Roger Penske talks about buying Indy and the IndyCar series
We may never know how much it went for, nor the reasons for the timing, but Monday the Board of Directors of Hulman & Company announced that they have sold the company to Penske Entertainment Corp., which is owned by Penske Corporation and ultimately Roger Penske.
In January when the deal is finalized, Penske will own all the principal operating assets, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions.
So why did Roger Penske write the check, no matter how big that check is?
"My passion for racing began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1951 when I attended the Indianapolis 500 with my father," said Roger Penske, whose race team celebrated its 50th anniversary of first competing at IMS this year. "We have so much respect and appreciation for the history and tradition of the Speedway and the sport of IndyCar racing. I want to thank Hulman & Company for the opportunity to build on this legacy and it will be an honor for Penske Corporation to help lead these great institutions forward into a new era."
Shortly after the announcement the principals all met at the Speedway and Mr. Penske explained why he was making the deal.
“Well, I think we look at businesses that we invest in where we have domain knowledge,” he said. “And I think the fact that 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, and we look around this thousand acres and we say, can this be the entertainment really 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,” he added. “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.”
So when will he actually start?
“Well, I think what I plan to do tomorrow, ironically, is to walk the entire facility and strategically sit down with the existing team and get their top 10,” he said. “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, is 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 Jay Frye is working on that; can we have someone else come in to join the series.
“I think we look at the speedway itself, the investment with the 100 million dollars that was put in a few years ago before the hundredth, I think you've seen a tremendous change, and we want to add capability as there are more fan zones, what can we use this for, 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 that in a big way because for 27 years they've run here. So 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.
“We bought Michigan Speedway in 1973; it was bankrupt. We built California. We help with the promotion of the Grand Prix in Detroit. This is in our DNA, and I think with input from the media, certainly 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 I think that's something that would be a priority for me.”
The other big question; what can fans expect will be different in 2020 race and then going forward over the long-term?
“Well, that's an all-encompassing question,” Penske said. “Number one, I want to be sure that we're as good as we've been, and I'm going to count on this 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.
“But we're interested in economic development in the community, the Hoosiers that support this all over the state want to see this become and still be the iconic race of the world. So we're going to do this a step at a time, and I think that we've got here probably the next 60 days we're hoping to close this very early January based on all the regulatory things we go through, and I think at that time we'll have a had a chance to talk to all the leadership here and get some good input because this is obviously a chance for us just to add our support and our shoulder to make this better.”
You can watch the full press confernce below: