STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Penske wants full fans at Indy 500, ready for IndyCar opener

Roger Penske will watch the IndyCar season opener from a suite at Texas Motor Speedway — his first time off the pit stand and on the other side of the fence since his teams failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in 1995.

Posted: Jun 5, 2020 5:41 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Roger Penske will watch the IndyCar season opener from a suite at Texas Motor Speedway — his first time off the pit stand and on the other side of the fence since his teams failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in 1995.

His relocation is partly for safety. At 83, Penske is considered at high risk for the coronavirus and he will avoid large crowds by working inside the paddock from a transporter separate from the rest of his team. But as the new owner of the IndyCar Series, he has also relinquished his role as a strategist for Team Penske to avoid conflicts of interest.

“I don’t know if I will be able to stand it. We’ll have a conversation after the show. I guess it will be like a NASCAR race,” Penske, who watches NASCAR events from a suite, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The pandemic has disrupted Penske’s first year as owner of iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series, which suspended its season March 13 just 48 hours before its opening race in Florida. The schedule has been overhauled, his beloved Indianapolis 500 moved to August from the Memorial Day weekend date it held for 73 years, and Penske has spent nearly six months focused on improvements for his newest properties.

Penske said he is at IMS at least two days a week overseeing massive upgrades. He is involved in every detail, from freshening public bathrooms to paving parking lots, lowering television monitors and creating a lift to an elevated winner’s circle.

Fans won’t get a true sense of the changes to the national landmark built in 1911 until at least August. Its first event, a doubleheader between NASCAR and IndyCar Series, will run July 4 weekend without spectators. In making that decision earlier this week, Penske said it moves the speedway closer “to execute with full fans” for the Indy 500.

“We really wanted to go forward with fans but it wasn’t realistic,” Penske said. “If we had fans and had any problems, that would absolutely close the door on for us for the 500.”

HIS HEALTH

Penske said he travels from his Michigan home to Indianapolis twice a week and wears gloves and a mask while working. His Bloomfield Hills office is a three-minute drive from his home and he said a nurse is on site and “everybody has to go through a temperature check.” Penske, a cancer survivor who received a kidney transplant in 2017, said Penske Corp. practices social distancing at work.

“I’ve been at home with my wife and have been careful on any interface,” he said. “All my transportation has been from Pontiac Airport to Indianapolis and back. I’ve not gone downtown. I haven’t gone anywhere. I’m not, you know, in trouble.”

He said most of his meetings are done over Zoom and are scheduled in shifts throughout the day so he can conduct business globally.

“We start early in the morning in the U.K., then we do our U.S. businesses and then we talk to Australia at night. It’s been a good tool,” he said.

THE SPEEDWAY

The coronavirus has given Penske additional time to raise the speedway to his standards. All work on the track was halted early in the pandemic under stay-at-home orders, but moving the 500 to August allowed time for capital improvements.

He’d often likens his visions for the speedway to pristine Augusta National.

“Every time I walk around I find something else to do,” he said. “I thought there were only so many chapters in the book. Every time I get to the last chapter, there’s one or two more to look at. Time is always beneficial.”

He said new video boards at the speedway would not have been in place for the 500 if had been run in May as scheduled.

“I’ve never been more excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said. “The future is very, very bright. I’ve never been more motivated, never been more excited.”

START OF THE SEASON

Penske said he is proud of IndyCar’s top two leaders, Mark Miles and Jay Frye, for getting the season on track. The series will practice and qualify before Saturday night’s race, unlike NASCAR, which has cut both so far.

He said both worked to to get the series’ foreign drivers back into the United States in time for the opener, and, Penske believes IndyCar’s teams have largely weathered the financial shutdown.

“They’re all ready to go racing ourselves. No question about it,” he said.

As for his own team of reigning champion Josef Newgarden, and back-to-back Indy 500 winners Simon Pagenaud and Will Power: “Texas at those speeds, I told them they are going to have to have their heads on.”

NASCAR

Team Penske has four wins through nine races even after the bossswapped all three crews for drivers Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

Logano won two before the shutdown and Blaney inked a contract extension. Keselowski, in a free agent year, won two Cup races last week and is fourth in the standings.

“I certainly am not saying he’s not going to run for us,” Penske said of Keselowski. “We have to talk to Brad and we have not done that during this pandemic. Quite honestly, we’re not negotiating something with a driver over Zoom. We’ll get together with him.”

