Archive for November, 2019

HOUSTON Nov. 27—A.J. Foyt does not eat turkey at Thanksgiving or any other time of year. However, in the 1960s, he spent nearly every Thanksgiving trying to win the turkey as in the Turkey Night Grand Prix at  Ascot Park, the now-defunct half-mile dirt track in Gardena, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles.

Foyt is a three-time winner (’60, ’61 and ’66) of the Turkey Night Grand Prix but the triumph that stood out for him was the first victory in 1960 which he won in Jack London’s No. 5 midget.

“It was nothing to have over a hundred midgets there and I think they started just 18 or 20 cars,” Foyt recalled. His midget ride came about through Foyt’s chief mechanic George Bignotti, who in addition to fielding the Bowes Seal Fast Indy car in which Foyt won his first national championship in 1960, also worked on the midget owned by London.

“I was running up high coming from the back,” said Foyt, who had qualified 17th for the 150-lap race. “I was running up against the fence and coming off Turn 4, I thought my goggles were sweating up and I thought ‘What the hell is going on?’ I pulled them down a little bit and everything cleared up and then I come off Turn 4 again and I couldn’t see anything! And it got worse and worse and finally, they red-flagged it. I was thinking to myself, what the hell is wrong with my goggles because it was kind of warm and I was sweating and I thought my goggles were just fogging over. I was glad to see them stop it because you were coming off 4 and you were just blind for maybe half a second but you were running real fast up against the fence. They must have let it run like that for 10 or 15 laps—it was dangerous. Finally, the fog just came down really thick and you couldn’t see nothing. That was a spooky night.”

The race was called after 122 laps with Foyt taking home the honors. As much as he enjoyed racing out there, he admitted to feeling the pressure of qualifying at the track which was one of the fastest half-miles in the country.

“Everybody wanted to run the Turkey Night race—there were a lot of great drivers and great cars that would miss that race. You were always worried about the number you drew for qualifying because the track would change a little bit before they would get down to you. It would get dry slick and then you couldn’t get the traction. It was kind of nerve-wracking.”

A.J. in the No. 5 Jack London midget as the action gets underway at Ascot Park in 1960.

The race was called after 122 laps with Foyt taking home the honors. As much as he enjoyed racing out there, he admitted to feeling the pressure of qualifying at the track which was one of the fastest half-miles in the country.

“Everybody wanted to run the Turkey Night race—there were a lot of great drivers and great cars that would miss that race. You were always worried about the number you drew for qualifying because the track would change a little bit before they would get down to you. It would get dry slick and then you couldn’t get the traction. It was kind of nerve-wracking.”

When asked what made racing at Ascot so challenging, Foyt said, “It was a tricky race track. Don Branson and Jud Larson were probably the greatest dirt drivers that ever were and neither one of them could get around that race track good. I couldn’t believe that. It was just a tricky race track you had to really be on your toes and watch what you were doing.

“The track would change up on you so quick,” he continued. “You’d be good for ten laps and then the tires you started the race with maybe would quit working, and that’s what made it tricky because you never knew which way the dirt was going to go. I always used to run high against the fence, not around the pole—but a lot of people would run down low. When the top groove would fade out, it really would hurt me. That was the only way I could really get around it was to run up high.”

Foyt, who raced in the Turkey Night Grand Prix from 1959 through 1968 qualified in the top-5 five times, including winning the pole in 1966. He finished in the top-5 five times as well, three of them victories.

This year’s Turkey Night Grand Prix will be the 79th running of the venerable midget race which has since moved to Ventura (Calif.) Raceway. Open-wheel and NASCAR star Kyle Larson will try to make it three straight midget race wins in a row tomorrow night, a feat he accomplished in 2012. Billy Boat is the only other driver to achieve that goal which he did in 1995 en route to winning the USAC Western States Midget title. Two years later he was driving an Indy car for A.J. Foyt in the Indy Racing League.

As for Thanksgiving Dinner back in the ‘60s? Foyt, Bignotti and the team would go to the casino afterwards where Foyt ordered steak.

“I didn’t want turkey on Thanksgiving, I just wanted to win the Turkey!”

By:   Anne Fornoro — A.J. Foyt Racing
        November 27, 2019

The tie between auto manufacturing and auto racing here in the states go hand-in-hand …

Here is a look back at one of the world’s automobile manufacturing cornerstones:  Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge complex in Dearborn, Michigan

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Nov. 22, 2019 – John Martin, a veteran of five Indianapolis 500 starts and the eighth-place finisher in the rain-shortened 1973 event, died Nov. 20. He was 80.

A gifted mechanic and engineer, who performed much of the work on cars he drove, Martin was active in racing until his death. His most-recent role was working near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at Billy Throckmorton’s Grant King racing shop, restoring and preparing a variety of racing engines for vintage car meets, including normally aspirated Offenhausers, turbocharged Drake Offys, Volkswagen midget car engines and an abundance of vintage sprint car powerplants.

