Penske’s company becomes the fourth different owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway since it was built by Carl Fisher, Frank Wheeler, Arthur Newby and James Allison in 1909. The first Indianapolis 500 was in 1911. Fisher’s group sold the speedway to Rickenbacker in November 1927 and he kept it operating during some difficult years.
The modern-day Indianapolis 500 was essentially the Hulman Era.
Penske is the most successful auto racing team owner in history with 545 wins, including a record 18 Indianapolis 500 victories and 16 Indy car national championships.
The management of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be retained. That includes Miles, IndyCar President Jay Frye and IMS President Doug Boles.
The Penske organization is poised to take the NTT IndyCar Series and the Indy 500 to the next level.
“I’ve got a big commitment here to take over certainly as the steward of this great organization and what’s been done here in the past for so many decades,” Penske said. “It’s my commitment to the Hulman family. The fact that you would select us is an opportunity to take on this investment, it’s amazing and I just want to thank Tony and everyone else that’s been involved in this.
“There’s just no question that we have the opportunity to grow, and (IndyCar) will be one of the greatest series as we go forward,” Penske said. “We’re going to invest capital. We know the economic benefit today that this race brings to the region is amazing and we want to grow that. It’s important to us.
“This business is not broken,” he noted. “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.”
George oversaw a tumultuous time in the history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway that included a split with CART over the creation of George’s Indy Racing League in 1996.
Now, George is giving up control of a family business empire that began with his great, great grandfather Herman Hulman, who moved to Terre Haute, Ind., from Germany in 1854.
George tried to put the end of an era into perspective.
“In the past 18 months or so, I had the opportunity, which I never took the time to do before, but that was to read a historical transcript of sorts … it’s really a book on the first 100 years of Hulman & Co. That really opened my eyes to a lot that I didn’t know. Some of my sisters knew some of that lore and whatnot, but I wasn’t really familiar with it.
“This (decision) has kind of been baking for the last 18 months or so. It is somewhat bittersweet because the 170-year-old company as we know it is coming to an end,” George continued. “But we’re very, very proud. We feel like we’re going to continue to be a part of it. Everybody who comes here has their own story, and there are memories and the accomplishments that make it special for them.”
With Penske at the helm, a new era begins.
The purchase price was not revealed because Penske Corp. and Hulman & Co. are private corporations.
Over the next 30 to 60 days, Penske will create a “top-10 list” regarding fan and competitive enhancement of the speedway after analyzing the facility and talking with staff.
When the sale closes, Penske will create a new board of directors to help govern IMS and IndyCar business.
Penske would like to utilize the facility for greater entertainment purposes and even mentioned the possibility of hosting a 24-hour race at the facility.
He also wants to maintain tradition.
“There’s nothing that gives me more feeling than to stand on the grid and see the flyovers and see the men and women in the services each year,” Penske said. “I can tell you we’re going to push harder on that to be sure we respect them and the tradition and the pomp and ceremony is certainly going to be top of mind.”
As part of his new role, the 82-year-old Penske will no longer call race strategy for his teams during NTT IndyCar Series events, hoping to reduce the appearance of their being some “conflict of interest” in his ownership of multiple race teams and the series in which they compete.
“The sanctioning body and the IndyCar Series will be a separate company and the other assets will be in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Penske said. “I think you have to ask our competitors at this point. Tony (George) has been a car owner and we were talking about it today.
“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.
“I’ll do my very best to be sure there isn’t,” Penske added. “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.”
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