Hulman-George Family sells Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NTT IndyCar Series

This was not a story a thought I’d be writing. While we have heard extremely faint whispers of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway being sold they were quickly followed by assurances that the Speedway was not for sale. Perhaps, the best kept secret in IndyCar was that plans have been moving along since September when Tony George told Roger Penske he would like to talk about the stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Within days the two were meeting and on November 4, 2019 it was announced that Roger Penske’s company, Penske Entertainment Corporation, is purchasing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions. The sale is expected to be finalized in January.

I received a text from my friend Lisa telling me the news and thought for sure she must have been reading a fake news article. I quickly went on twitter and saw my feed had exploded with news about the sale of IMS. Unbelievable!

My first thoughts we sad and disappointment. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been owned by the Hulman-George family for nearly 75 years. Alton “Tony” Hulman Jr. purchased the Speedway in 1945. The Speedway had become quite dilapidated during World War II but at the encouragement of Wilbur Shaw, Hulman bought the facility and turned it into a world famous landmark. The Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would not exist if not for Tony Hulman so it is sad to think that the Speedway will no longer be run by the family.

“I think that Roger, his structure, his resources, his capabilities that he demonstrates, are only going to take this to another level, so that’s what we’re all about. We’re supporting elevating this asset and staking a new claim on its future. We, with emotion, are happy to be here today.”Tony George

My second thoughts were concern. Roger Penske is a businessman. What changes will he make to ensure he makes money through this deal. What will change within IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500? What will happen to Doug Boles, Mark Miles, Jay Frye and so many others who are involved in the series. Then I moved on to smaller changes- ticket prices, entrance fees, cooler policies. Then to some changes RP has wanted to see in the past- guaranteed seats for regular series drivers in the 500, no international races and his beloved Detroit race taking place right after the 500. My head was spinning. Too much had the potential to change.

At 11:00 am on Monday morning the conference was live streamed and I sat down to watch. My fears and concerns slowly faded. Tony George was visibly emotional about the sale. Tony expressed the the George family would be given an opportunity to buy shares in the new company, quickly followed by Tony’s plans to take advantage of that. While Tony has made some blunders in the past, he sincerely loves the Speedway and I’m thankful he will continue to be involved in its future. Mark Miles spoke and then Roger Penske. Roger stated that they plan to keep current leadership. He looks forward to working with Mark Miles, Jay Frye and others. He named several people holding current positions and at least for now it appears many will stay. He talked about his first trip to the Speedway, his passion for it and his desire to see it become even bigger and better. He respects the past traditions and says the pomp and circumstance of the pre race ceremonies will remain. I felt a lot better after hearing Roger speak. Now if we could just keep him from aging so we know the property will remain in good hands.

Also worth noting the museum at IMS is not part of the sale. They will continue to operate as they always have.

While I continue to have some small concerns, I mostly excited to see how this new era is run. We recently had many traditions from the 500 change or alter. Florence Henderson recently passed so no longer is part of the pre race ceremonies. Back Home Again in Indiana is still sung but no longer by Jim Nabors. The Speedway is getting a lot of pressure to not have a balloon release before the race. A member of the Hulman-George family has been giving the command to start engines for more years than I can count- I’m guessing that will change. While some consider these these minor changes some can’t imagine things any other way. It will be interesting to see what happens come May. As the news has sunk in I find I’m excited to see how Roger and his company can expand and improve on IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 while remaining mindful and respectful of the past. I was also encouraged to see all the higher ups in IndyCar having breakfast with Roger today at Charlie Browns. Perfect way to start the day and this new era.

I’m sure it was a hard decision for Tony and his sisters, but the family has always done what they thought was best for Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I don’t think a better person could have bought the Speedway than Roger Penske because he knows racing and has been racing all his life. His businesses are really well run and he knows how to get sponsors so I think this move will be nothing but a win-win-win. I’ve known Roger from when we both drove sports cars for John Mecom so we go back many, many years. The one thing about Roger is that when he goes and does something, he does it first class and that’s where I give him a lot of credit.” – A.J. Foyt

I talked to Mario Andretti today and AJ Foyt, and we all agreed what the Indianapolis 500 has meant to us as individuals and as a company, and certainly our company,” Penske said. “I think that what it really says, that in the United States of America, if you work hard and you’re committed and you have a great group of people, you get great success. So today I hope my dad’s looking down at me and looking at this group and saying, Son, you did a good job.”

“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. It’s my commitment to the Hulman family. The fact that you would select us is an opportunity to take on this investment, it’s amazing, and I just want to thank Tony and everyone else that’s been involved in this.”- Roger Penske

IndyCar Only Girl

I’m an IndyCar only kinda girl. I watch IndyCar, I know IndyCar, I love IndyCar. So when the season is over I really miss it. I don’t have other sports I follow, my boys aren’t overly involved with sports and I find myself counting the days until the season starts back up. I also find ways to still attend IndyCar activities. This past weekend I took a trip to visit my dear friend Lisa Rayhons, she lives in Indianapolis so we planned a weekend around IndyCar.