Last summer, he drove in Vintage Race of Champions (VROC) Charity Pro-Am race during the SVRA Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational at IMS, a race he competed in every year since the inaugural in 2014.

The Cushing, Oklahoma-born Martin, who lived in Missouri, Wisconsin, California and in the Indianapolis area, made a total of 52 starts in the United States Auto Club National Championship series and under the Championship Auto Racing Teams banner, placing within the top 10 on 17 occasions in Indy car events. His highest showing was a pair of fifth-place finishes, scored in the Ontario 500-mile races of 1973 and 1975.

He attempted to qualify for every Indianapolis 500 between 1971 and 1982 and was successful for five consecutive events between 1972 and 1976. Driving an ex-Peter Revson McLaren fielded by himself, Martin placed eighth in 1973, when the car was called the Unsponsored Special, and 11th in 1974 when it ran as the delightfully named Sea Snack Shrimp Cocktail Special.

Long after he was no longer driving, Martin continued to work on teams in a variety of capacities, including engineer, fabricator and spotter. Far into the night prior to an event, Martin could be seen dressed in an apron and engrossed in a mechanical exercise of some kind.

His early days of driving were as an amateur road racer with the Sports Car Club of America. While living in Wisconsin, he converted a 1963 Corvette Stingray into an A-production racer and won a national title with it in 1965. He also took part in several United States Auto Club stock car races between 1966 and 1969, and contested SCCA’s Trans-Am series in 1968 with an AMC Javelin. In 1970, he drove a Surtees in the SCCA Continental series for stock block-powered Formula 5000 cars and placed within the top 10 in eight out of 11 starts.

A great storyteller, the laid-back Martin was blessed with a rich baritone voice that the professionals would describe as a “radio” voice.

He is survived by his wife, Linda, and a married daughter, Kristen De Muth.

Services are pending, but a celebration of life is being planned for some time in December at the Grant King racing shop.

Plainfield, IL (November 22, 2019) – Dale Coyne Racing announced today that it has parted ways with driver Sebastien Bourdais, who has spent four years with the Plainfield, Illinois-based team since his return to North American open-wheel racing in 2011.

“I want to thank Sebastien for having the confidence to come back from his Formula 1 tour and join our team in 2011, and again for his commitment to the team during the past three years,” commented Team Owner Dale Coyne. “It is not a decision we take lightly, but due to the ever-changing landscape of Indy car racing, we have no choice but to make a change for 2020. We wish Sebastien all the best with his future racing endeavors.”

Bourdais competed under the Dale Coyne Racing banner in 2011 and 2017 and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan for the 2018 and 2019 IndyCar seasons. In that time, Bourdais has won back to back races at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, his home town event, and scored three other podium finishes. He returned from a horrific crash in qualifying for the 2017 Indianapolis 500 to win his second season opener at St. Petersburg in 2018. Bourdais has been one of the, if not the quickest Honda in Indianapolis 500 qualifying in each of the past three years.

“I want to thank Dale, Jimmy and Sulli for giving me this opportunity to continue racing in the NTT IndyCar Series over the past few years,” remarked Bourdais, “I look forward to pursuing new opportunities in racing in the years ahead.”

Vasser-Sullivan Racing Co-Owners, Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, said: “We both want to thank Sebastien for the outstanding job he did driving for our teams KVSH Racing and Dale Coyne Racing Vasser-Sullivan. Looking back Seb has driven 84 races for us. In that time, we captured poles and won a lot of races. Sebastien is a great friend, a great driver, a true champion and a fantastic ambassador for our partners and Indy car racing. We wish him the best of luck in the next phase of his career where we hope there will be an opportunity for us to race together again.”

The team is exploring several options in order to complete its driver lineup for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series and an announcement will be made in the near future.

About Dale Coyne Racing:

Dale Coyne Racing (DCR) is an NTT IndyCar Series team based in Plainfield, IL, 40 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. The team has participated in every season of the INDYCAR/Champ Car World Series since 1984. DCR earned its first IndyCar win in 2009 with the late, great Justin Wilson at Watkins Glen and picked up its most recent one after becoming back to back winners on the Streets of St. Petersburg with driver Sebastien Bourdais in 2018. Team owner Dale Coyne is a true racer with a long history in racing. As an Indy car driver for five years, and a team owner for more than 30 years, he is among the most experienced team owners in the Series paddock and highly respected by his peers. Coyne is a Midwestern entrepreneur who designed and built Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, IL. He and Tony George, along with International Speedway Corporation (ISC), expanded the facility by forming a partnership and building Chicagoland Speedway. Coyne served as president of the facility through its construction and opening season and served on its management committee until its eventual buyout by ISC in 2007. The DCR Team Owner has several other investments, including being the largest Sonny’s BBQ franchisee in the country.

About Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan:

Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan is owned by veteran driver, team owner and successful businessman Dale Coyne (Owner of Dale Coyne Racing), and partners with Vasser-Sullivan owned by 1996 IndyCar champion Jimmy Vasser and sports marketer James “Sulli” Sullivan (co-owners of Vasser-Sullivan). Vasser-Sullivan also co-own AIM VASSER SULLIVAN competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship campaigning two Lexus RC F GT3s. Dale Coyne Racing w/Vasser-Sullivan is based in Plainfield, IL, located about 40 miles southwest of downtown Chicago.

Rick Mears on film …

Posted: November 15, 2019 in Uncategorized

INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019 – Louis “Sonny” Meyer Jr., one of the most accomplished and successful engine builders in Indianapolis 500 history, died Saturday, Nov. 9 in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He was 89.

Meyer was the son of Louis Meyer, the first three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 as a driver. Sonny Meyer joined Meyer & Drake Engineering soon after his father and Dale Drake purchased the Offenhauser engine business from Fred Offenhauser in early 1946. Sonny Meyer was one of the quietest, most pleasant men in Gasoline Alley but spoke loudly through his instrumental involvement as an engine builder or chief mechanic in at least 15 Indy 500 victories.

The Meyers introduced the supercharged midget engine to Indy in 1949-50 with Tony Bettenhausen, and the younger Meyer worked on Bill Vukovich’s crew in the early 1950s before becoming a chief mechanic for Bettenhausen in 1958 as he finished fourth at Indy in the No. 33 Jones & Maley Epperly/Offy.

When his father sold out of Offenhauser in 1964 to become a distributor for Ford’s double-overhead-camshaft V8 engine, Meyer relocated to Indianapolis and became a mentor to many future chief mechanics. He also worked with his father on the Ford program, and a Ford engine powered A.J. Foyt to his third Indianapolis 500 win, in 1967.

Meyer built the engine that powered Gordon Johncock’s first “500” victory, in 1973 in the No. 20 STP Double Oil Filter Eagle/Offy owned by Patrick Racing. The crew chief was Meyer’s brother-in-law, George Bignotti, and Meyer also served as the team’s fueler during pit stops. Meyer’s tenure at Patrick Racing was followed by a stint at Vince Granatelli Racing and then several more years as a development engineer on John Menard’s potent V6 turbocharged Buicks.

Meyer was inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 2013. He is survived by his wife, Sue; daughter, Pam; son, Butch; and stepson, Scott Balch.

By winning the Indianapolis 500 in just his second start in 1979, Rick Mears established himself as a rising star in Indy cars — Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

By: Jeff Majeske —

Managing Editor /

Initially published on May 9, 2019


A personal reminiscence of a sometimes confusing and cranky May:

This May, the 50th anniversary of Mario Andretti’s lone Indianapolis 500 victory is being celebrated, and rightly so because it is one of the most historic wins in all of auto racing.

But May marks another anniversary of sorts, one that is much less pleasant and one which Andretti wasn’t a part of, as he bypassed the 500 that particular year to try to defend his Formula 1 World Championship. Even though Andretti didn’t come close to winning another F1 title, he probably was glad he wasn’t at the Speedway that year.

May 1979 was a time of change for me. I was 11 years old and had only a few more weeks at Indianapolis Public Schools Flackville School 100 before graduating from the sixth grade. Next fall, I would be attending junior high at Willard Gambold School 108, going from somewhat big fish to guppy and all that.

As the school year wound down, interest in the month of May, practice, qualifying, and the Indianapolis 500 itself began to heat up. Although the term didn’t exist, I was a voracious consumer of content across multiple channels, reading all the articles in the Indianapolis News and Star, listening to the trackside reports on WIBC, and watching all the coverage on the TV stations.

For some strange reason, I couldn’t quite identify; however, my collection of Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, which I used to create the lineup for the race and play with on a braided oval rug, no longer held much interest.

I didn’t realize it then, but my days of playing with toys were at an end, a chapter of childhood about to close. So in some ways, the often-contentious nature of the events of 1979 made a perfect backdrop to this transition and the accompanying loss of innocence.

New words like injunction and summons joined my growing racing vocabulary alongside Chaparral and ground effects. Off-track developments were a vital part of the news, along with practice speeds.

A House Divided …

Unrest in Indycar, or Championship, racing that had been brewing for a few years finally came to a head before the 1979 race. The genesis for just about everything that transpired that May sprang from Dan Gurney’s so-called “White Paper.”

This particular document, which at its heart proposed a new and better business model for the series and in particular its owners, spurred several key car owners to break away from the United States Auto Club (USAC), the governing body for Indy car or Championship racing since 1956, and form Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) in late 1978.

This divide came roughly a year after the death of Tony Hulman, the man who saved the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from extinction after World War II and through his presence and demeanor unified Indy car racing – or at least kept the house more or less in order. Dissatisfied though they might have been, it’s unlikely the car owners would have staged this coup while the beloved Hulman was alive.

(In subsequent years, Hulman’s legacy in auto racing has come under fire. As the proprietor of the World’s Largest Single-Day Sporting Event, some felt, in retrospect, he should’ve been a more forceful leader and some sort of czar of the series, somewhat akin to Bill France Sr. in NASCAR.

