Auto Racing’s Lion In Winter Still Has Challenges
2 mins read

Auto Racing’s Lion In Winter Still Has Challenges

Roger Penske, now 87, is a familiar face at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a race-car owner. He … [+] acquired the facility in 2019. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Roger Penske has enjoyed a long, successful, business career. That has included auto racing interests that have established his brand.

That includes 19 wins at the Indianapolis 500 as a car owner. His team also has three Daytona 500 wins in NASCAR.

Penske, who turned 87 last month, runs various transportation-related businesses. They include less-glamorous businesses such as truck rental and auto dealerships. Penske was once a race-car driver before entering the world of business.

In the late 1990s, he sold off U.S. racetracks he had developed to International Speedway Corp. ISC is controlled by the France family that owns the NASCAR stock-car racing series. That transaction appeared to end Penske’s racetrack interests.

Except…in 2019, Penske purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of so many of his personal triumphs. Penske bought the facility from the Hulman-George family that acquired it in 1945.

The Indianapolis speedway, founded in 1909, is unusual and historic. It’s less than 10 miles from downtown Indianapolis. In the 21st century, most racetracks are far from downtowns.

Five years later after Penske’s acquisition, the fate of the Indianapolis speedway remains unsettled.

Penske owns the track and the IndyCar racing series. NASCAR, with its own issues, is the dominant U.S. racing series. The international-based Formula One series is moving to expand its fanbase in the U.S.

In general, racetracks have few days that generate revenue but many days where money is spent.

Looking ahead, racing is supposed to help generate new technology for the auto industry. That industry is confronting challenges, including a transition from internal-combustion engines to electric vehicles.

In U.S. racing, Roger Penske is a major figure. He made a significant part of his reputation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In less than two months, the facility will roar back to life with the buildup to this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Penske now is in the winter of his life. The decisions he makes will determine the future of U.S. open-wheel racing. That type of racing faces many challenges.