The news dropped without warning. On a quiet Monday in early November, a release went out to members of the media bearing this headline: “Penske Corporation to Buy Hulman & Company.”
It was, without question, a bombshell in the motorsports world. Roger Penske, the billionaire icon of the automotive industry and the most successful team owner in INDYCAR history, was buying the company whose holdings include Indianapolis Motor Speedway, INDYCAR and the NTT IndyCar Series.
As surprising as it was, the news also was greeted positively. Competing team owners and drivers joined motorsports executives and fans in lauding the decision.
“Roger has always strived to do great things for both IMS and Indy car racing, and I’m sure he’ll do the same in the new ownership position,” rival team owner Michael Andretti said. “Both the Indy 500 and the NTT IndyCar Series have been on a rise, and I look forward to the continued climb.”
Among his peers, Penske was seen as the proper custodian of the series and its landmark venue. He has won the Indianapolis 500 a record 18 times as a team owner, including Simon Pagenaud’s victory in May. Penske is held in high esteem as an ethical sportsman by his competitors, and they emerged shortly after the news broke to laud the sale.
“I am confident that (Penske’s) stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series will ensure a great future for the sport,” Bobby Rahal said. “His many successful business ventures underline the fact that he is the perfect custodian of one of the most historic venues in the world and is the perfect architect to build the foundation for the next 100-plus years of the sport.”
Chip Ganassi tweeted this:
“Great News out of Indianapolis this morning. Happy for my friend and fierce competitor @RogerPenske
Stewardship of the @IMS and @IndyCar continues in great hands!!!
In the days following the announcement, Penske talked of the possibilities of the purchase. Expansion of the IndyCar Series, additional races and events at IMS, even lights at the 110-year-old facility were among the topics of conversation.
The bottom line, though, was the enormity of the undertaking and Penske’s commitment to doing it right.
“I've got a big commitment here to take over certainly as the steward of this great organization and what's been done here in the past for so many decades,” he said. “It's my commitment to the Hulman family. The fact that (they) would select us is an opportunity to take on this investment, it's amazing.”