This conclusion overlooks the fact that Hulman, although a very forceful businessman in his other interests, saw himself more of a caretaker of IMS and didn’t want the responsibility of running the rest of the circuit.  It also overlooks the fact that Hulman embraced the idea of a triple crown of 500-mile races at new tracks in Ontario, California, and Long Pond (Pocono), Pennsylvania. He threw his support behind both facilities and even tried to right Ontario Motor Speedway’s sinking financial ship in the mid-1970s. Alas, Ontario’s unique and, as it turned out, wildly optimistic financing plan doomed it to receivership after the 1980 season.

Essentially an idealized version of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ontario, was wider than Indy and had an elevated backstretch so fans on the front stretch could see all around the track. Of all the tracks that have come and gone, Ontario’s demise is perhaps the saddest.)

The result of the schism basically created the Haves vs. the Have Nots. In the CART camp were Gurney, Roger Penske, Pat Patrick, Jim Hall, Robert Fletcher, and Team McLaren. This “Big Six” fielded cars for most of the top drivers in the sport:

Dan Gurney

  • Mike Mosley

Penske Racing

  • Bobby Unser
  • Rick Mears

Patrick Racing

  • Gordon Johncock
  • Wally Dallenbach

Chaparral Racing (Jim Hall)

  • Al Unser

Fletcher Racing

  • Steve Krisiloff

Team McLaren

  • Johnny Rutherford

(Daniel S. Gurney was listed as the entrant of Mosley’s car instead of the familiar All American Racers. During this timeframe, Gurney joined forces with the colorful Teddy Yip and his Theodore Racing Hong Kong group. Hopefully, Yip provided some actual financial backing, unlike Chris Vallo in 1972 with the infamous Mystery Eagle.)

A.J. Foyt originally was part of the defectors but returned to the USAC fold before any races. Danny Ongais, with Ted Fields’ Interscope Racing, crossed over to participate in the USAC-sanctioned Pocono 500 later in the year, the only CART star to do so. The other key CART competitor was Tom Sneva, who was in his first year with Jerry O’Connell’s Sugaripe Prune team.

Each group, USAC and CART, conducted its own schedule and had made two stops on their respective trails before the Indianapolis 500 in May – CART ran at Phoenix and had a doubleheader at Atlanta while USAC went to Ontario and the Texas World Speedway.

In addition to Foyt, the USAC contingent boasted a fair amount of talent. Roger McCluskey, Gary Bettenhausen, Jim McElreath, and Billy Vukovich all had won Championship races, while Johnny Parsons, Sheldon Kinser, Tom Bigelow, Larry Dickson, and others indeed were bona fide professional drivers.

Unfortunately, their talent was greater than their ability to attract sponsors and money, leaving them to eke out a career with subpar equipment on the Championship circuit.

The assumption was that despite the divide and struggle for power, everyone would be at Indianapolis for the 500. Even though they were on the “other side,” no one thought the Unsers, Rutherford, Johncock, and Sneva would be missing when the green flag fell.

USAC, though, was smarting from this perceived insolence, and a couple of weeks before the track was to open tried to keep the entries from the “Big Six” from participating in the 500 because they were “not in good standing” with the sanctioning body.

CART, understandably, challenged this action, and soon the names of lawyers & judges were part of the coverage of the Indy 500. In the end, an uneasy truce was reached, and all competitors were allowed in.

Practice Begins …

Once the cars and drivers took center stage, things went reasonably smoothly the first week of practice leading up to the first weekend of qualifications and Pole Day. The car I was most excited to see was Al Unser’s Chaparral, rumored to be unbeatable. One of the first ground effects Indy cars, which used the bodywork as a sort of airplane wing in reverse to produce downforce to keep the car “stuck,” particularly in the turns, its appearance was as distinctive as it was effective. The Chaparral was a true blend of form and function, with eye-catching lines and bodywork.

Al Unser’s Pennzoil Chaparral perfectly blended form and function — Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Even the new and advanced PC7 Penske Indy car looked outdated, or at least out of place, compared with the Chaparral. “Baby Al,” as he was sometimes called then in deference to his slightly older brother, Bobby, was the early favorite to win back-to-back again and join Foyt as a four-time winner.

To try to keep the old four-cylinder Drake-Offenhauser engines competitive against the newer eight-cylinder Cosworths, the turbocharger boost had been cut significantly compared with the record-setting 1978 event. The changes decreased top speeds by about 8 mph, so anything above 190 mph or so was a hot lap. The so-called pop-off valve would keep everything in order and level. Or so it seemed.

One afternoon after another exciting day at IPS 100, we went to practice, and everything seemed just fine.  Al Unser’s car was as fast as it was appealing, and most of the other top drivers took practice runs. After the early discord, attention had turned to pressing questions like who would win the pole, what speed would it take to win the pole, and what the bump speed was likely to be.

