The opening gambit in IndyCar’s pursuit of new engine manufacturers involves securing the two brands who’ve driven the series forward since 2012.
Considered the bedrock of anything that might follow with third or fourth engine suppliers, receiving commitments from the five-time IndyCar manufacturers’ champions at Chevrolet, and the current back-to-back champions at Honda, is the starting point for Penske Corporation president Bud Denker and the series’ leadership team.
Provided those contract extensions are forthcoming, exploring the interest held within the dozens of marques sold through Penske’s auto dealerships will follow.
“First step is to get Chevy and Honda’s contracts done longer-term; once we do that, then we can set out,” Denker told RACER. “Our connection is with the manufacturers that we have; we sell 38, 39 brands. We’re agnostic on all of them, but we do need to get another manufacturer in the series, and that’s going to be our goal.”
Admittedly, without both in place to usher in the new hybrid 2.4-liter twin-turbo V6 formula in 2022, the NTT IndyCar Series would find itself in a world of hurt.
Known for fostering loyalty and long-term relationships with Team Penske’s sponsors and partners, Denker says IndyCar’s new owners will ensure the series longstanding engine suppliers are taken care of before the quest for new manufacturers gains momentum.
“The number one most important thing we can do now is take care of the two partners,” he acknowledged. “Chevrolet and Honda are taking care of us, so as we work on extending our relationship with them, that’s job one. Once that’s done, beyond 2021, then we have the opportunity to go out and pursue another or others into the series, but we can’t do that until you ensure you have the first two ready to go. I would say we’re close on that, and it’s not going to give any timeframes on it, but it’s a very positive feeling. They love the series; they love that what it provides to their technology, love what it provides to their relevance in terms of technology. I’m positive on that.”
Prior to the acquisition of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by Penske Entertainment, series CEO Mark Miles and president Jay Frye logged a heavy ration of international travel meeting with potential engine suppliers from every major market.
Adding the vast influence, and well-developed auto industry contracts held by the Penske Corporation to the existing work performed by Miles and Frye gives IndyCar its best chance of securing the engine partner is has badly needed since Lotus departed in 2012.
“Jay Frye’s been out there on his own the most – he and Mark Miles – trying to find a third manufacturer,” Denker said. “They’ve done a great job in approaching many manufacturers. I know who they are, but they’ve been two-man show for the most part, right? We do have some reach, no doubt. We sell 500,000 cars a year, and we have a lot of relationships. But we can’t just sell becoming a third manufacturer on our relationships alone. Joining IndyCar has to mean something to the partners that we’re talking to.”
Easing the supply burden on Chevy and Honda remains a key goal of signing a third manufacturer. Denker says all of Penske Corporation’s available firepower will be used in those efforts, and with the looming need to begin initial design and manufacturing on the 2022 engines by the end of the year, the window to land a new engine partner will only narrow as the months pass by.
“Roger Penske and I will be very involved, and Greg Penske as well, and the three of us will be very involved in speaking to those manufacturers once we have Chevrolet and once we have Honda confirmed,” he said.
“There’s 24 [full-time] cars to support now with two suppliers. We want to get it to eight, eight and eight, with eight cars each manufacturer. That’s the ultimate goal. And guess what? If you have more manufacturers, they’re going to activate better, so our TV partner is going to be happier; the promoters are going to be happier, and the teams are going to be happier, right? That falls into play here; it’s a very important element of us moving forward in the future.”