indycar

Roger Penske bullish on future of Brickyard, IndyCar doubleheaders

1 Comment

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

11 Comments

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.”

Texas Motor Speedway makes its case for IndyCar-NASCAR twin bill

2 Comments

Eddie Gossage says he’s talked to IndyCar president Jay Frye about doing a weekend doubleheader with NASCAR, and “Jay’s ready to do it tomorrow.”

To no one’s surprise, the president of Texas Motor Speedway knows just the venue that should play host to such a motorsports extravaganza.

“I think we’re the logical place for a variety of reasons,” Gossage told NBCSports.com in a recent interview.

Momentum has built the past year for bringing the country’s two biggest racing series together at the same track. A Sept. 27 exhibition run at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval by NTT Series champion Josef Newgarden sparked more talk of the possibilities.

The Roval has been tossed around as a candidate along with Richmond Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, both of which play host to both series.

But so does Texas, which has been a home to IndyCar and NASCAR annually since its April 1997 grand opening. The man who has run the 1.5-mile speedway since its inception believes credit is due for longevity and loyalty during the 1996-2008 era when IndyCar split into rival series.

“Outside of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we’ve been hosting IndyCar races longer than anybody,” Gossage said. “We can talk about the joined histories of IndyCar and CART, but the fact of the matter is some tracks didn’t go IndyCar, they went CART racing for a period of time. I don’t hold anything against them, but they made a business decision not to do business with IndyCar. They did business with the other guys.

“We should be rewarded for that. For having been there through thick and thin and some really tough days with some really hard to work with folks at IndyCar if it weren’t for our love and commitment to IndyCar racing.”

Texas has been the site of 31 IndyCar races (including twice annually from 1997-2004).

Though crowds have declined since being estimated at six figures in its early years, Gossage says the track’s location in a major media market makes it deserving.

“We’ve sustained good-sized crowds,” he said. “We have a big hole to fill with so many seats. If we had the seats that some venues have, we’d be sold out. Our crowds are quite healthy for that event. And we put on really good races, particularly for IndyCar. If you’re going to showcase both, it’s a good place. This is a rare occasion of truly a win-win. It would pull up the prestige of both series events here.

“I’m more inclined to go to Texas as a NASCAR fan because I can also see an IndyCar race. If I’m an IndyCar fan, I’ll give the NASCAR race a look. I think it definitely makes both events bigger and more successful.”

Gossage said he hasn’t had serious joint discussions about the concept yet with officials from IndyCar, NASCAR and NBC Sports Group (which broadcasts both series). “I think the TV network holds the keys, not the sanctioning bodies,” Gossage said. “I think they need the prodding of the TV network to make this happen.”

Gossage said if a weekend twin bill happened at Texas, he’d be inclined to have IndyCar in its traditional Saturday night slot.

“I think it’s incumbent on the racetrack to promote them as co-headliners,” Gossage said. “So I don’t have any problem with that. We’re known for night-time IndyCar races, and Jay pointed that out and said, ‘We’d take Saturday night, (NASCAR) can take Sunday.’ Problem solved. That’s how I’d see it going.

“I’m just really glad that everyone seems open to the discussion.”

Tony Stewart: NASCAR, IndyCar doubleheader would be a ‘kick ass weekend’

Getty Images
2 Comments

One NASCAR team owner believes a doubleheader race weekend between the NASCAR Cup Series and IndyCar would be a “kick ass weekend.”

If you guessed the owner is Tony Stewart, congratulations.

The remark from Stewart, the three-time Cup champion and 1997 Indy Racing League champion, came during his 12th annual Smoke Show at Texas Motor Speedway, which raises money for Speedway Children’s Charities.

His comments come a few weeks after IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden made the first laps in an IndyCar around the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

“I think it would be awesome,” Stewart said. “(Texas Motor Speedway) would be a perfect place to do it, too. I think it would be really cool. It would be a weekend on my calendar that I would make sure I was at the Cup race that weekend for sure. It’s just never been done. The hardest part for both series is going to be how different the racetrack is. When you’d go to Pocono or anywhere that ARCA would run with the Cup Series and you’d have different rubber (tires), it definitely made a difference.