(School 100 is at 30th Street and Lafayette Road, just a bit east of the track. When we went out for recess or if the teacher opened the windows, we could easily hear the cars. The building is still there, but it’s now been converted to a senior living center.)

For the first time in several years, we didn’t go to Pole Day. I’m not sure why. I do remember the weather forecast wasn’t very good, and also, the country (and our household) was in the midst of a recession. It could be that Pole Day just wasn’t in the family budget that year.

As it turned out, the forecast was accurate, and there was no activity until late in the afternoon. Shortly after the mandatory 30-minute practice period got underway, Ongais crashed heavily and was hospitalized for observation. No one attempted to qualify.

The weather was much better on Sunday, though we still stayed home. So I grabbed the qualification scorecard out of that morning’s Indianapolis Star and listened to Lou Palmer’s coverage on WIBC. Palmer described the run and gave the speed for each qualifying lap, which I dutifully recorded.

As expected, Al Unser set fast time about an hour into time trials with a four-lap average of 192.503 mph, just a bit below his best lap in morning practice. Unser’s speed held until Sneva, going for an unprecedented third consecutive pole, nudged him aside with an average of 192.998 mph.

When Foyt failed to beat Sneva’s speed (or Unser’s, for that matter), it seemed that Sneva would, indeed, take the top spot for the third straight year. That is until Mears, the last driver with a chance at the pole, easily topped him with an average of 193.736 mph.

This was the first of Mears’ record six poles at Indianapolis. Looking back now, it’s not a huge surprise, but at the time it certainly was. Penske had let Sneva go after the 1978 season even though Sneva had won back-to-back national championships.

Mears was still an unknown quantity, though he’d sparkled as a part-time driver for Penske in 1978, earning a front-row starting spot at Indianapolis and winning 3 races. His first was particularly memorable, as he nursed his fuel-starved PC6 across the finish line at Milwaukee with Rutherford in pursuit.

Bobby Unser joined Penske Racing for the 1979 season and led the development of the all-new PC7.

Mears had driven the all-new PC7 in the 1st race at Phoenix before going back to the PC6. This left Bobby Unser to do the development work on the PC7, something he excelled at. Uncle Bobby’s efforts paid off, as he won 6 of the 9 races after Indianapolis – and perhaps should’ve won that year’s 500 (more on that later).

The Calm Before the Storm(s) …

So the first weekend of time trials wrapped up with 25 cars qualified, leaving eight spots up for grabs the next weekend. The two big takeaways were that Mears was faster than expected, while Foyt was slower than expected. The low man was Larry “Boom Boom” Cannon with a 180.932 mph average in a circa 1975 Wildcat/Offy.

All the CART “Big Six” had seemingly qualified safely. Krisiloff was the slowest of that bunch with an average of 182.955 mph, but three other cars were slower than that. Plus, of course, eight more had to qualify before bumping began. So he seemed to have a reasonable amount of cushion.

The only big name yet to qualify was Ongais, still recuperating after his crash. Some pit-side chatter linked Andretti to the backup PC7 that Bobby Unser was sorting out. If Penske were going to add a third car, certainly he’d entrust it only to a veteran capable of winning the race, right?

The week leading up to the final two days of qualifications followed the usual pattern: the hot dogs tuned their cars for race day, teams with cars in danger of being bumped brought out their backup cars (if they had any) and the rest strove to wring more speed out of their mounts.

Things Get Weird (again) …

As the 2nd Saturday of qualifying dawned, I was glued to the radio again, a scorecard and pen at the ready. The third day of qualifying in past years tended to be somewhat sedated – at least until late in the day. That wasn’t the case this year. Time trials continued unabated, starting at 11 a.m., with the usual amount of completed runs and wave-offs (remember those?) until Jim McElreath filled the field around 1:15pm.

Dick Simon started the bumping (remember that?) by ousting Larry Cannon with a solid 185-plus average. Jerry Sneva, taking over the car originally assigned to Neil Bonnett, knocked out Bigelow, then-rookie Dick Ferguson, in an Eagle-Offy, eliminated John Martin’s McLaren-Offy.

Ferguson’s run raised a few eyebrows. He had made an attempt earlier in the day but was waved off after a two-lap average at 179-plus. Ferguson came back about two hours later and was about 5 mph faster – a pretty big jump.

USAC loyalist Bigelow hopped in his backup car and found an even better increase in speed to average 186.722 mph and bump CART “Big Six” driver Krisiloff. Apparently, the track was getting faster and faster.

The qualifying line ended after Bigelow’s run, opening the track for practice. During the break in qualifying, USAC announced that Ferguson’s qualification was disallowed because of “a deliberate attempt to over-ride the pop-off valve.”

Ferguson’s disqualification put Krisiloff back in the field, albeit on the bubble. Rather than sit and sweat, Krisiloff withdrew his car (putting Martin back in) and qualified his backup car at 188.422 mph. As with the attempts by Ferguson and Bigelow, this was quite a bit faster than Krisiloff had been going. Still, given that Krisiloff was a veteran on a decent team and was usually a reliable qualifier, his speed didn’t seem too out of the realm of possibility.

