Roger Penske addresses some of the big problems facing IndyCar

INDIANAPOLIS – Even at the age of 85, Roger Pinske was always on the next racing draft at IndyCar.

once 106The tenth The Indy 500 is complete, and the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NTT IndyCar Series will turn his focus to the next important issue facing the sport—but he’s also willing to look back when asked.

Since acquiring ownership, Penske has spent more than $30 million upgrading the “world’s largest racetrack”. As he prepared for his first full Indy 500 race since 2019, Penske had to make several tough decisions.

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One of them was dropping the Freedom 100 from the Carb Day schedule. The Indy Lights race produced some of the most exciting finishes in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history.

The last Freedom 100 was held in 2019 when the Hulman-George family still owned IMS. It has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years and ignored the 2022 schedule, leading many racing fans to ask “Why?”

It’s one word,” Pinsky told NBC Sports. “Safe. We can’t get those cars going so fast. A lot of people aren’t very experienced with ovals.

“We want to keep the Indy 500 on the weekend (around the Indy 500), not some other race. It takes away from the history and the iconic impact that you are making to the sport.”

Penske also talked about why IndyCar doesn’t have a plan for a new car in the near future.

The current Dallara basin and chassis were introduced in 2012 and have undergone various iterations with pneumatic parts and parts. Since the introduction of the air fender in 2020, some drivers have pressed that the new car’s design update is required in the afternoon to address the extra weight of the safety device.

“We don’t need a new car right now,” Pinsky said. “We need to do one big job at a time. We’re coming out with a 2.4 engine. Both manufacturers have run it successfully at this point. The hybrid will be the next piece of that. It’s going to be evolutionary for cars. We’ll add things to make them safer, maybe faster.”

“For me, at the end of the day, we talk about the team and we talk about the driver, I’m not sure the people in the stands care about a car, they want to see their driver and team on the track.

“I’m in no rush. We pushed the rules at Indy Lights out for a few more years. We need cars and costs less. If you take 33 cars twice, that’s 67 cars and each car is $400,000 to $500,000, you’re talking 25 to $30 million before you have any spare parts.

“I don’t see that happening in today’s economy.”

In the longer term, IndyCar is preparing its Hybrid Assist engine, which was scheduled to take the route in 2023 but has been pushed back to 2024 due to supply chain issues.

Penske believes IndyCar must always keep pace with the trend of the auto industry.

“Hybrid technology is the technology bridge to the future,” Penske said. “I don’t think you’re going to see every factory that only produces fully electric cars for a long time. The products are good. They will always be more expensive. You look at the infrastructure. There’s a lot of things out there.”

“We made a commitment on the mixed side. We limited it to 2023 because of the supply chain. We are now getting pieces that we couldn’t get before.

We’re not going to take a year off, because we’ve pushed it out. We’re actually working even harder to make sure the product is viable.”

This year, there were enough entries to reach 33 this year. This meant no “fun day” but there was a good reason for it.

The full-time field for most NTT IndyCar Series races increased to 26-28 cars. Teams that used to make an additional entry for the Indy 500 participate additional full-time teams in every IndyCar race.

In a sense, the Indy 500 entry roster has become a victim of IndyCar’s success, particularly with the team’s shortage.

“I think number 33 is history, but having a good problem because it shows you the quality of the current teams,” Penske said. We backed Beth Baretta and got an extra car last year. Those are two more cars we don’t have this year that came from our team.

“We are happy with the quality of the field. There is no one out there who is not going to have a good shot at the end. You can see that the qualifying in the other races before Indy was very, very close.

“It’s a mood point for me. We want to better present the audience with teams that have experience and bring in new cars and drivers from Indy Lights, we want to have that pipeline and the chain of support is key to bringing in new mechanics and sponsors. We want to connect the two chains as much as we can.”

IndyCar continues its endless search for a third engine manufacturer (OEM) to join Chevrolet and Honda.

“We’ve been in discussion with OEMs,” Penske said. “We were close, but at the moment, I have nothing to report. We have a few that were closer than the others, and we are looking at a couple of new ones as well.”

This is also the last year for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Bel Isle. Penske Corp. He is also the promoter of this event. Next year, the race returns to the streets of downtown Detroit.

“Detroit is important to me because it’s my hometown,” Pinsky said. “Bud Denker and Michael Montri took this whole project, Belle Isle and IndyCar racing to the top. To get the excitement downtown in Detroit where we used to have Formula 1 racing and have the success we used to see in Portland and in Toronto and Nashville, the board was The city and the mayor are really excited to have him downtown. He will be close to over 200 businesses and they will be operating downtown which will create a huge amount of economic benefits.”

