles in June.
Things have escalated in the last four months.
In January, Penske officially bought IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Two months later, both NASCAR and IndyCar’s seasons were suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, causing both series to postpone and rescheduled races.
That long shot has turned into a reality, with Xfinity Series and IndyCar races now scheduled for the IMS road course on July 4, followed by the Brickyard 400 on July 5.
“I’ve known (NASCAR CEO and Chairman) Jim France and the France family for a long time, we were partners in fact at one point when we built (Auto Club Speedway),” Penske told Mike Tirico on “Lunch Talk Live.”
“So I reached out Steve Phelps and to Jim to talk about what we could do to potentially make these weekends better. We came up with this idea of running an IndyCar race on the Brickyard weekend, and I think you’re going to see more of that. I think it’s a fan experience, and I think it will be very, very good from a TV perspective to see the different disciplines. I would hope that this is just the start of things that we can do together as we go into 2020 and beyond.
“Obviously, NASCAR’s got a great fanbase and we’d love to be with them on certain weekends and vice versa. We need to be sure that we can bring motorsports back to where it was prior to this pandemic and I think that’s job one from a standpoint of not only NASCAR but IndyCar and our team.”
In late March, IndyCar driver Graham Rahal said the July doubleheader is “huge.”
“I’ve been a big proponent of it,” Rahal said. “IndyCar and NASCAR would be a great combination. It’s mutually beneficial for both to do this and for the health of motorsports.
Added Rahal: “From a TV perspective, to combine those two over a weekend is huge. I think it’s a great opportunity.”