Lisa and I first “met” on Twitter. We realized we would both be attending the Road America race in 2016 and were able to meet briefly in person.

Once we met we became closer friends and the following year met up in May at the Indy GP. We watched practices and went out for dinner. We also met up at the Iowa race and Gateway.

This year we met up again at the GP of Indy and during qualifying. We spent the day together before the Gateway race and talked about the possibility of getting together during the off season.

Gateway 2017

Lisa, Mike and I at the GP of Indy

Randy, Lisa and I at qualifying 2018

Gateway 2018

So when Steve and the boys planned a trip to Southern Illinois University I thought that might be a perfect time for a trip to Indy and to visit Lisa. She was free and we made our plans.

I drove down on Friday afternoon and arrived at her house around 6:30. She picked us up Panera and we enjoyed a quiet night in. Perfect for both of us after a long week -wine, girl talk and cuddles with her pup Cooper.

Saturday morning while Lisa was at her yoga class I double checked on plans for doing one of the tours offered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I was really wanting to take the golf cart tour and learn more behind the scenes details. Just a few days prior when I checked the website all the tours showed available the day we would be at the Speedway. However, when I checked Saturday morning it stated that no tours were available. What’s!?!? So frustrating. Turns out there was a bike ride fundraiser for diabetes. Wonderful cause just wrong day for me. Well the one good think was fellow twitter and IndyCar friend Eric Hall was participating in the event and we were able to catch up for a bit.

After talking with Eric, Lisa and I went into the museum. I love visiting the museum but it was so disappointing to not be able to do a tour, that was a big part of my trip down so I could get my IndyCar fix.

Lisa and I talked with several other visitors most who didn’t think we really knew what we were talking about and some men who didn’t believe that we’d both met Arie Luyendyk on several occasions until we showed them pictures. We also talked with the men who worked there who were also surprised about our knowledge of IndyCar.

Representing the Wilson brothers with my T-shirt

We continued through the museum and then into the gift shop where I spent way too much money.

We then did a driving tour of Butler University with Lisa acting as tour guide. Followed by a trip with Cooper who had been stuck in the house while we were out enjoying the day.

Lisa’s friend, Joan, joined us for dinner. I met Joan when I was in town in May and it was wonderful to see her again. After dinner we had drinks at the Foyt Wine Vault. Being a huge AJ Foyt fan and a wine lover this is always a favorite stop. We had an enjoyable evening, sipping wine and chatting. The waitress and bar tender filled us in on stories about the Vault and the last time AJ, Larry and Anthony had been in. Realizing we were big fans they gave us coasters made with recycled tires. I love those types of gifts.

We drove back to Lisa’s, said goodnight to Joan and settled in for the night.

Sunday morning we had plans to meet Mike Silver for breakfast at Charlie Browns. Much like Lisa, Mike and I met on Twitter and have met up at several races. We were looking forward to the morning. However, Mike texted early Sunday morning that he wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be able to make it after all. Lisa and I were disappointed. We drove over to Speedway and had our breakfast. It was actually Lisa’s first time ever eating at Charlie Browns. It was my third time this year and I live out of town so we were laughing about that. We enjoyed our meal and conversation.

We drove separately to Speedway and my plan was to head home after breakfast but I decided I needed one more trip to IMS to get a shirt I’d seen the day before. When I walked up to the museum there was a sign saying no track tours but they were offering a building tour to see the Pagoda, media center and timing and scoring. Seriously! This was not mentioned on the website where it said no tours all week. Had we known we would have planned our Sunday different. I didn’t need to leave when I did, we could have planned a Sunday trip to do the tour. Now here I am with a decision, do I do the tour or just go home. The tour was so tempting but I hadn’t slept well the night before and already told my family an approximate time to expect me. They would understand if I called saying I’d be late but I decided it was still a super fun weekend and why not just have another trip to look forward to in the future. I picked up my shirt, visited the photo room and left the track.

Even without the track tours it was such a fun weekend. Now I just have an excuse to go back again. Lisa and I had such a good time, I think she would be willing to host me again. Thank you dear friend for such a wonderful weekend.

The icing on the cake though was while going through Twitter on Sunday night we learned that Robert Wickens can move his legs. A video is posted where he first moves one leg then the other, he then laughs and says both and moves both his leg. The smile is priceless. He still has a long road but it is filled with hope and that makes the journey a bit easier. Continuing to pray for a full recovery and am so thankful for the wonderful attitude Robbie has.

#GetWellWickens