Roger Penske isn’t bothered by Formula 1’s ongoing expansion into the North American market. With the recent confirmation of F1’s third race in the United States, the owner of the NTT IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway says next year’s visits by F1 to Circuit of The Americas, Miami, and the new Las Vegas street race can only help the prosperity of his domestic open-wheel championship.
“I see Formula 1 as an international series where they’re the Indianapolis 500 of just about every country they visit,” Penske told RACER from the Long Beach paddock, one of IndyCar’s crown jewel events. “The U.S. market is a great market, especially in today’s world, to have your events. But we’ve had Formula 1 here for many years, we’ve had COTA, and they’re growing with temporary circuits.
“So I think it will bring more race fans. But we’ll have to compete. We have the diversity in IndyCar. We have high-speed ovals; there’s no Formula 1 race where they qualify at 230 miles an hour for 10 miles like we do at Indianapolis, so that’s point number one. Number two, we’ve got street circuits, we’ve got road courses, and we’ve got short ovals and medium-size ovals. So I think the differentiation, the diversity of IndyCar, is what makes us a different product.
“They’re looking at trying to have a bigger TV package here, and that’s only good for us. Because if there’s momentum on what the value of the series are, and I look at our TV numbers and their TV numbers are pretty much the same from the standpoint of viewership, I think that’s good for us.”
Rather than worry about F1’s rise in popularity, Penske – who operated an F1 team of his own in the 1970s – says the demands of elevating IndyCar’s presence among race fans is his main priority.
“We’ve got to run our own show,” he said. “I’ve always been in the business where we’ve got competition; Formula 1 is good competition, and we can learn from them. The U.S. markets is a big market, and what we need to do is to deliver more wherever we go.”
The conversation closed with Penske offering a hearty laugh at a rumor making its way throughout the Long Beach paddock. Has Liberty Media, F1’s commercial rights holder, made an offer to buy IndyCar from The Captain?
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard,” he said. “Let me tell you this, it doesn’t make any sense to me. You cannot own the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and not have the ability to support IndyCar, or vice versa. IndyCar is nothing without Indianapolis, and we’re all-in. There’s not enough money that would even tempt me to sell it. I don’t need to; I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it for because I love the sport, from a competition standpoint, from a marketing standpoint, from a technology standpoint.
“As a family, we’ve taken on the responsibility to maintain the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway and make it better. So once you take one of those parts off the car, you’re not going to run as well. And let me say this: I’m normally not a guy that sells anything. I’m normally a guy that buys things. Right?”