This left Martin on the sidelines (again); he was joined by John Mahler when Larry Rice squeezed him out. All of this left my scorecard a mess, but certainly, it was exciting and interesting.

More Disqualifications …

The last day of qualifying began with the startling news that the attempts of Bigelow and Krisiloff had been disallowed because of similar shenanigans with the wastegate assembly. This brought back Martin (again) and Mahler.

Poor Martin was bumped shortly after qualifications started, with rookie Bill Alsup driving the much-desired Penske PC7 backup car, now No. 68 instead of 12T, indicative of being Bobby Unser’s backup car.

Ongais was released from the hospital, cleared to drive, and quickly knocked out Mahler for the second time with an impressive 188.009 mph average. A now-legal (presumably) Bigelow bounced Al Loquasto and Phil Threshie, with a great-sounding Chevy mated to one of Grant King’s modified Eagles, took out Joe Saldana.

The fight for the positions was dramatic and exciting as the field average climbed to 186.600 mph, quite a bit faster than predicted and, of course, would only go up from this point forward.

Saldana got his backup car going fast enough to bump Jerry Karl, then Krisiloff (again, presumably now legal) clipped Spike Gehlhausen. This meant that both Gehlhausen cars were on the sidelines, a severe blow for the small team from Jasper, Indiana.

Just to illustrate how much things have changed in the last 40 years, Krisiloff’s run represented the 62nd qualification attempt, and the 45th completed run. Let that sink in for a moment. This year, 36 car/driver combinations are expected for the 2019 Indianapolis 500, with the possibility of maybe three bumps being celebrated by fans and rued by certain car owners, like Penske, who now want a guaranteed spot in the great race in exchange for participating in the other races in the series.

Penske, either knowingly or unknowingly, was part of the final bit of skullduggery that marked the second weekend of qualifications. It seems that the Penske crew forgot (or knew?) that the engine Bobby Unser used to qualify his No. 12 Norton Spirit was attached to his backup 12T/68.

That was a big no-no, so Alsup was disqualified. It was perhaps the biggest attempt of deception attempted since 1973 when the Champ Carr team tried to disguise the already-qualified (but likely to be bumped) No. 34 of Sam Posey as its No. 31 entry.

Penske tried to explain it as an, uh, honest mistake, though anyone who’s ever watched the Penske operation for five minutes knows how precise and buttoned-up his crewmembers are.

There also was the matter of having Alsup drive this machine. Alsup came to Indianapolis with an old McLaren-Offy and did an admirable job. Still, the combination of older equipment and lack of experience made a formidable opponent for the low-buck team. Overall, it seemed kind of strange for Penske to grant this newbie this opportunity at this time.

Eldon Rasmussen did a fantastic job qualifying this car, the genesis of which dated to 1972 — Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Gehlhausen experienced the John Martin Two-Step, getting reinstated and then bumped (by Eldon Rasmussen) in a matter of minutes. Rasmussen drove what was termed a Manta, which in reality was a heavily reworked Antares chassis.

(The Antares debuted in 1972 and was purported to be the first Indy car designed entirely by computer. Even in the hands of a capable McCluskey, it was no match for the new Eagles, McLarens, and Parnelli’s.)

Gehlhausen reached a deal to drive a Patrick backup car, increased his speed dramatically on each lap, and bumped Dana Carter, brother of Pancho. Ferguson made a last-ditch try and might have set a record for qualification attempt with the widest variance in speed: His first lap was 181.378 mph (much too slow), and his last was 161.725 mph (even more much too slow).

Ferguson probably should have been flagged off after his second lap, when it was apparent he couldn’t muster the speed to bump Billy Vukovich (this would happen today). The rapidly slowing speeds left just enough time for Mahler, in this spare car, to knock out Vukovich.

Whew. Another crazy day of qualifications. Over the four days of time trials, there were 70 attempts and 51 run to completion – impressive numbers, especially considering no one qualified on the first Saturday. Despite all the twists and turns of the past 48 hours, the field was set, and we were (finally) ready for the race.

One More Twist …

The final preparations included getting the driver and car names painted on the walls of their respective pits and so-called Carburetion Day, although all engines were fuel-injected and had been so for many years. Johncock, who had kept a low profile most of the month, was fastest in the final practice.

Buzzing in the background were attempts by some teams to get their cars added to the back of the field, claiming that there were cars in the field that had qualified illegally. An additional qualifying session for the 11 bumped cars was suggested, but without a waiver from all 33 cars already in the field, this seemed doomed to die. McElreath and Rasmussen were the two holdouts.

Such attempts to alter or expand the field had been tried before, most notably in 1974, but usually withered and died well before the green flag for the race. Not this time.

Surprisingly (or not, considering how the month yet), qualifications were re-opened THE DAY BEFORE THE RACE.

Yes, really.

