At 86, IndyCar’s Roger Penske still full speed at the helm as a racing and business icon IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Pete: How to watch, start times, TV, schedules, streaming
SAINT PETERSBURG, Florida. On February 20, Roger Penske turned 86 years old.
He definitely doesn’t let age break him.
“We’re very happy with that,” Penske told NBC Sports as the season prepares to kick off Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg. “Our organization and our people are fully committed and we can’t wait to start racing.”
Chairman of Penske Corporation and owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 is a man who is constantly on the move.
His company vehicle on the driver/owner motorhome at the Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg is constantly followed by business leaders, sponsors, team owners and other dignitaries who come to meetings.
As one of North America’s leading businessmen and industrialists, Penske has always had a passion for motor racing. And no one did it better than the man from Shaker Heights, Ohio, who spent time at the Culver Military Academy in northern Indiana before becoming a brilliant student at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
When his father, Jay, took Penske to the 1951 Indianapolis 500, the young lad was infatuated with motorsport’s greatest sporting spectacle. He would eventually become a sports car racing champion in the late 1950s and early 1960s before moving out of the driver’s seat and starting a business career as a Chevrolet dealer in Philadelphia.
OPEN SEASON: Details for watching the St. Petersburg Grand Prix this weekend
Instead of driving a racing car, Penske took over as team owner in 1966. Since then, Penske Racing, now known as Team Penske, has set an unbeaten record in all motor racing.
This includes 17 IndyCar championships, 18 Indianapolis 500 wins, 231 IndyCar race wins, and 43 championships in all types of racing. His NASCAR Cup Series team has won the championship three times, including Brad Keselowski in 2012 and Joey Logano in 2018 and 22.
With Will Power winning last year’s NTT IndyCar Series championship for the second time in his career and Logano winning his second NASCAR Cup Series championship, Penske took another first place. This was the first time the same team had won two of the biggest prizes in North American motorsport.
This year, with Porsche Penske Motorsport, he hopes to score one of the last goals on the list – his first win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
This will be the fourth season with Penske at the helm as owner of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and at an age when most people have retired, Penske remains as astute as ever when it comes to running a business.
“Every time Roger Penske arrives at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there’s a new spring in his steps,” Penske Corporation president Bud Denker told NBC Sports at the Penske motorhome office Saturday afternoon in St. Petersburg. “The man is revitalized and refreshed and is an incredible source of inspiration for all of us.”
This is an important year for Penske and IndyCar. He has big goals and ambitions for IndyCar and 107th Indy 500.
The season starts on Sunday with a record 27 cars on the grid at the Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg.
“Seeing the number of teams, new drivers, liveries and competitiveness across the field is amazing,” Penske told NBC Sports. “We have reviewed our marketing plans for 2023, our customization campaign, we will spend several million dollars to generate more interest. Our 100 Days to Indy documentaries are all marketing and PR activities that should make the series more interesting for our customers and fans so that it can continue to grow.
“From IndyCar’s point of view, our team is in place. Jay Fry (President of IndyCar) and his entire team are ready. We have guidance with Mark Miles and Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Bowles to make it more exciting for our fans this May for the Indianapolis 500 and the month of May.”
Always lead by example.
The captain visited @USSIndyOfficial last weekend where @IMS proudly displayed among other iconic Indianapolis athletes. @IndyCar | #Roger Penske pic.twitter.com/Ijsjbl7imW
— Team Penske (@Team_Penske) February 25, 2023
Penske purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the Hulman George family on November 4, 2019. He had big goals and ambitions for 2020, but those plans were canceled due to the stoppage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Penske had to quickly regroup. He spent millions to keep IndyCar afloat and had to drive the 104th race.th Indianapolis 500 Without Fans August 23, 2020
On May 11, the US COVID emergency will end and IndyCar will be stronger than before the pandemic began.
“America is open now,” Penske said. “COVID was a time in our lives that we all forgot about. People have had tragedies in their families and at work. Everything seems to be back to normal.
“In terms of racing, there is a lot of unmet demand. People who couldn’t come to the races will be there. Ticket sales for our races and the Indianapolis 500 are up, ticket sales are up from last year, and people are queuing to get suites.
“These are all good observations. Judging by the current orders and the forecasts of our partners and new sponsors who want to come, everything looks very positive for us in 2023.”
Meanwhile, Penske said Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the legendary circuit he tirelessly tidied up from the stands to the infield grass, is about to see even bigger changes over the course of more than three years.
“We’ve spent nearly $30 million more in capital expenditures for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and people will see some changes in 2023,” he said.
Penske believes having 13 of the 17 races on NBC’s 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule is vital.
To support this, IndyCar will run a “tune-up” campaign in selected markets to boost TV interest and ratings.
“The ability to host our races online is key for us to bring attention and interest to IndyCar,” said Penske. “Our marketing campaign features individual riders who support each of the races, with individual videos highlighting the excitement of the upcoming race weekend.
“A very comprehensive marketing and PR program is being developed as we start the season in St. Petersburg.”
Penske has poured millions into the new marketing campaign, but has also shared that responsibility with IndyCar team owners through the Leaders Circle program, which rewards continued participation in the series with the top 22 entries.
“If you look at our program from a marketing standpoint, it would be somewhere around $17 million when you think about the real amount invested in high-cost marketing early on,” Penske said.
On Saturday, Penske Entertainment President Mark Miles announced that each Leader’s Circle member will receive $150,000 less than last year, and that money will be invested in aggressive marketing efforts.
“It wasn’t voluntary, but we were kind of asking the teams that we could cut about $150,000 for joining the leaderboard, for a total of $3.3 million, to further increase our investment.” Miles said. This is a minority share of our investments as a whole.”
One of the key pillars of this marketing campaign is the documentary series 100 Days to Indy, which will air on The CW starting April 27 and is produced by VICE Media. This is an attempt to help create the same magic F1 experienced with Netflix’s Drive to Survive.
“Having six episodes ahead of the Indy 500 will be very important to bring people into our sport to show them the inside and not just what’s happening on the track,” Penske said. “VICE and The CW are fully committed to the cause along with the teams. I will be very interested to see the result.
“We are doing our best to make sure everything goes well. We know what Drive to Survive has done for F1 and we hope our fans get the same response from 100 Days to Indy. ”
Penske knows it’s important to create a new generation of IndyCar fans with demos and new sponsors. He wants the series to keep growing under Penske Corp.
Penske has other projects he has brought to IndyCar, including the Race for Equality and Change diversity effort and an active role in creating a sustainable future for IndyCar to reduce carbon emissions.
Firestone uses an alternative tire made from guayule, which is harvested in the southwest.
Shell has created a racing fuel that is 100% biodegradable sugarcane waste.
Under Penske’s leadership, IndyCar has become one of the most environmentally friendly racing series in the world. But Penske’s passion for racing is fueled by competition.
In 2022, Penske celebrated two major racing championships in the same season: Power in IndyCar and Logano in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“Every championship is important and you don’t get credit for the ones you’ve had in the past,” Penske said. “Seeing Will win the championship and then Joey win Phoenix from pole, he did it on race day and it was great.
“It’s a team effort,” Penske said. “When you think about cross-talk between all drivers, that’s the key. Will had a great season. He overcame adversity and was able to return from them, starting again in the field, not losing his head and performing when necessary.
“Breaking Mario Andretti’s all-time pole record was the end of a great season. Well deserved, and he’s the one you’ll have to beat this year.
“This year we will try…