It has been 366 days since Mari Hulman George died and it is just a few weeks short of when Tony Hulman purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from Eddie Rickenbacker in 1945. I have a feeling Roger Penske will pay a little more than the $750,000 that Hulman paid.
This has been an emotional day for me. IMS has been in the Hulman/George family my entire life.
From today’s Press Conference:
The key word was stewardship. Tony George said “…we as a family all agreed we needed to have a conversation with Roger Penske. I approached him at the final race of the season, not wanting to distract from the task at hand, which was bringing home another championship, but I wanted to wish him well on the grid, and I just simply said, I’d like to meet with him and talk about stewardship.”
Roger Penske later added, “I’ve got a big commitment here to take over certainly as the steward of this great organization and what’s been done here in the past for so many decades. It’s my commitment to the Hulman family. The fact that you would select us is an opportunity to take on this investment, it’s amazing, and I just want to thank Tony and everyone else that’s been involved in this.”
I like that both George and Penske used this term. it was comforting that it didn’t sound like a huge corporate takeover.
As far as personnel at IMS, Penske said, “we have no intention of changing the management teams that are place today, and certainly we’ll have a board that we’ll announce at the time of the final closing ofthe transaction, and we hope to have a diverse group of people on there that know the business and can support the business, take us to the next step. That’s going to be part of our plan.And we also, just to put it in perspective, we’ve offered the Hulman family members if they’d like to have an interest in the company that we would look at that during between now and when we get to the end of the closing.”
I take some comfort that there may still be some family involvement in the Speedway.
How My Day Started
I got a text from a friend as I was having breakfast with some friends. “What’s up with the sale of the track to Penske? ” I read it twice. Then I looked it up. My first impression was shock. Not only the track, but the series and other properties were sold. Here are my initial thoughts. I will update this story after the 11 am press conference.
I have never in my lifetime known the Speedway to be owned by anyone except Tony Hulman or the Hulman -George family. It makes me to sad to think that the Hulman name will no longer be a part of the Speedway going forward.
I had a feeling when Mari Hulman George died that her death started the track on an inevitable path to today’s announcement. According to Tony George, the family has been searching for a buyer for the last ten years.
There may not be many changes for 2020 because much is already locked in, but there could be some big differences in 2021.
I’m glad the Speedway was sold to someone who has respect for the track and the Indianapolis 500. Penske’s love of racing began at his first 500:
“I really have to wind back to 1951 when my dad
brought me here when I was 14 years old, and I guess
at that point the bug of motor racing got in my blood I’d
have to say, and to think about what it’s meant to our
company, the brand that we’ve been able to build — it’s
interesting, I talked to Mario Andretti today and AJ
Foyt, and we all agreed what the Indianapolis 500 has
meant to us as individuals and as a company, and
certainly our company.”
My concern is Penske’s history of track ownership. I hope eventually the track isn’t sold to NASCAR.
I have many other concerns, such as track personnel, new spectator policies, and physical changes to the track. I’m not sure if any will be answered at the press conference.
Penske talked of stronger promotion for the Brickyard 400 and the possibility of a 24 hour race. I’m not sure the track or community is ready for a 24 hour event. A shorter endurance race might work.
More tracks could open up to Indycar races with Penske’s influence.
The double header with NASCAR could moire easily become a reality.
I have a concern about conflict of interest with a race team owned by the owner of the series. This concern also extends to the 500, but the Speedway ownership has fielded cars in the past.
Will Penske leadership help Indycar obtain a third OEM? With Honda looking at NASCAR, another OEM takes on more urgency. A fourth one wouldn’t be a bad idea either. I can’t see Chevy covering the entire grid by themselves.
If you had hopes of Detroit moving to a different date to get an oval the week after the 500, those dreams are gone. Also, the Belle Isle races will stay on NBC. I hope NBC adds a couple more races then.
As with IMS, 2020 is probably not changing, but after that, especially when current agreements expire, everything is wide open to change. I don’t see this change affecting the 2022 new car and engine plans.
My head is still spinning.