INDIANAPOLIS – One of the more confusing parts of Monday’s historic announcement is that an existing IndyCar team (Team Penske), one that’s won a record setting amount of Indy 500’s and Indy 500 poles, to go along with three series championships in the last four years is now running the series as a whole.
Isn’t that a conflict of interest? Wouldn’t the other teams be mad? I mean, imagine the outrage if Robert Kraft owned the New England Patriots as well as the NFL.
Penske, will be doing that in IndyCar.
“Well, I think as you look at the construct as we go forward, the sanctioning body and (NTT IndyCar Series) will be a separate company, and the other assets will be in the speedway,” Penske said of the potential conflict.
“I think with the proper board — I think you have to ask our competitors at this point. Tony has been a car owner and we were talking about it today. I think Tony has said all along, Wilbur Shaw or Eddie Rickenbacker have been drivers, so there’s been some history, but I don’t want to leave this conversation without knowing that I understand the integrity, and there’s got to be a bright line, and to me I know what my job is, and hopefully I’ve got enough credibility with everyone that we can be sure that there is not a conflict, and I’ll do my very best to be sure that isn’t. If you think it is, I hope that — I know that you folks will tell me pretty quick. So I’ve got a lot of guys watching me.”
So far, the news was met with high regard in the IndyCar paddock. Most of the teams put out statements that they’re behind Penske and this direction. Lets hope that lasts.
Luckily, the teams are on board. They’re saying the right things at least.
“I think it’s positive news,” said Michael Andretti. “Roger has always strived to do great things for both IMS and INDYCAR racing, and I’m sure he will continue to do so in this new ownership position. Both the Indy 500 and NTT IndyCar Series have been on a rise, and I look forward to the continued climb.”
Fellow rival Chip Ganassi agrees.
“This is great news for the industry,” Ganassi said of the announcement. “The news will provide a shot in the arm to both the sport of auto racing and specifically to the IndyCar Series. Roger is a good friend and a class act, and all of his businesses are run well and with integrity. I couldn’t be happier for all of us that are involved with the sport.”
Same goes for McLaren and Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing.
“I cannot think of a better owner than Roger Penske and his corporation to ensure the growth and future of INDYCAR,” Zak Brown said. “His business acumen and dedication to the sport and passion for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are second to none. This is a landmark announcement that delivers confidence in a bright future for INDYCAR.”
Rahal echoes everyone else’s sentiments.
“Roger Penske’s commitment to the sport we love is over six decades long, and I am confident that his stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series will ensure a great future for the sport. His many successful business ventures underline the fact that he is the perfect custodian of one of the most historic venues in the world and is the perfect architect to build the foundation for the next 100-plus years of the sport. We look forward to working with Roger in order to make the IndyCar Series and the Indy 500 the best it’s ever been.”
One major potential conflict could be Guaranteed entries into the Indy 500 and Penske’s stance on it. In 2018 and again in 2019, we had more cars show up to Indianapolis in May that starting spots available. Bumping would return.
See, bumping is a huge allure to qualifying weekend. It adds prestige and drama. The thrill of making the race is huge, so is the agony of not.
But, with the monetary side of things being low still in sports in general, would it make sense to have a full time entry and a big named driver bumped and not make the show? How would that affect ratings? How would it affect that team showing up next year? Missing the Indy 500 is a huge loss in terms of revenue.
Penske knows first hand. He missed the race all together in 1995. He wasn’t back in 1996. James Hinchcliffe was bumped in 2018 but luckily was back in 2019. Is the risk of a full time team missing the show playing with fire.
Penske thinks so. But, now with him in charge, will he ensure full time teams make the race?
“Well, that’s been a discussion before, and I think that that will be a strategic discussion that will be taken up with the senior leadership here. I wouldn’t make a comment today one way or the other. I think it’s really up to Mark (Miles) and Jay (Frye) and the team to make that decision. I think some of the excitement has been in the past the fact that we had people that wanted to come into the race. We also have to understand people who commit to the entire season and take this series around the country, around the world potentially, we need to be sure they’re taken care of.
“I think it’s a debate, but at this point, I wouldn’t comment one way or the other.”