Roger Penske is known for making ostentatious moves and he’s added another the list as his newly formed Penske Entertainment Corp. purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar racing series from long-time owners, the Hulman family.
The family owned the Speedway for 74 years before agreeing to sell it to Penske for an undisclosed sum. The deal is expected to close sometime in January, Penske said during the press conference announcing the deal.
Though the acquisition, Penske is now in charge of the Indianapolis 500 — an event his legendary racing team has won 17 times since its first entry in 1969.
Penske said he has “no intention of changing the management teams that are in place today.” He did note that the company would have a board of directors in place by the time the deal closes. He didn’t offer up any insight into the composition of the board.
“I like the winner’s circle. I know where that is,” he joked during the press conference announcing the deal.
Penske, whose name is synonymous with racing at all levels, isn’t planning on any big changes at the legendary 110-year-old raceway in the near term, he said. He is scheduled to walk around the entire facility Tuesday to begin determining potential upgrades and other investments that might make sense for the site.
However, he said he also plans to meet with track and company employees for input into potential projects to tackle in the future, adding that he said he believes that the employees of any business generally have a lot of insight into what needs to be done around a place.
“We’ll have a top 10 list by the time we close, I’m sure,” he said.
Though he said nothing is set in stone, he’s clearly been mulling over a few ideas, including expanding the number of races held annually at the speedway. He suggested that a 12-hour and a 24-hour race are certainly possibilities at the track.
Penske noted that he’d like to expand the track’s ties to NASCAR, which already runs the Brickyard 500 at the site. He spoke to Jim France, who heads up the family that controls NASCAR, to let him know a deal had been struck and said France was “excited.”
“You look at 27 years and there’s no reason to break up that string of races,” Penske said.
In addition to more NASCAR races, he’s also entertaining the idea of a doubleheader weekend – an IndyCar and a NASCAR race – at some point in the future. It’s a something that has been kicked around by many folks, apparently Penske included, for some time now.
“We gotta break some glass on some of these things, don’t we?” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s outside of the realm of possibility.”
In the meantime, Penske said while he remains “100% committed” to Penske Racing, he also noted that he’s unlikely to be in the pit box during the Indy 500, suggesting he might have bigger responsibilities to attend to at that time.
He also brushed aside any potential conflict of interest issues that have been raised since the two sides began exploring the deal six weeks ago. He noted that three previous owners also ran in the Indy 500 without any real issues.
“As you look at the construct going forward, the IRL will be a separate company,” he said. “I think you have to ask our other owners (how they feel about it).
“I understand the integrity (issue),” he added later. “There has to be a bright line.”