The caller was an old friend with deep connections to IndyCar racing. “Something big is going down at the Speedway,” he said two weeks ago. I thanked him and filed it away under “IMS rumors” because at least once or twice a year for the past 40 years we’ve heard the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is being sold to NASCAR, ISC, Comcast, Roger Penske, George Steinbrenner or the Disney Corporation.
But then late last week I got another tip from someone connected to the Hulman/George family who said either Roger Penske or Liberty Media was going to buy IMS and IndyCar. So I emailed Chris Medland, our F1 beat writer at RACER who was at COTA, and asked if he’d corner any of the Liberty principals for a comment.
I was in Las Vegas, making bad NFL bets and throwing golf clubs, but that second rumor got my attention. So on Saturday I left Mark Miles a voicemail, emailed Josie George and called former IndyCar boss Randy Bernard to see if he’d call the Liberty COO about it.
Silence. No return phone calls or emails, so I figured I’d come home and try and pin something down. By the time I got home Monday morning it was 3 a.m. and I had a terrible cold so I slept until 11:30 a.m. When I turned on my cell phone and had 75 text messages and about 25 voicemails, but before I could look at any of them my phone rang.
“Well asshole, what do you make of this?” inquired my charming friend Antony Joseph Foyt. “What do I make of what? I said. “Penske buying the Speedway.”
For someone in the business of breaking news, I was devastated because I’d been tipped twice but failed to come up with a story for RACER.com. I replied it was great news for Indy and IndyCar, and he agreed. Then he asked if I knew anything about it.
“I heard a couple of good rumors over the weekend but couldn’t get anybody to call me back,” was my response.
He cackled. “I knew about it seven days ago.”
“Well hell, why didn’t you tell the man trying to help you draft a new driver?” I screamed
“I promised to keep it a secret,” he responded.
On Monday night, Miles finally called me back as he was sitting with The Captain out in front of the main straightaway at IMS. “It’s about time,” I chided him. Then R.P. chimed in: “I’m kinda hurt you never called or texted me about this rumor.”
We all laughed and then I said something about this was the best-kept secret since he unleashed the Mercedes engine at Indianapolis in 1994. “I think this one was better,” he responded. “And more exciting.”