Crain News Service report
INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 3, 2013) — Racing team owner Roger Penske is an Indianapolis Motor Speedway traditionalist as much as anyone.
But common sense leads him to support the creation of an IndyCar Series road course race at the historic facility in 2014. Mr. Penske, who has 15 Indianapolis 500 race wins as a team owner, knows and respects the traditions of Indy more than most.
"In this economy, you need to use any asset, especially if you have one like you have here," Mr. Penske said after the unveiling Oct. 1 of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
The event on the 14-turn, 2.43-mile road course will be May 8-10, 2014, kickstarting the buildup to the Indianapolis 500. Plans are for this to be an annual event—a points-paying IndyCar race.
Mr. Penske supports the idea that the two ABC-TV races will work together to support the series as a whole. They will bookend Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) activities, with a qualifying weekend sandwiched in between.
"To have a Speedweek like this is almost the greatest thing I've heard," Mr. Penske said. "It will help our sport. Great event, great announcement."
Mr. Penske noted that from a team owner's standpoint, it gives him a chance to sell a second layer of sponsorship to the most significant track in racing.
"Two opportunities at the Indy 500; people haven't thought about that," he said. "Having ABC covering the weekends will be very important to our sponsors and give us a chance as a team to win two events at the Speedway, that gives us a high goal to shoot for."
IMS officials are hoping to award a trophy, likely called "the Hulman Cup," if the same driver wins both races.
The trophy refers to the late Terre Haute, Ind., businessman Tony Hulman, who on Nov. 14, 1945, purchased the famed but then-rundown 2.5-mile racetrack that today remains under family control, with Chairman Mari Hulman George, Mr. Hulman's daughter, and her three daughters on the IMS board and many of her grandchildren also working in a variety of roles at the speedway, according to the IMS website.
Mr. Penske doesn't mind that Indy has always meant oval-track racing.
"Thinking about history, we've gone from 30 days to 10 [with the 500]; we've got the Brickyard," he said. "History, to me, is behind us, and in today's world you've got to take big, bold steps. I think that's what the Speedway has done and the Hulman family has done, and it's going to make our series a much better series."
This report appeared on the website of Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.