Penske open to Formula 1 return to Indianapolis

The 2004 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Roger Penske is open to an expansion of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including a return for Formula 1, after announcing a deal to buy the facility and related assets.

Penske Corporation is set to take ownership of ‘The Brickyard’, the IndyCar Series, and IMS Productions through subsidiary Penske Entertainment Corp.’s acquisition of Hulman & Company.

While Indianapolis is no longer the exclusive domain of its namesake racing category, NASCAR has been its only other major series since MotoGP’s last round there in 2015.

IMS’s hybrid infield/oval circuit originally hosted the F1 United States Grand Prix for eight years, including the infamous six-car race of 2005, but has not been graced by that world championship since 2007.

While not committing to target a specific series, Penske suggested that his organisation would draw on its experience running other circuits and events in a bid to broaden Indianapolis’ offering.

“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 (running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016), I think you’ve seen a tremendous change,” he noted.

“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.”

F1’s own relatively new owner, fellow American company Liberty Media, has made no secret of its desire to add at least another race in the USA.

Championship CEO Chase Carey, however, has identified ‘destination cities’ such as Las Vegas and Miami, the latter of which remains a work in progress, as F1’s preferred options.

Penske was also asked about the possibility of a double-header of NASCAR and IndyCar, a concept which he has previously endorsed, being held at his new property.

Team Penske competes in, and indeed is the current title-holder, in both series, and ‘The Captain’ reaffirmed his desire to see them run at the same event after a recent demonstration by IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden at a NASCAR round.

“Well, I think it was interesting to see Newgarden run around what they call the Roval down in Charlotte several weeks ago, and I think it was pretty exciting,” said Penske.

“I think some of the fans had never seen an IndyCar on an oval or a race track.

“Tony (George, Hulman & Co Chairman) will give us some of his input and certainly Mark (Miles, Hulman & Co CEO) and the team. Are those things we can do, can we execute those so we bring value here to the speedway?

“Look, we’ve got to break some glass on some of these things, don’t we? We’ve got to try some of this.

“I’m prepared to take a risk. No risk, no reward in many cases.

“Those are the things that Mark, with you and your team, that we’ll take a look at. But I wouldn’t say it’s out of the possibility.”

Indianapolis currently hosts two IndyCar races, namely the 500 and the road course race which precedes it earlier in the month of May, as well as NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.

Next year it will also see motorcycle racing for the first time in five years in the form of the MotoAmerica Series, plus a round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.

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