He said Team Penske is working in split shifts at the shop for social distancing, and he’s holding out for economic impact analysis before he gives an opinion on NASCAR’s frantic current schedule. To make up its postponed events, the three national series raced nine times over 15 days. There have been two midweek races and all have been without spectators.

“We’re happy with the outcome of operations but I think the more important thing is what’s the impact on the sport? You know, what do our races look like in the future?” said Penske. “As competitors and for our sponsors there’s a comfort level that we’re back racing. Now is a time to see what we can do moving forward for both NASCAR and IndyCar.”

Terre Haute
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 66°
Robinson
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 64°
Indianapolis
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 67°
Rockville
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 65°
Casey
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 69°
Brazil
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 66°
Marshall
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 66°
Cold Front Friday
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 358799

Reported Deaths: 9605
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1681395382
DuPage21470603
Lake19856507
Will17354424
Kane15802344
Winnebago9464172
St. Clair7674215
Madison6893153
Champaign581928
McHenry5803120
Peoria433667
McLean396731
Rock Island376689
Unassigned3632260
Sangamon362661
Kankakee322478
Macon273349
Kendall252129
Tazewell247549
LaSalle223560
DeKalb216842
Coles182238
Williamson176159
Boone170925
Adams170115
Clinton166325
Vermilion15928
Jackson146226
Whiteside124125
Randolph119514
Knox118112
Ogle11217
Effingham11033
Grundy9037
Marion89116
Franklin8888
Jefferson88644
Monroe87328
Bureau86617
Morgan85424
Stephenson8517
Henry8107
Christian79426
Macoupin75110
Union74625
McDonough68716
Fayette65222
Lee6411
Crawford6366
Shelby61110
Livingston58610
Douglas5848
Montgomery57015
Woodford55814
Logan5534
Saline5119
Bond4809
Warren4677
Iroquois46419
Jersey46221
Wayne46111
Cass45311
Fulton4461
Jo Daviess4467
Perry41216
Moultrie3805
Carroll3728
Johnson3270
Richland32215
Lawrence3178
Clay29112
Clark28810
Hancock2884
Washington2861
Pike2814
Greene27615
Cumberland2606
Jasper25710
De Witt2463
White2421
Mason2391
Mercer2296
Pulaski2281
Piatt2200
Wabash2155
Ford18611
Menard1651
Edgar1468
Marshall1413
Massac1412
Henderson1150
Hamilton1132
Alexander1101
Gallatin1062
Brown1030
Edwards1010
Scott980
Putnam880
Schuyler831
Stark822
Calhoun670
Hardin500
Pope371
Out of IL20

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 152396

Reported Deaths: 4023
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24905785
Lake13380352
St. Joseph8985161
Elkhart8530132
Allen7978222
Hamilton6000113
Vanderburgh567560
Tippecanoe358714
Monroe322238
Hendricks3221130
Johnson3051128
Porter303648
Clark289161
Delaware284574
Vigo256038
Madison232493
Cass222822
LaPorte220958
Warrick190065
Kosciusko179224
Floyd177367
Howard160066
Bartholomew139758
Dubois136726
Marshall134226
Henry123429
Grant122639
Wayne122127
Boone119548
Hancock115645
Noble114633
Jackson109413
Morgan93040
Dearborn92828
Daviess85333
Gibson84911
Clinton82916
Lawrence82634
Shelby80330
LaGrange77715
Harrison74824
Knox72110
Putnam71616
DeKalb69911
Posey6896
Fayette61417
Steuben6118
Miami5875
Montgomery57822
Jasper5744
White57215
Greene52137
Scott51013
Decatur49939
Adams4815
Whitley4426
Clay4396
Sullivan42913
Ripley4278
Wells4205
Wabash4029
Starke3977
Orange38825
Huntington3805
Spencer3746
Franklin36625
Washington3632
Jennings36013
Fulton3472
Randolph3439
Jefferson3305
Pike32915
Carroll31713
Perry29714
Jay2946
Fountain2883
Tipton27023
Vermillion2251
Newton22211
Parke2223
Rush2084
Owen2031
Blackford1983
Martin1960
Crawford1531
Pulaski1481
Brown1303
Ohio1247
Benton1080
Union1060
Switzerland900
Warren761
Unassigned0233