NASCAR is discussing adding street racing to the schedule.

Could a NASCAR race one day be a part of the Detroit Grand Prix?

That’s not what I know of,” Pinsky said. “It’s not in our books.”

Penske also discussed the dramatic growth of Formula 1 in the US, which is largely attributed to Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” show.

IndyCar has been investigating the possibility of a reality-based bid, but Penske notes the goal is not to imitate F1. He’d rather make IndyCar the best series it can be without trying to be something it isn’t.

“I think we have two different companies,” Pinsky said. They run around the world, and we run in the States. Us American series. They see the benefit of running in the United States. They see the benefit of running in the US and have three races in the US. I think that’s great.

Drive to Survive has been a huge strength for them. They are talking to people they have never spoken to before. We are looking for different types of opportunities. We haven’t announced anything yet, but we haven’t dispensed with this opportunity. There are people who want to do something with us and develop a product to connect with fans.”

Now that IndyCar has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic, how does Penske plan to expand the chain?

“What we need to do in IndyCar, and Indianapolis is understand what the norm is,” Penske said. “We could not calculate the base as of January 2020 when we bought the track, series and IMSP. By the end of 2022 we will have a much better idea.

“Then we can look at other things to support our racing product in the future.”

As the owner of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Penske has kept a safe distance from the Penske team he still owns. From time to time he will wander into the pit area, but stay away from the first step in timing to stand up on purpose.

“I just want to make sure there’s a Chinese wall, and the competitors realize it has nothing to do with me how the race is conducted,” said Pinsky. “Since we bought the series, I’ve never been in control of the race. The commitment is building our brand. I know the drivers on my team, and I root them.

“Someone had to take the role. Someone had to make the investment. I did it because I love the sport. I knew both sides. I had been a track owner before with Michigan, California and Homestead and also competed in many different types of races.

“I think I’ve landed in the right place, personally. Our family and our goal is to take the series and Speedway to the next level. Tony Holman and his family have done an amazing job as hosts. We need to take that base and try to improve it.”

Penske admits he will have to play the role of full-time team owner when he attends NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series races where he can get more involved.

“That’s right,” he said. “I used to be at the observation deck, and they wouldn’t leave us there anymore. I love going there.”

Although Penske has an incredibly sharp business mind, he has surrounded himself with remarkable talent. Two new additions came with Penske’s purchase of IMS: Mark Miles and IMS President Doug Boles.

“I have known Doug Bowles since he was at Panther Racing,” Penske said. “awesome man. His heart is in motorcycle racing. It is there every day. There is no better person than to be the head of a motorbike race. For me, Mark Miles joined the Holman Company and brought a sense of leadership to the company to support the family. They put together a wonderful palette. The upshot is, that we were the beneficiaries of the ability to purchase assets, but I don’t know what to do without it.

The level of respect for them has grown. I knew they were good. We almost tested them on the road because we were on the other side of the street and had to work with them every day. They are of high integrity. They are hardworking workers too and very transparent.

“The series, the speedway, our sponsors are all fortunate to have the people around us at the helm. There are others that fall into this category as well.”

Penske knows he will never retire, because he loves the challenge that comes from running businesses around the world.

But when the day comes that Roger Pinske no longer exists, who will run the Penske Corp business. And Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

Greg Pinske is a key member of running his father’s business empire, Roger Pinske Jr. Owns many car dealerships. Another son, Jay, has created his own thriving media empire.

Mark is another son and daughter Catherine Blair is the youngest Pinske.

“As Greg and Roger Jr. know. And the rest of my family knows, we have professional people running these companies,” Penske said. “We have included the family as directors in these companies. They were involved from a strategic point of view. I expect that is what we will do in the future.

“Not a single family member is going to take over the project at this point. At this point, it’s about managing these people over time with the knowledge you have. The project is important, and there should always be Penske people who have the ability to reach out to the organization and ask questions.

“That’s what I expect our family to do.”

At 85, Penske continues a pace that would tire people half his age. He sleeps 3-4 hours a night and discovering early in his life the fact that he doesn’t need much sleep is a gift as it gives him more time to get things done.

“I’m not used to sleeping much, but when I get it, I sleep really well,” Pinsky said. “What I love about my job is that every day is different. When you get into this situation, you do the same thing every day.

“The good news for me is that we have a variety of companies, clients, and challenges, and that’s what makes me wake up every morning. I don’t get up in the morning not knowing I have a lot to do, and then things change when you enter the office.”

“This is the fun I have every day.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter @BruceMartin_500

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