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Notes: Penske Addresses Indy Fans

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 23 2020

Drivers Charlie Kimball, left, and Marco Andretti eye the Borg-Warner Trophy. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Conspicuous by his public absence during the “Month of August” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Roger S. Penske will give the command to start engines this afternoon for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Sunday’s scheduled 200-lapper will be the first Indy 500 contested at IMS since Penske purchased the facility, sanctioning body INDYCAR and the NTT IndyCar Series from the Hulman-George family last fall. That was months before the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States, prompting Penske _ in his role as chairman of IMS _ to reschedule the event to this weekend.

Last month, the decision was made to run the race without fans in the Speedway’s massive grandstands as COVID-19 trends in Marion County and Indiana worsened. IMS lists permanent seating for more than 235,000 fans. Infield seating can raise the capacity to an estimated 400,000, numbers that stamp the race at the famed 2.5-mile oval as the largest single-day sporting event in the world.

Penske, whose Team Penske drivers/teams have won a record 18 Indy 500s, addressed the situation in the following open letter to fans:

“I will miss you on Sunday. Believe me, there is no one more than me who wanted fans to be able to watch the 104th running of the Indy 500 in person.

“It is disappointing to run the event without all of you here, but I know our drivers are determined and ready to put on a world-class show for everyone watching at home.

“Especially now, during these difficult times, gathering with friends and loved ones for cherished traditions means so much. Hundreds of thousands of fans return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway every year, savoring the final note of “Back Home Again in Indiana” and cheering for some of the world’s greatest drivers. The roar of the crowd goes with the roar of the engines. I wanted you here.

“For Indianapolis and Indiana, in general, the Indy 500 means so much. This is especially true for our Race Day staff and local businesses in Indianapolis, who count on the Month of May to boost their income and take care of their families. But given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Marion County, running the race without fans was the right decision.

“My family and I purchased the Speedway and INDYCAR for the long-term. As much as I wanted to open our gates, even at 25 percent capacity, protecting our fans and ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ for the long-term is more important.

“When fans return in 2021, you will see many of the improvements we’ve made, including more than 30 new LED video boards, 5G connectivity and refreshed concession stands and restrooms. The winning driver and car are now lifted atop Victory Podium, allowing more fans to see the iconic post-race celebration. More improvements, all focused on our fans, are on the way.

“When I was 14-years-old, my father took me to the Speedway to watch the race. It was 1951, and Lee Wallard won it. I was able to put on a helmet and sit in a race car. I’ll never forget that experience. That special day shaped the rest of my life and made me who I am. It’s why I care so much about the Speedway and INDYCAR racing. It’s why the fan experience will always be my top priority.

“Thank you for understanding, and I look forward to seeing you next May.

“And drivers _ start your engines!”

(Signed) Roger Penske

In keeping with that spirit, IMS President J. Douglas Boles issued a decree Saturday thanking fans for their continued support and assuring them IMS will grant an extension of their Indy 500 attendance streaks due to circumstances created by the pandemic.

Boles declared that fans who watch or listen to the race’s 104th running and return for the 105th edition in May 2021 will officially “Keep Their Streak” and extend their consecutive Indianapolis 500 attendance records, unbroken and unblemished, into the future.

Indianapolis 500 ticketholder streaks range from two to 68 years in length. More than 36,000 tickets are sold annually to customers who have attended the race for 35 consecutive years or more.

“We love our fans and their passion and commitment to the Indianapolis 500,” Boles said. “We appreciate their loyalty and they truly help make this event ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’ So many of our loyal customers have been attending the Indy 500 for decades, and certainly the conditions we have faced this year as a result of COVID-19 are beyond their control. We wish our fans could be here with us at IMS and know they will be here in spirit. We will preserve all attendance streaks, and we can’t wait to welcome everyone back home again for the 105th Indianapolis 500 in 2021.”

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Open-wheel icon A.J. Foyt Jr. is celebrating the 65th anniversary of attending his first Indianapolis 500 as a fan in 1955, when he was 20-years-old. Foyt and his father, Tony, typically listened to the race on the radio for years at their shop in their hometown of Houston, Texas.

In 1956, A.J. competed in the Midget races at 16th Street Speedway across from IMS. Two years later, at age 23, he started his first Indy 500 as youngest driver in the 33-car field. He was the fastest rookie, too, but spun in oil from his No. 29 Dean Van Lines Kuzma/Offy on Lap 148 of 200 en route to finishing 16th. George Amick, who finished second to winner Jimmy Bryan, was named Rookie of the Year.

“The biggest thing I remember in 1958 is that a very good friend of mine, Pat O’Connor, lost his life on the first lap _ about 10 or 15 cars were totaled-out the first lap _ Jerry Unser went over the wall. I spun down through it and lucky enough I didn’t hit anything. Then towards the end of the race a water hose broke and I spun in Turn 1. I remember a lot _ I spun at both ends of the racetrack.

“They told you as a rookie that going down the backstretch you got the draft of the cars and you’ve got to be careful the first lap. They didn’t say nothing about everybody crashing in Turn 3. I wasn’t prepared for that!”

