Difficult times call for bold leadership. That is what Roger Penske and his team are attempting to do as they guide the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar through one of the most uncertain times in history.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 104th Indianapolis 500 was rescheduled for Aug. 23.

When the Hulman-George family announced it was selling the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy 500, IndyCar and IMS Productions on Nov. 4, it marked the end of an era. That era started when Tony Hulman saved the speedway from extinction when he purchased it from Eddie Rickenbacker in 1945.

The end of 74 years of leadership by the Hulman-George family became official on Jan. 6. The transfer of sale to Penske Corp. brought with it a tremendous sense of optimism and momentum for IndyCar and the Indy 500.

Penske was willing to invest in modernizing and improving Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With his tremendous business sense, Penske was set to transform the historic facility and the Indy 500 into a showcase for the future.

Although the NTT IndyCar Series has been parked since the March 13 postponement of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Penske continues to work toward improving the series and the speedway during the prolonged shutdown.

Difficult times call for difficult decisions, though. Penske took a 100-percent pay cut during the shutdown, along with Penske Corp. President Rob Kurnick. Senior management had to take a 25-percent pay reduction. Staff members took a 20-percent cut while others were furloughed with the intention of returning to work in 60 days.

Penske Corp. is an international operation with more than 60,000 employees around the world. It is heavily involved in the transportation and automotive industries, in addition to the auto racing teams.

Penske and his corporation prepared to weather the storm and minimize the damage.

When Penske purchased IMS, the Indy 500 and IndyCar, it was not a short-term deal. It will continue as part of Penske Corp. in the future with his son, Greg, eventually in charge.

The festivities ahead of the 2017 running of the Indianapolis 500. (IndyCar Photo)
The festivities ahead of the 2017 running of the Indianapolis 500. (IndyCar Photo)

Other key Penske Corp. senior management who are heavily involved in IMS and IndyCar include Bud Denker and Jonathan Gibson. Former Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles has been retained as Penske Entertainment CEO. Jay Frye is president of IndyCar and Doug Boles remains president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

These men continue to work in an effort to give IndyCar a running start when the 2020 season finally begins and to ensure the delayed 104th Indianapolis 500 is a showstopping spectacle.

Prior to the shutdown, Penske and his team announced significant upgrades to Indianapolis Motor Speedway that would be finished in time for this year’s Indy 500.

According to Penske, it was three degrees that morning in Indianapolis when he walked the IMS property, looking at placement for a series of new video and informational boards that will benefit spectators.

A series of impressive infrastructure improvements will also be made, including more than 30 additional large-screen video boards with 24 of those located along the paddock seating.

Another addition is the IMS Media Wall. This video board, measuring 100 feet wide by 20 feet tall, will be installed at the base of the Pagoda. It will face the Pagoda Plaza and serve as the cornerstone of a plan to transform the popular gathering area for fans. It will also provide data-driven race insight to fans from NTT.

Pedestrian traffic on Georgetown Road will be widened by two lanes to make ingress and egress easier for more than half of the venue’s race-day customers.

More than 125 restrooms are being renovated inside IMS. New pavement will be added to the Parcel B lot near the main gate to improve the parking experience and create a cleaner look for the “front door” of the facility. Approximately three miles of fencing will also be added on the grounds.

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