brickyard 400

Jimmie Johnson wants to drive in IndyCar race on July 4 at Indianapolis

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NASCAR and IndyCar might have found the next driver ready to do “The Double” – with a twist.

Jimmie Johnson told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey in a Friday interview (video coming soon) that he will take a “very hard look” at racing in the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course July 4. As part of IndyCar’s revamped schedule, the race was moved from May 9 and will take place directly before the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

The seven-time Cup Series champion will be in town to race the Brickyard 400 the following day.

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IMS president discusses possibly lighting historic track under Penske leadership

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Track president Doug Boles and Roger Penske were a part of a group that walked the grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway Tuesday until they couldn’t.

They simply ran out of light at the historic 2.5-mile track.

“We didn’t leave last night until it got too dark to see in some of the buildings that we’ve turned the power off in different places around the facility (to save money),” Boles said Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.” “(Penske) finally said, ‘OK, we’ve had enough, that’s great.'”

Penske’s group, which was touring the facility the racing legend will soon own pending government approval, could have kept going if the track had lights to brighten the facility for night racing and other events.

The prospect of lighting the track – which hosts the Indianapolis 500 in May and the Brickyard 400 on July 5 next year – has picked up buzz since it was announced Monday that Penske would purchase the track, IndyCar and IMS Productions from Hulman & Company.

MORE: Penske bullish on Brickyard 400, NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheaders

But Boles told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio the idea of equipping the 108-year old track with lights is not a new one.

“I’ve been there for nine years and I’ve been in this position for six, and over the last several years … we’ve often talked about things we could do to invest and make this (track) way better,” Boles said.

“Lights are one that we’ve had a serious conversations about. But we’ve never really been able to sit down and think about, ‘Ok, does this make sense? How can you invest this and really make it pay off?’ Or how can we look at it and say ‘This is what the investment would be and there’s no way that it ever pays off. So let’s move on.’ Having Roger Penske, the Penske organization, the deep bench that they have to help you understand, look at data, understand how you get from Point A to Point B or how you say, ‘Look, we don’t want to go from Point A to Point B because it doesn’t make sense. We’re going to pivot.’

“That’s what he brings.”

Boles further discussed the “fiscal impact” of lights at IMS.

“There’s ROI (Rate of Investment) impact,” Boles said. “If you invest $20 plus million dollars in lights at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, how long does it take to pay that off? Not only is Roger passionate about motorsports. He’s a great businessman and he’s going to make an investment that makes sense for everything. So we have a lot to look at. I think that’s something we’ll definitely keep looking at and his team will keep looking at and we’ll see where it goes.”

Boles said any plans for lights would face “a hurdle” with the community in Speedway, Indiana. But Boles said it would really be a hurdle if “we started thinking about an endurance race.”

“The nice thing about our community though is Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in a corn field and the neighborhood has come up around it,” Boles continued. “Most of the people that live in and around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway live there because they love it. So we have a base there that wants to be supportive of any of our events.”

Part of early discussions about lights have even included an analysis from Musco Lighting, a company responsible for installing lights at race tracks and other sporting facilities.

“Musco’s really helped us understand what it would cost to light not just the race track, but the rest of the facility,” Boles told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “So (we’re) walking through those studies at a really high level with Roger and his team so at least that seed he’s sort of planted in the announcement, he can start beginning to look at and decide if it’s something we should move forward with.”

Roger Penske bullish on future of Brickyard, IndyCar doubleheaders

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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.”

Roger Penske to purchase IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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Roger Penske will soon own IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The development was revealed Monday morning by the track. The Board of Directors of Hulman & Company will announce later this morning the sale of the company and certain subsidiaries, including IndyCar, the historic speedway and IMS Productions to the Penske Entertainment Corp., a subsidiary of Penske Corporation.

The transaction will close following receipt of applicable government approvals and other standard conditions.

Roger Penske is the owner of Team Penske, which fields teams in IndyCar, NASCAR and IMSA.

Penske is the winningest owner in Indianapolis 500 history with 18 victories, including this year with Simon Pagenaud. He won the 2018 Brickyard 400 with Brad Keselowski.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of three tracks the Cup Series competes on that is owned independently from NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports Inc. The others are Pocono Raceway and Dover International Speedway.

“We recently approached Roger Penske and Penske Corporation about this opportunity and began working to put an agreement in place,” said Tony George, Chairman of Hulman & Company, in a press release. “The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the centerpiece and the cathedral of motorsports since 1909 and the Hulman-George family has proudly served as the steward of this great institution for more than 70 years. Now, we are honored to pass the torch to Roger Penske and Penske Corporation, as they become just the fourth owner of the iconic Speedway. There is no one more capable and qualified than Roger and his organization to lead the sport of IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway into the future.”

