ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – When Roger Penske holds court, people listen. After all, he didn’t become the winningest team owner in Indianapolis 500 history and the premier team owner in the long and storied history of IndyCar racing without being a man of wisdom and vision.
Prior to Saturday’s Verizon IndyCar Series activities at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg the defending championship winning team owner sees much to be positive about the 2015 and offered a few ideas of how to improve the product.
“I think the Aero Kits have created a lot of interest with the testing the last couple of weeks,” Penske said. “It has shown that both Honda and Chevy have done a good job on their work. When you look at the cars they are different from the standpoint of pieces and parts that you put on. We really won’t know which is the better package until we finish this weekend and run the race. And of course you have to go to Indianapolis to get the real answer once you take all the downforce off.
“It was an expensive trip to change the cars for all the teams and hopefully the interest from the fans will create a benefit.”
Team Penske has the most resources of any team in the Verizon IndyCar Series and has a powerful four-driver team this season featuring 2015 champion Will Power, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, 1999 CART champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya and Inaugural Angie’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis winner Simon Pagenaud.
The racing has been tremendous in the series and it’s unknown if the addition of Aero Kits will change that competitive balance.
“I think with sponsorship at a premium and costs continuing to go up anything that we add to it is questionable but they made the commitment to do this a couple years ago,” Penske said. “I told Randy Bernard (former INDYCAR CEO) that we couldn’t do engines and Aero Kits the same year because we won’t know what will make a difference.
“We have stability now for the next three or four years and we can build the series. We’ll have cars to sell to new teams and have a regular business. The model will work out. I just don’t want to see a lot of changes over the next three or four years.”
Penske would like to see the rules remain the same through the 2020 season to ensure further growth to the series and encourage new teams to develop.
“The racing product in 2014 was as good as it has ever been and it looks like it will be the same this year,” Penske continued. “The quality of the teams, the drivers and the tracks we are running on are great. We’ve got a new location in New Orleans.
“Overall, the racing product is good. Let’s spend our time on the marketing and building the series to have the notoriety that it can and has had in the past.”
Team Penske admits that Aero Kits have added cost to the teams but the drivers can go deeper into the turns than before and that will put a premium on braking. It will put the driver more in control over the style of racing in what Penske calls an “evolution.”
“If we work on the rest of the model we’re going to be fine,” Penske said. “I’m looking at this as an investment to the future. What I don’t want to have happen is changing it two years from now.”