Now that Roger Penske and his company own the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar (or IRL as Roger kept calling it) Series fans have some questions that need to be asked and eventually answered. A stalwart of American open-wheel racing Penske is no stranger to the politics of IndyCar and the prestige of the speedway.
Monday morning’s news shocked everyone. It made headlines outside of the racing world. It’s the biggest news in American open-wheel racing since the merger and the first news story that shocked the world since Fernando Alonso announced he would run the 500. The most famous racecourse in the world now has its fourth owner.
As the new owner of a series he competes in and owner of a track he has dominated there is a concern of a conflict of interest for Penske.
What About Team Penske & The IndyCar Series
The biggest question has to be with Team Penske and the series. Roger’s team is the most well funded and successful team in the paddock. And from time to time his influence over the series has been called into questions. Whatever way Roger wanted to go tended to be the way the series wanted to go.
Indianapolis 2015 is the perfect example of Roger getting what Roger wanted. As Chevy after Chevy flipped over after spinning the series had a closed-door meeting with the team owners and OEMs. It was decided that qualifying would be run with race setups and the boost dialed down to ensure the Chevy cars wouldn’t risk spinning out and flipping over again. Much to the anger of the Honda teams.
This is the same company that has been accused of fixing races in NASCAR and just a few weeks ago at the Bathurst 1000. It’s not crazy to question if there is a conflict of interest.
Having said all of that, the other team owners will keep this in check. NASCAR has dealt with this issue before, hell even IndyCar has when Tony George owned a team. It’s not foreign territory and it’s something that shouldn’t be an issue but it’ll be heavily monitored.
Guaranteed Spots In The 500
Just last year at the Indy 500 Penske called for guaranteed spots in the starting lineup for teams that run the full IndyCar season. “I think we need to step back and look at this and be sure that people who commit for a full season know they have a place in the Indy 500,” Penske said, “because the world has changed.”
This comment came on the heels of James Hinchcliffe missing the race which was made doubly awkward by the fact his sponsor Arrow had built the biggest hospitality unit in turn 1 this side of Formula 1.
Now that Penske owns the series and the speedway many people fear he may make guaranteed spots a reality. Many traditionalists, this blog included, don’t think anyone should be guaranteed a spot in the world’s most famous race. That’s part of Indianapolis’ appeal. The fastest 33 start, just this year the speedway sent Fernando Alonso home.
In his press conference announcing the purchase of the speedway and series Penske said he’ll leave that up to Mark Miles, Jay Frye, and their teams. Which is good news for everyone but how long will that last? For now, we have to take him at his word.
Will the infamous IMS yellow shirts remain yellow? Will they be even more insufferable now? Will they have starch white shirts and black pressed slacks? So many questions with so few answers.
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