“I remember when we did the first demo run the night of the (NASCAR) All-Star race (at Charlotte Motor Speedway) in ’97, I remember how sketchy it was because the Goodyear rubber was down and we were on Firestone with IndyCar, and the rubbers really weren’t compatible. So that’s the only challenge they’ll have doing it. Aside from that, man, I think that’s about as big of a kick ass weekend as you could ever ask for in motorsports, is have two major series like that here at the same time.”

Support for an IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader has been building since May, with a few Cup drivers voicing their approval during the Coca-Cola 600 race weekend.

Roger Penske, who owns teams in both series, gave his approval to the idea in June.

Based on their 2020 schedules, the only tracks the Cup Series and IndyCar will both visit throughout the year (but on separate weekends) are Texas Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The earliest a doubleheader could happen is 2021 as both series’ 2020 schedules are set.

IndyCar also visits tracks the Xfinity Series or Gander Outdoors Truck Series will race at on separate weekends: Iowa Speedway, World Wide Technology Speedway at Gateway, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Road America.

But for Stewart, holding the potential doubleheader at the 1.5-mile track north of Forth Worth, Texas is the obvious choice.

“And it’s not because we’re sitting here right now,” Stewart said. “This is the place I would pick if you were going to do that kind of a weekend.”

Josef Newgarden’s run sparks more IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader talk

2 Comments

CONCORD, N.C. – There are still many issues to resolve (namely, scheduling, track conditions, tire compounds are among myriad logistical challenges) about the viability of an IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader race weekend.

But as Josef Newgarden’s Dallara-Chevrolet whizzed around the 17-turn, road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway under the watchful eyes of stars and executives from both NASCAR and IndyCar, there was no doubt about the infectious buzz for a marriage between the two biggest series in American motorsports.

That was evident from the smiles on the faces of Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, who sent their Team Penske compatriot off from the pits and then greeted him in victory lane.

“We need to have a doubleheader, man!” Newgarden exclaimed to Blaney and Logano shortly before making the first laps in an Indy car at the track in more than 20 years. “And we need to do the ride swap.”

After watching his teammate turn six blazing laps, Logano was ready to trade in the keys from his No. 22 Ford for a test drive.

Josef Newgarden talks with NASCAR teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney (photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images).

“You’re grabbing another gear, we’re hitting the brakes your first lap on the frontstretch,” Logano told Newgarden with a bemused laugh.

“The NASCAR guys, I love they’re interested in us, and we’re interested in them,” Newgarden, who clinched his second NTT championship five days earlier, told NBCSN’s Rutledge Wood. “You can tell we’re just racers. They love our race cars. I love theirs. The only thing that would have made me more excited would have been if I would have been able to get in one of their cars today.

IndyCar president Jay Frye, who was on hand as an observer along with Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles, was highly encouraged by the enthusiasm.

“It was spectacular,” Frye said. “All the Cup guys were out watching the big board, obviously there’s interest from (the news media), from us. What’s next for all of us is something we’re working on, and it’s great we certainly felt welcome and wanted here. This is a great facility. So who knows? Lots of things are possible.”

Newgarden’s biggest concern was about how the tire compounds would mix (IndyCar uses Firestone; NASCAR is on Goodyear), but that turned out fine, as did the track’s banking and transitions that caused a “heavy” wheel because Indy cars have no power steering

“It was getting better each run,” Newgarden said. “It felt pretty good.”

He said his fast laps were in the 67-second range, or about 14 seconds faster than William Byron’s pole speed (80.9 seconds) 30 minutes earlier – which was exactly the spread that had been predicted by Team Penske simulation software (according to Blaney).

Mindful of Team Penske president Tim Cindric’s playful yet stern warnings (“I told Josef we’re not going to get a trophy for what happens today. That million dollars for winning the championship won’t go far in replacing this thing. Have fun, but it’s on you.”), Newgarden said he took it easy in the Dallara-Chevrolet that Simon Pagenaud finished fourth with last Sunday at Laguna Seca Raceway, leaving “another second or two” on the track.

With a setup optimized for qualifying, it’s conceivable that he could have lapped in the 1-minute range and left his Cup teammates fully in the dust – though showing up NASCAR was far from the goal for Newgarden, who bent over backward being magnanimous toward his stock-car counterparts.