Foyt went on to become the first four-time winner of the race (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977) before retiring at age 58 in 1993. A.J.’s 35 Indy 500 starts remain among his myriad records at the Speedway.

Now 85, “Super Tex” is active in the NTT IndyCar Series as founder/owner of A.J. Foyt Enterprises, whose daily operations are overseen by son/Team President Larry Foyt in Waller, Texas. Due to his age and health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indy 500 likely will be A.J.’s only appearance at a racetrack this season. The race will be run without fans due to the pandemic.

“I kept coming back because every time I got hurt, the media kept saying I couldn’t come back and I wanted to prove a point _ yes, I will be back,” Foyt said. “Coming back to Indy, the world knows the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway so if you win Indy, the world knows it. That’s one thing that kept me coming back.

“To be fortunate to come up here and qualify for the race was one of the highlights in my life. Then to be lucky enough to win it (four times) and the championship (seven times), what else can you ask for in life? I had a wonderful life. I enjoyed Indy, and really, I never dreamed of this and I don’t think my parents ever dreamed of me going from the Midget races in Houston, Texas, to the Indianapolis 500.”

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Eight engineers who developed INDYCAR’s Aeroscreen cockpit safety device were awarded the 54th annual Louis Schwitzer Award this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The innovative Aeroscreen, which will be run in Sunday’s 104th Indianapolis 500 for the first time, protects the driver from airborne debris.

The awardees include Ed Collings, Red Bull Advanced Technologies; Antonio Montanari, Dallara; Stefan Seidel, Pankl Racing Systems; Craig McCarthy, Aerodine Composites; Brent Wright, PPG; Marco Bertolini, Isoclima and Bill Pappas and Tino Belli from INDYCAR.

BorgWarner and the Indiana Section of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International presented the award, along with a $10,000 prize, to the group. The award recipients since have decided to donate the prize money to SeriousFun Children’s Network.

The Louis Schwitzer Award honors engineers who innovate new concepts to improve competitive potential, with a focus on technology with applications in the engine, powertrain, profile, chassis or safety, and that adhere to NTT IndyCar Series specifications. Judges aim to recognize advancements that increase performance, safety or efficiency.

“A lot of the emphasis for the Indy 500 is put on who will take home the coveted Borg-Warner Trophy,” said Frédéric Lissalde, president/CEO, BorgWarner Inc. “We think it’s just as important to highlight the significant efforts of the engineers behind the scenes who continue to innovate impressive technologies for the NTT IndyCar Series.”

Implemented by INDYCAR for the 2020 season, the Aeroscreen is designed to withstand up to 28,100 pounds (125 kN) of vertical and lateral static loads and survive the impact of a 2.2 pounds (1 kg) projectile fired at 220 mph (354 kph). A key benefit of the technology is that it has no optical distortion and does not interfere with the driver’s sightlines. Additionally, it allows for “straight-up” driver extraction in case of a back injury and is interchangeable with all Dallara DW12 chassis systems.

The Aeroscreen is the result of a worldwide engineering collaboration between INDYCAR and Red Bull Advanced Technologies (United Kingdom) for the structural design; Dallara (Italy) for the aerodynamic design; manufacturers Pankl Racing Systems (Austria) for the top frame; Aerodine Composites (USA) for the lower frame and PPG (USA) and Isoclima (Italy) for the screen.

“Since the first call to Red Bull Advanced Technologies to the implementation of the Aeroscreen, there has been a dedicated group of engineers both internally and at our partners working tirelessly,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “The countless hours that the entire team and paddock put into making our drivers safer on the racetrack have already paid dividends as we saw last month in Iowa. Thank you to BorgWarner and the Indiana SAE for their longtime and continued support of this prestigious award.”

Beyond celebrating engineering excellence, the award memorializes Louis Schwitzer, who won the first auto race at IMS in 1909 and designed the “Marmon Yellow Jacket” engine that powered the Marmon “Wasp” to victory at the first Indy 500 in 1911. After founding Schwitzer Corporation in 1918, Schwitzer led the IMS technical committee and maintained a strong association with SAE throughout his career. BorgWarner acquired Schwitzer Corporation in 1999 to expand BorgWarner’s turbocharger, engine cooling systems and other offerings.

The Borg-Warner Trophy has been awarded to the winner of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” every year since 1936.

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UPDATED 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE/RACE WINNER

Saturday, June 6 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 4 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course 1 (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 11 _ Road America Race 1, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, July 12 _ Road America Race 2, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Friday, July 17 _Iowa Speedway Race 1, Newton (Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske)

Saturday, July 18 _ Iowa Speedway Race 2, Newton (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Sunday, Aug. 23 _ Indianapolis 500-Mile Race

Saturday, Aug. 29 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 1, Madison, Ill.

Sunday, Aug. 30 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 2, Madison, Ill.

Friday, Oct. 2 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 1

Saturday, Oct. 3 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 2

Sunday, Oct. 25 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 23 2020
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