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Penske In Spotlight As Racing Returns To Indy

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 3 2020

Roger Penske is the big story at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend.

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Roger Penske’s life has been filled with momentous events, but for the 83-year-old international businessman nicknamed “The Captain” this year’s Fourth of July weekend will no doubt be one of his most unforgettable.

In a two-day span, he will make his debut as the new owner of the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway and simultaneously become the only team owner with entries in all three major racing series competing this weekend at Indy and Daytona. He also owns the NTT IndyCar Series that’s participating in its first doubleheader on Saturday with NASCAR’s Xfinity Series at The Brickyard’s road course.

“It’s so fitting for Roger to own the speedway at this point in his life. So fitting for everything he has done for motorsports, especially everything that he has done for Indianapolis,” said Team Penske IndyCar driver Will Power, who owns one of Penske’s record 18 Indianapolis 500 victories.

       

Penske assumed ownership of America’s second oldest speedway in January. In typical Penske fashion, he immediately began a nearly $15 million renovation of the facility that opened in 1909. Since its birth the speedway’s only downtime was during World War II when it sat dormant, its brick surface becoming overgrown with grass and weeds. It was rescued then by Tony Hulman. 

Team Penske driver Will Power got to take a milk shower after winning the 2018 Indianapolis 500.

Now, it’s Penske’s turn to breathe new life into the 111-year-old track. The 225 bathrooms have been refurbished and 700 new high-powered hand dryers installed. A 104-by-20-foot videoboard graces the back of the Pagoda. Parking lots containing multiple handicap spots have been restriped, the Gate 1 entrance sports new lighting, sight lines for the fans improved, flags installed at every entrance and exit to the property, the second turn suites repainted, and the museum power washed and its foundation repaired.

“All of the upgrades are going to continue over the next few years,” said Power, who won the Indianapolis 500 and the Indy Grand Prix for Team Penske in May 2018. “You know Roger strives for perfection so there will be nothing in that place that looks out of place when Roger is done with it.” 

Penske’s primary focus this weekend is on making sure everything is executed flawlessly at the speedway and in the IndyCar Series. However, his superb multitasking ability also will allow him to keep tabs on the performance of his 11 drivers competing at Indy and Daytona. Two of those teams will be at Daytona as IMSA makes its return after a five-month hiatus due to the pandemic. The rest are at Indy, competing in the NASCAR and IndyCar events.

Brad Keselowski, who won the Indy NASCAR Cup race in 2018 and the track’s Xfinity event in 2021, noted there always was pressure to win at the 2.5-mile speedway because of the special meaning it possessed for his team owner. However, now that Penske owns the famous facility the pressure has intensified.  

“You (always) knew (when) you were going to … Indy because that was the race track you got the call from beforehand from Roger Penske,” Keselowski said. “He made sure he caught up with you (before that race). So I can only imagine how much focus he will have on it now with everything that he’s got going on.”

Penske drivers have won five of the six IndyCar road course events, site of Saturday’s race scheduled for noon on NBC. The NASCAR Xfinity inaugural venture onto the Indy road course is slated for 3 p.m., also on NBC. 

At Daytona, the first time in that track’s history it has not hosted NASCAR for the Fourth of July, IMSA’s Weathertech Series returns to competition after a five-month layoff due to the pandemic. That race is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on NBCSN. Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron will pilot one Team Penske Acura, while Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor will be in the other. 

NASCAR’s Cup race at Indy is set for Sunday at 4 p.m. on NBC.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 3 2020
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