The compromise reached was amazingly reasonable, logical, and practical – three words in short supply during the month. In brief:

  • Cars that were bumped would be allowed one attempt
  • Those that bettered McCluskey’s speed average of 183.908 mph, which was the slowest speed, would be added to the back of the field
  • No one who already had qualified would be bumped

Conceivably, an 11 (!) additional cars could’ve been added; however, three were eliminated before the practice period ahead of Saturday’s final qualifications:

The No. 12T/68 Norton Spirit, which had been disqualified

The No. 81 Eagle of Dick Ferguson, which had used up its three attempts

The No. 7T of Fletcher Racing, which apparently had been disassembled (according to an article in Carl Hungness’ 1979 Indianapolis 500 Yearbook)

This made the qualifying order:

  • No. 22 with Bill Vukovich
  • No. 69 with George Snider
  • No. 19 with Bill Alsup
  • No. 39 with Al Loquasto
  • No. 38 with Jerry Karl
  • No. 95 with Larry Cannon
  • No. 20 with John Martin
  • No. 32 with Dana Carter

Veteran George Snider took advantage of the fifth day of qualifying to nail down a spot in the 1979 Indianapolis 500 — Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Other than Snider and Alsup, the car-driver combinations reflected previous qualification attempts. Hoffman Racing, which ran with CART, crossed party lines to give Snider a shot in what originally was Saldana’s primary car. Snider was an excellent choice because he had an uncanny ability to get a car up to speed in a minimum amount of time. In 1973, he qualified a Foyt backup car in the final minutes of the last day of time trials. Snider’s “practice” consisted solely of one lap before his qualifying attempt. It was nice to see ability trump politics in this instance.

Alsup somewhat controversially got the nod ahead of veteran Bob Harkey, who had attempted to practice the car on Carburetion Day.

Vukovich and Snider took advantage of the reprieve and made the field. The rest fell short, with reasons ranging from inadequate speed to mechanical failure to accident. Alsup appeared to be a shoo-in, averaging 189-plus after two laps, then spun and smacked the wall in the short chute between Turn 1 and 2.

The wreck put a fitting cap on a frustrating month for Alsup, who was derided for not easing off a bit when he was a good 5 mph better than needed. Of course, such judgments are easily made from the comfort of the stands, couch, or press box.

Race Day at Last …

Unless you have a ticket, race day in Indianapolis means listening to the 500 on the radio. With the exception of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016, TV coverage is blacked out in Indianapolis and the surrounding area. Of course, there was no live TV coverage back in 1979. ABC had a telecast later in the evening to the rest of the country. Naptown residents had to wait a couple of months before even getting to see that.

So we tuned in Paul Page on WIBC and waited to see if we could see the balloon release from 2828 Kessler Blvd., North Drive. Usually, we did not, and I don’t think we saw them that year.

As anticipated, Al Unser jumped ahead, took off, and appeared headed to another back-to-back Indy victory in the Pennzoil Chaparral. But the Speedway is a harsh taskmaster, especially when it comes to innovative concepts – witness the STP turbines, for example.

And so it was for Al. After dominating the first half of the race, a broken transmission seal sidelined him after 105 laps.

Brother Bobby, with the only other car remotely as advanced as Al’s, took the point and continued the family domination, leading from lap 97 through 181. Then, just as he was poised to join his brother as a three-time champion, the top gear broke – something that seldom happens.

Rick Mears and Tom Sneva dice for position during the race — Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo

This dramatic turn of events handed the race to young Mears, who confidently guided his No. 9 Gould Charge to his first Indianapolis 500 victory and the second for Penske, who has added 15 more Borg-Warners since.

Mears employed what would be his M.O. throughout his career at Indianapolis – stay in the headwaters of the lead pack to be in a position to charge at the end. In retrospect, the Speedway abandoning the pacer light system for the 1979 race proved fortuitous for Mears’ career.

In brief, IMS management felt it was unfair for the leader to lose his advantage during a yellow-flag situation. So instead of a pace car gathering up the field and allowing everyone to pack up behind the leader, the Speedway devised a series of lights that were designed, in theory at least, to keep the cars at the same distance as when running under the green.

The system was hardly foolproof, and race drivers being race drivers found ways to gain an advantage. Like, say, roaring through the pits (which had no speed limit in those days). Or the leader moving at a snail’s pace under caution (as Bobby Unser accused Joe Leonard of during the late stages of the 1968 event. It all evened out for Uncle Bobby, of course, as Leonard broke down with nine laps to go.)

In Mears’ case, with the pack-up rule, he was able to come around to the end of the pack and avoid being lapped in some races when he went on to win, such as 1988.

Postscript …

Mosley finished third, his best finish ever at Indianapolis. Because of a scoring snafu, Mosley was presumed to be running quite a bit farther back during the race.

Janet Guthrie lasted just three laps in what proved to be her last Indianapolis 500 — Photo Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

This was Janet Guthrie’s final 500. She returned in 1980 but was unable to qualify. Her crew waved off a run on the first day with a speed that, as it turned out, would have safely made the field.

