Roger Penske’s first order of business as the incoming owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the NTT IndyCar Series will simply be to listen.
Penske will become just the fourth owner in the 110-year-old Speedway’s history when the sale of Hulman and Company’s motorsport assets is completed in the coming months. The transition will be eased by his intention to keep the existing management in place – reinforced by a newly-installed board of “a diverse group of people… that know the business and can support the business” – and he said that his immediate priority will be to get their input on where investment is most needed.
“What I plan to do tomorrow is to walk the entire [IMS] facility, and strategically sit down with the existing team and get their top 10,” Penske said following the announcement of the deal on Monday.
“I always like to work from a top 10 and see the things that we can do to make it fan-friendly. Certainly from a competitive perspective, I’m planning to really step down from being a strategist on the pit box. You won’t see me there on race day. I think I’ve got a bigger job to do now; to try to see how we can build the series to the next level. It will be nice to bring another car manufacturer in. I know [IndyCar President] Jay Frye is working on that; can we have someone else come in to join the series.
“We look at the Speedway itself, the investment with the 100 million dollars that was put in a few years ago before the 100th [running, of the Indy 500, in 2016], I think you’ve seen a tremendous change. We want to add capability: can we run a 24-hour race here, can we run a Formula 1 race here. What are the things we can do? This is a great asset. Once the tradition had been broken in adding the NASCAR race – which obviously we’re going to get behind in a big way because for 27 years they’ve run here… I look at all of these across the board to see what can we do.
“This business is not broken. This is a great business, and the leadership team that’s been here has done an outstanding job, and what we want to do is be a support tool.
“This is in our DNA, and I think with input from the media, input from our sponsor partners and all the teams – I had a chance to talk to most of the teams today, the principals – and we’re looking forward to getting together with the car owners and seeing what we can do to make IndyCar even stronger, and that’s something that would be a priority for me.”
Penske said that the opportunity to acquire the Speedway and the IndyCar Series was attractive because it hit the sweet spot where his personal passion overlaps with his organization’s broad expertise – and an opportunity for growth.
“We invest in [businesses] where we have domain knowledge,” he said. “We’ve been coming to this track for almost 50 years, and seeing the growth of the series and understand the technology.
“And it’s also a great business opportunity for us to grow it to the next level. We look around this 1000 acres and we say, can this be the entertainment capital, not only the racing capital of the world, but entertainment capital of the world, in Indiana, and be able to support the state, the governor, the region, the city, the town of Speedway, and continue to grow it.
“We’re going to invest capital. We know the economic benefit today that this race brings to the region is amazing, and we want to grow that. It’s important to us.
“I want to be sure that we’re as good as we’ve been, and I’m going to count on this [existing] team here. Remember, I’m going to be the new guy in town, so we’re going to take those plans and see if we can add anything to it that makes it better. But I don’t think you build a business overnight. This didn’t get to 300,000 in three or four years, so we have to be rational on our investment.”