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Roger Penske likes direction NASCAR, his organization are going

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The Captain likes what he sees in the waters ahead of him.

Roger Penske made a special guest appearance Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Trading Paint” and is bullish on what’s ahead for NASCAR as the series begins to implement a number of changes over the next few years.

Those include the change from one series entitlement sponsor as in past seasons in favor of four premier partners this season, as well as a revised schedule (with the potential of more schedule alterations in 2021 and beyond).

There’s also the highly anticipated Next Gen car slated for 2021, a push to attract additional car manufacturers and an industry-wide focus on cost cutting.

“One of the main things NASCAR is trying to do is take costs out,” Penske told co-hosts John Roberts and Chocolate Myers. “People say speed costs money, how fast do you want to go? But I think we’re at a limit where we have to go the other way.

“To me, the cost is key. The schedule is going to be different, I understand, but its also going to give other teams the ability to raise sponsorships and if the costs are cut by 30 or 40 percent, it’s going to allow new people to join the sport, which I feel is very, very important as we go forward.

“We need new owners, more new drivers that want to come in with maybe a new team, some of the new things they’ve announced on pit stops, and there’s a lot of discussions going on with NASCAR.”

Another area that Penske, who turns 83 next month, is also very bullish is even closer to home: the shakeup of shifting all three NASCAR Cup crew chiefs in his organization earlier this week:

“You have to look at the talent you have both on and off the track and people have been together a number of years,” Penske told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s like any person in any job, people like a change and it motivates them.

“We felt we had three great guys and great drivers and we said, ‘Let’s change it up this year and let’s see what happens.’ This isn’t because anybody asked for it or not. … We sat down and said what can we do differently than to have a bigger spoiler or engine that can motivate our guys going forward. It was pretty much made before Christmas … and the guys are off and running.

“I think it’s good. You see people moving crew chiefs and drivers moving around, but this is part of our business plan and part of the way we run our business.”

To further illustrate Team Penske’s one-for-all and all-for-one mantra, the organization’s patriarch said there were no objections among the three crew chiefs that were shifted, nor their drivers.

“I don’t know who spun out or didn’t because they wouldn’t tell me, but everybody reported to work so that’s the only true test I can have,” Penske said with a laugh, before drawing serious again. “Everybody was on it and wanted to go forward.

“So let’s see what the result is. It’s going to be interesting. When you start working with someone new, there’s new ideas and it’s not the same old, same old. This business is moving so fast, we have to be better as a whole team, not just crew chiefs and drivers.

“We had a good season, it wasn’t a bad season, but it wasn’t a championship season and we’re in the business of winning championships. … Sometimes it makes sense to give someone another opportunity in another job and that’s what we did.”

Penske also addressed the acquisition of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series; the sale from Hulman & Co. officially closed this past Monday.

“I looked at it as an opportunity,” Penske said. “And to me, if the legacy can go down that we can take this track, none of us can say whether we did a better job than they did after 74 years.

“I guess my first grade card is how we do in the first year in making a difference at the track in 2020. We’re completely focused on that. We’re going to make several millions of dollars of investments before the month of May. It’s not to create more revenue or profit bottom-line, it’s entirely what can we do to make the guest and fan experience better.

“That’s what we want to do. We have a number of things on our mind and we’re going to announce a lot of those things on 100 days out. We’ll have some announcements that will be exciting and hopefully the experience will be what we expect to provide to the guests that come to the track.”

The voice of the normally stoic Penske cracked slightly when asked what he thought when the sale was complete and the pride of 16th and Georgetown in Indianapolis was his after 74 years of ownership by the Hulman-George family.

“I did one thing,” he said, as his voice slightly quivered. “I looked up in the sky and said to my dad, ‘thanks’ because he took me there (for the first time) when I was 14 years old.”

Penske then continued about the significance of the track where his teams have captured a record 18 Indianapolis 500s.

“I’ve been there every year since that day in ’51,” Penske said. “It’s amazing what it brings to us. It’s an amazing place and certainly from our family, my son Greg who was very important in building California Speedway.

“I was fortunate here on the (January) 7th after we completed the transaction to be invited by the governor to go downtown and go to the (Indiana state) Senate along with Tony (George), Mark Miles, my son Greg and I and have the Senate read and approve a declaration of the day and many of the senators got up and spoke about the history of the Speedway and their families, and then we did the same thing at the (Indiana state) House. It was just amazing.

“Understand that this is the Holy Grail of the state of Indiana. They told stories about being in the state of Alaska in 1981 when Bobby Unser won the race and then they took it away because they looked at TV and said he passed when he blended — and they were arguing about it in Alaska.

“You just think about the reach of this place. Our responsibility is it’s a treasure, it’s iconic and something from my perspective, it’s just exactly what built our brand. … Certainly winning there 18 years, finally winning the Brickyard, winning on the road course, you can’t just say it happens. It takes so many great people that have given us the opportunities to be winners, so I just have to thank them. And I thank my dad … and here we are.”

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Roger Penske official owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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One of biggest stories in auto racing this century is now official.

Penske Corporation announced Monday morning that the acquisition of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions has been completed.

The sale to Roger Penske’s company had been announced Nov. 4 but took about two months to finalize.

“We are looking forward to carrying on the tradition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar racing,” Penske said in a statement. “We have been diligently working with the teams at IMS, IndyCar and IMS Productions over the last two months to ensure a smooth and productive transition and we are ready to hit the ground running.

“Now, it is time to get to work as we continue the growth of the Speedway and we build on the momentum of the NTT IndyCar Series.”

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles had told NBCSports.com in late December that Jan. 6 was the target date for making it official with Penske, who has toured the IMS property often over the last several weeks and already has begun directing many cleanup and improvement initiatives.

“People call it ‘Penske Perfect,’” Miles said. “This is a massive place, and it’s a venerable place. It’s hard to keep it up to that standard, and we haven’t. But it’s also habits. The way you look at your desk or a storage room or a closet. The day of the announcement, Roger walked around and looked in great detail at everything. I began to see the place differently within an hour. I saw it through Roger’s eyes.

“In a way, it was embarrassing. Under the excuse of budgets and tight money, we had not really been as attentive as we should be taking pride in the place.”

Penske is the fourth owner of the world’s most famous racetrack, where his cars have 18 victories in the famed Indianapolis 500. He has purchased IMS from Hulman and Co., which has owned and managed the track since 1945.

NASCAR will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the 27th annual running of the Brickyard 400 on July 5, which will mark the debut of the race on July 4 weekend.

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.”

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

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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.”