Said Penske: “My passion for racing began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1951 when I attended the Indianapolis 500 with my father. We have so much respect and appreciation for the history and tradition of the Speedway and the sport of IndyCar racing. I want to thank Hulman & Company for the opportunity to build on this legacy and it will be an honor for Penske Corporation to help lead these great institutions forward into a new era.”

Said Mark Miles, President and CEO of Hulman & Company: “The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and the NTT IndyCar Series have enjoyed considerable growth over the past decade, with significant increases in television, digital and social media audiences combined with record attendance at many of our race venues. With their track record of business success, their venue, operation and event experience and their passion for motorsports, Roger Penske and Penske Corporation will help us take the IndyCar Series, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all of our properties to new heights. Everyone on our team looks forward to working with them to capitalize on the momentum that the Series and the Speedway have achieved.”

NASCAR released the following statement from Chairman and CEO Jim France.

“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.”

Clint Bowyer survives day of ‘high anxiety’ at The Brickyard

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INDIANAPOLIS – Clint Bowyer’s quest to get into the Cup Series playoffs was not as precarious as Ryan Newman’s, but he was a long way from being locked into the 15th position in the 16-driver playoff lineup entering Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

He still needed to finish ahead of the other drivers in contention for the playoffs including Newman, Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson, who entered the race still eligible to get in on points, but realistically needed to win the race to clinch.

Bowyer improved his chances of making the playoffs dramatically by qualifying third fastest in Sunday morning’s Brickyard 400 qualifications.

The race, however, had more than its share of moments of “high anxiety” for the Stewart Haas Racing driver.

“You’re damn right I did,” Bowyer told NBC Sports on pit road at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “You knew it going in, you knew it was going to be high anxiety and it was going to be crazy like that.

“You don’t know where it’s going to be coming from. About the time we qualified good, I walked away from that car and knew the worst was yet to happen. The caution could come out at Lap 10 and present an opportunity for somebody and a mishap for somebody else.”

That happened throughout the race for Bowyer, who kept track of his competitors throughout the race and tried to manage his day.

In the closing stages of the contest, Bubba Wallace was in contention to sneak into the playoffs with a victory. He was running third, briefly made it up to second, before he was passed by Joey Logano for that position with the laps winding down.

The last thing Bowyer or Newman needed was a driver like Wallace to completely change the dynamic of the playoffs with an upset victory.

“I didn’t want to be anywhere around Bubba today,” Bowyer said. “I knew what he was racing for and what I was racing for and those two things didn’t match up today.

“I’m happy for Bubba, though. It was a great finish at a great race track for him. That’s a great finish for him and his team.”

Wallace would finish third, behind race winner Kevin Harvick and second place Logano. William Bryon finished fourth and Bowyer’s fifth-place finish was more than enough to lock him into the playoffs.

He became the third driver in the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing team to make the 16-driver lineup for the playoffs. Daniel Suarez was still in competition, entering the race tied in points with Newman, but his 11th-place finish combined with Newman’s eighth place eliminated the driver from Mexico.

“It was super close to getting all four in,” Bowyer said. “We’ve got to keep building, man. We’re working hard and digging and trying to get better.

“We aren’t the fastest group. We know that. But we looked pretty damn fast today.”

Bowyer’s road to that top-five finish was eventful to say the least.

“It was going to be chaotic, I said that before the race, it was going to be an emotional roller-coaster,” Bowyer said. “The 6 car (Newman) was able to stay out there and capitalize on that and get those five points on us.

“I was like, ‘Damn, I didn’t need that.’

“But we got it back in the second stage. It was identical. I finished fifth and he finished 11th in that stage and he handed it right back to us.

“We were faster than we ran. I think we were a top-five car, but we were just trying to survive. We needed to survive this thing and it was going to be a war of attrition and we survived.”

Making the playoffs is important, but it doesn’t beat winning, according to Bowyer.

“Winning is everything,” Bowyer said. “That’s why we get up in the morning, to go win. There is nothing better than winning. I’m looking forward to some of those tracks. I should have won at Richmond earlier this year.

“I still think about that race and how easy our season would have been if I had won it earlier.”

Now, it’s off to the playoffs and Bowyer is excited his team’s recent surge. Since finishing 37th at Michigan in August, Bowyer has finished seventh at Bristol, sixth at Darlington and fifth at Indianapolis.

“We’ve got 10 races in the playoffs and the last three races have been single-digit finishes for us,” Bowyer said. “That will get you around. It also builds confidence and momentum with our race team. That is what it takes.

“We are finally doing the right things, putting ourselves in the right situations to capitalize on other people’s mishaps rather than being the one to make the mishap and having someone capitalize on us.”