The two-time IndyCar champion talked multiple times about his dream of running a Cup car (practically begging Cindric for the opportunity during a news conference) and effusively praised the reception he received from NASCAR fans, noting that it likely would have been different during the Cold War the series engaged in through much of the 1990s and 2000s.

“I think everyone was really supportive of what we’re doing,” Newgarden said. “There just seems to be a  lot more movement to racing fans being racing fans again. I love that because I’m a huge NASCAR fan myself.

“It doesn’t matter that I grew up racing open-wheel cars. I still appreciate top-level racing, and these guys are the best at what they do. They feel the same way about us. This whole discussion that’s emerging about trying to promote racing as a whole is a really great thing. I love it. I’m so interested in what they do all year, and I think it’s the same from their side, so the more we can do together in the future the better.”

How soon that will happen was the big question lingering over Friday’s exhibition, which Clint Bowyer referred to on NASCAR America as “the first test session for IndyCar on our Roval. Why wouldn’t we bring those guys to race with our sport? I think it’s a great idea.”

The chatter around an IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader began to reach a fever pitch in May when NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr., Newgarden and many others expressed interest (in an NBCSports.com story) about bringing the series together.

Executives from NBC Sports Group, which broadcasts the Indianapolis 500 and full IndyCar schedule and the final 20 races of NASCAR’s Cup season, also has expressed interest in the concept. NBC Sports recently cross-promoted the series in a humorous commercial with Roger Penske, Blaney and Pageanud.

“That was a lot of fun and a lot of great response to it, and that’s things we couldn’t have done in the past,” NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said last Friday in a news conference at Laguna Seca Raceway. “I think that’s part of us leaning in at NBC in trying to grow all of motorsports, and it’s important that every form of racing gets attention, and that’s what we’re pushing.”

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles has vacillated publicly on the idea. Asked by NBC Sports last week if IndyCar was moving toward a doubleheader weekend, Miles said it was unlikely before 2022.

“It was said that there was momentum in May. In my view there was more discussion in May, more talk about it, more smoke than fire. So I think the folks at NASCAR know that we think it’s a good idea. I think as far as I can tell, they think it’s a good idea.

“So we’ll see if it can be pulled together. But it’s something that we think, if it gets more people watching motorsports, it’s well worth working on.”

However, at least one person with direct knowledge of the talks (but not authorized to discuss them publicly) told NBCSports.com that a 2021 doubleheader hadn’t been ruled out.

Friday’s exhibition run was described by Newgarden as a “gift” from sponsor ShellPennzoil (“the coolest thing all week” during his championship celebration), which also has a strong business relationship with Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Track general manager Greg Walter described his contact with IndyCar officials about a race as preliminary, “first date”-level conversations. Walter was encouraged by Newgarden’s results.

There probably would need to be changes made with Indy cars (such as removing the “turtle” curbs that cause massive damage to Cup cars as a penalty for veering off course), but Walter said Charlotte is exploring IndyCar and other series (such as IMSA, support sports cars circuits and Formula E) for its Roval layout.

“We’re open to any form of racing if it makes sense,” Walter told NBCSports.com. “So if it physically and financially makes sense, and from a fan following if it makes sense, we’re open to it. NASCAR has been our focus and continues to be our focus, but we always ask is there something else out there that fits as well.”

Frye, who has boundless contacts in NASCAR from many years as a team and sponsor executive, said Newgarden’s car “looked very natural out there, looked good. The lap times were within reason of what everyone thought it would be. So, who knows?

“There really aren’t any hurdles (to a doubleheader), necessarily. It’s just schedules. Timing, how that all works. Obviously our season ended last week. That’s something we could look at down the road, how it could fit.”

Frye also stressed that the Roval wouldn’t be the only option for a doubleheader.

Richmond, Texas and Indianapolis are other tracks that are raced by both IndyCar and NASCAR, and Newgarden certainly seems open to trying any of them.

“I think it would be really cool for the fans without a doubt,” Newgarden said. “Why would you not want to have that doubled up on a weekend? They’re just both great championships.

“I respect these guys so much, and I love keeping in touch with what they’re doing, so having a little closer access to them and vice versa for us, I think it would be a win-win for everybody.”