Roger Penske

Calling Indianapolis Motor Speedway “truly the happiest place on Earth,” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb welcomed the newest member of the Hoosier business community -- Roger Penske -- to the state.

Of course, Penske has been visiting Indianapolis almost every year since his father first brought him to the Indianapolis 500 in 1951, but he recognized and appreciated the significance of Tuesday's honoring after officially becoming the new owner of IMS, INDYCAR and IMS Productions on Monday. Holcomb and other elected officials, including Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and numerous executives from Indiana businesses, celebrated with Penske at a reception at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“When Roger Penske is invited to an event, people come,” Holcomb said, laughing at the strong turnout.

The festivities began Tuesday morning with Penske, Founder and Chairman of Penske Corporation, visiting both chambers of the Indiana Statehouse, meeting members of each political party. He called “a real thrill.”

“I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms and I’ve been in a lot of meetings with (race car) drivers, but this was (unique),” Penske said. “(It's) a real honor, to be honest with you."

The accolades were not only for Penske but for all members of the Hulman-George family. Its patriarch, the late Tony Hulman of Terre Haute, purchased the Speedway in November 1945 and led a transformation that has made the sporting venue one of the grandest in the world.

"It was really special for all of us," Penske said of the morning activities.

(Pictured here: Roger Penske and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Photos by Chris Owens)

Roger Penske and Indiana Gov. Eric HolcombWhile crediting his family for deciding as a group to pursue this opportunity, Penske said the leaders of the racing organizations are off and running to make the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge the best it can be. He said there are numerous projects already underway at IMS even though it's technically only "Day 2" of the new regime.

Mark Miles, who is now President and CEO of Penske Entertainment, said Penske, who is 82 and has won a record 18 Indianapolis 500s as a team owner, has been full speed ahead since the deal was agreed to with handshakes.

“It’s incredibly exciting, Roger’s energy level, his attention to detail, his passion for make everything better is really contagious,” Miles said. “It’s a ton of work, and he is tireless. There’s no detail too small, but that’s what’s going to make the improvements so visible.

“We’re ready to go, and it’s a huge opportunity.”

Miles said Penske has already start to put the same kind of effort into growing the NTT IndyCar Series, prioritizing the promoters who stage the 17 events.

“The first focus for the series is how do we help the promoters get (stronger), help our race weekends grow, and there’s been a lot of thought given to that,” Miles said. “We’re going to be spending a lot of hours with our key promoters, bringing in ideas – things we all think can help move the needle. There won’t be huge differences in 17 weekends in 2020, but we’ll try a lot of things and figure out what has impact for (2021).”

Penske, who has owned several racetracks in the past, said promoters need consistent dates from year to year to build momentum.

“The racing product itself is terrific at INDYCAR; we’ve got to have date equity at the tracks we go to around the country,” he said. “We’ve got to take our marketing people, our production people to go to these track owners and help them.

“From the Indianapolis 500 perspective, we’ve got to drive guest experience from the top.”

Penske mentioned utilizing the power of NTT, the sport’s title sponsor, to connect fans not only with the sport as a whole but to the drivers individually. He vowed to spend “several million dollars” on the guest experience at IMS alone.

“How can we get more access with the fans and the drivers?” he said. “It’s not just seeing helmets go by in the races. Those are things we’re looking at as a team.”

Similar attention will be given to the television viewing experience, he said.

Penske has already spent an extraordinary amount of time taking a fresh look at IMS and INDYCAR. He estimated it's been upwards of 200 hours on the ground with his eyes open.

“I’ve walked almost every square inch (of IMS),” he said. “I've seen the bones of the place. We need to upgrade certain areas, and I think that will make a big difference."

The following is the resolution read at the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday:

A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION honoring the legacy of the Hulman-George family and celebrating the incoming leadership of Roger Penske and the Penske Corporation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR.

Whereas,Terre Haute native Tony Hulman purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November 1945, beginning an ambitious post-World War II restoration project that forever altered Indiana’s history and the trajectory of global motorsports;

Whereas, since that time, members of the Hulman-George family have served as faithful stewards of the Racing Capital of the World, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and INDYCAR;

Whereas, 74 years of Hulman-George family leadership have produced many historic firsts and milestones, including the sold-out 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, the inaugural Brickyard 400 and the debut of life-saving SAFER Barrier technology;

Whereas, as we collectively mark the beginning of a new decade, we also recognize a new era of leadership at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR;

Whereas, Roger Penske is an individual supremely prepared to preserve and further the legacy of IMS, the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series;

Whereas, Roger Penske’s track record in the world of professional motorsports is second to none, highlighted by Team Penske’s 18 Indianapolis 500 victories, 16 IndyCar Series championships, two Daytona 500 victories, 545 major race wins and 37 championships across professional racing disciplines;

Whereas, Roger Penske is also the Founder and Chairman of Penske Corporation, a global industry leader that employs more than 64,000 individuals and manages more than $32 billion in global revenue;

Whereas, Roger Penske’s leadership principles include a commitment to civic growth and philanthropy, highlighted by his service as Chairman of Super Bowl XL and Penske Corporation’s support of many worthy charities and causes;

Whereas, Roger Penske is also a recipient of the highest honor bestowed on an American civilian, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and many other prestigious awards and honors, including induction in the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame and NASCAR Hall of Fame;

Whereas, Roger Penske’s commitment to excellence, growth, integrity and innovation in all his endeavors will now guide and serve the Racing Capital of the World, North America’s pre-eminent open-wheel motorsports series and race fans everywhere; therefore,

Be it resolved by the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, the Senate concurring.