INDIANAPOLIS – A new era in Indianapolis 500 history will dawn in Sunday’s 104th running of the world’s most famous race, as the Penske Era begins with owner Roger Penske giving the command, “Drivers, start your engines.”
After 74 years of stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500, the Hulman-George Family sold the famed facility and its entities to Roger Penske on Nov. 4.
It will be Penske, the winningest team owner in Indianapolis 500 history with 18 wins, who gives the command to start Sunday’s race.
It will be the first time someone other than Wilbur Shaw (1946-54), Tony Hulman (1955-77) or members of the Hulman-George family will give the command to send the 33-car starting lineup on its way.
Shaw, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winning driver in the 1930s and 1940s, sought out Tony Hulman in 1945 to purchase the decaying facility. Once the speedway was purchased from Eddie Rickenbacker in November 1945, Shaw was the front man for the speedway, serving as IMS president.
Hulman took over the command after Shaw was killed in a plane crash near Decatur, Ind., on Oct. 30, 1954.
Hulman’s widow took over the honor following his 1977 death, and it then went to their daughter, Mari George, and ultimately his grandson, Tony George.
Penske did not give the command for the July weekend in which both NASCAR and IndyCar shared the track in his first events as owner. The command for the IndyCar race in July was given by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.
For the NASCAR race, the command was given by Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records and he held a bottle of hand sanitizer for the occasion.
Also, three generations of the Andretti Family will be honored before Sunday’s race. Marco Andretti, the pole winner, will lead the Indianapolis 500 field to green.
Mario Andretti will drive the Honda Two-Seater and the VIP in the second seat will be his son, Michael, a former IndyCar driver and team owner of Andretti Autosport.
It will be the first time three generations of the racing family will be on track together at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I’m one of the few that can say I’ve been teammates with both my father and my son, and now to have the opportunity for all three of us to be on track together, on race day at IMS, is really special,” Michael Andretti said. “Dad and I are really excited to do this together, but we’re still fighting about who’s going to drive.”