The passing of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway torch became a reality Monday, as Roger Penske and Tony George addressed the media in a special announcement at the speedway.
It was an emotional and impactful press conference, and at the end of the day it is obvious that the iconic speedway is in the hands of a man who cares deeply for auto racing.
In the sale, Penske’s subsidiary Penske Entertainment has also acquired the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions.
George’s family has owned the 2.5-mile speedway in Indiana for nearly 74 years. It was a difficult, yet pivotal, decision for his family to sell the race track.
“It was an important decision for our family, especially at this time,” said Tony George who has served as Chairman, President and CEO of Hulman & Company over the years.
George spoke about all of the brands and investments that his family have had over the years, and none strikes a more emotional chord than IMS.
“This one is extra special to all of us as we have all grown up around it,” said George holding back tears during an announcement at the speedway on Monday.
Being that this speedway has such a personal attachment with the family, the move to sell was described as bittersweet, but also exciting by George.
For Penske, this is the culmination of a dream that started when he was a teenager.
“I really have to wind back to 1951, when my dad brought me here and I was 14 years old,” Penske explained. “I guess at that point the bug of auto racing got into my blood, I’d have to say.
“To think what it’s meant to our company — the brand we have been able to build — I talked to Mario Andretti today and talked to AJ Foyt and we agreed that what the Indianapolis 500 has meant to us as individuals and as a company — I think what it really says is in the United States of America, that if you work hard and you’re committed and have a great group of people you get great success.”
Penske continued by saying, “Today, I hope my dad is looking down on me and this group and saying, ‘son you did a good job.”
As far as NASCAR goes, Penske expects to continue running NASCAR at the speedway for many years to come. He says that he spoke to NASCAR’s Jim France on Sunday night, and that France expressed excitement.
According to Penske, he has no plans to change the management or folks who currently run the operations of the speedway, and he is even open to bringing members of the George family into the fold if they want to be a part of the operation.
Penske is also very pleased with the current stewards of the NTT IndyCar Series as well. The Series has produced ratings, attendance and social media gains in the last few years, and Penske would like to continue that trend going forward.
Penske will step down from any role of strategist for his Team Penske IndyCar team, and will do everything in his power to uphold the series with integrity. Penske doesn’t see this becoming a conflict of interest.
The deal still faces government regulatory approval, but if all goes well the move should be officially completed in January.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.