Howdy Holmes was the lone rookie to qualify, winning Rookie of the Year by default. He finished seventh in an older car, deserving praise.

Alsup drove for Penske during the 1981 season, serving as a sort of replacement Andretti, who left Penske for Patrick starting that year. Then Kevin Cogan replaced Alsup before Al Unser Sr. joined Penske beginning in 1983.

Mears’ victory broke a seven-year drought for Team Penske and kick-started a decade of dominance, with Mears adding two more victories (1984 and 1988) along with wins by Bobby Unser (1981), Danny Sullivan (1985) and Al Unser Sr. (1987).

USAC and CART formed an uneasy peace after the 1979 season. The result was that USAC continued to sanction the Indianapolis 500 while CART ran the rest of the IndyCar circuit. This lasted until Tony George formed the Indy Racing League before the 1996 Indianapolis 500. The fallout from that split was much more lasting and costly.

For me, 1979 was the year I learned about the business and politics of big-time racing. The headaches from each continue to crop up from time to time, some instances more painful than others.

Sources …

1979 Indianapolis 500 trackside report

1979 Indianapolis 500 Yearbook, published by Carl Hungness

1979 Indianapolis 500 Official Program

May 27, 1979, issue of the Indianapolis Star

CART Official History 1979-98 by Rick Shaffer

100 Years, 500 Miles, published by the Indianapolis Star

Monday, November 4, 2019

Tony George — Chairman of the Board, Hulman & Company

Mark Miles — CEO, Hulman & Company

Roger Penske — Chairman, Penske Corporation

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the beginning of a new era for the speedway and for the sport of IndyCar. I appreciate all the distinguished guests that are here today and also our friends from the media that have joined us here this morning, along with all of those that also have joined us on the conference line, and of course we can’t forget the fans, the members of the racing community that are watching through live stream on IMS and

A press release detailing today’s important announcement is being distributed as we speak and will be available also online and hard copies available for all of you in this room today.

Carl Fisher first had the vision to build the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909, some 18 years later, Eddie Rickenbacker purchased the speedway from Tony Hulman and Hulman & Company became the owners of the world’s most famous racetrack in 1945. The Hulman-George and the Hulman & Company families have been the stewards of this great speedway for 70 years and more, and today we’re excited to announce there will be a fourth owner-operator of this historic venue, this historic, iconic facility that hosts some of the biggest races on the planet, including the Brickyard 400, and of course the world’s largest motorsport event, the Indianapolis 500-mile race.

The board of directors of the Hulman Company have entered into an agreement to be acquired by Penske Corporation. Under the agreement, Penske Entertainment, a subsidiary of Penske Corp, will acquire all the principal assets of Hulman & Company, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series, and the IMS Productions.

The acquisition will close following the receipt of applicable governmental approvals and other standard conditions. Today we welcome key principals from both Hulman & Company and Penske Corporation here to discuss this historic announcement: Tony George, chairman of Hulman & Company; Mark Miles, President and CEO of Hulman & Company, and Roger Penske, founder of the Penske Corporation. We’ll hear from each of our guests this morning and then open it up for questions from the media.

Tony, I’ll start with you. This is a very historic day for the speedway, NTT IndyCar Series, IMS Productions, and in particular Hulman & Company and your family. Can you provide us some insight on the decision to sell the Hulman & Company and its iconic assets, and what led you to Roger Penske and Penske Corporation?

TONY GEORGE: Thank you all for being here. I would like to recognize my family that’s down in front. All of them are here, but specifically my sister Josie, my sister Kathi, my sister Nancy, who are on the board of directors as well as I see Jack Snyder here and John Ackerman, and I don’t know if I see any others, but I want to thank them for being here and for their support in this decision. It was an important decision for our family, especially at this time.

Over the course of business through the years, we’ve always looked at strategic opportunities, things we might be able to do to grow and expand our capabilities here. We’re a 169-, almost 170-year-old business, and we’ve been in a lot of different businesses during that time. We’ve been distillers, we’ve been brewers, we’ve been grocers, we’ve been produce, canned goods, just about everything, financials, utilities. But in 1945, in fact about two weeks, 10 days from now, it will be 74 years since that last transition of stewardship took place, and we’re very proud to have come together the last several months, I think, to make some very important decisions, one about an iconic asset that the family cares very deeply about, as well, and that’s Clabber Girl baking powder.

But now this one is extra special to all of us because we’ve all grown up around it. Nancy and I, we came home from the hospital to home just right down the street here, so we’ve literally grown up around it. Our kids and grandkids have done the same. Bittersweet, but very exciting for us because we know that we’re passing the torch to an individual who has created an organization that is not only dynamic but it’s ideally suited, I think, to take over the stewardship, a corporation that is family-involved, much like ours. But with a track record that is really without compare.

We’re very excited to be in a place where our process took us to a point where we as a family all agreed we needed to have a conversation with Roger Penske. I approached him at the final race of the season, not wanting to distract from the task at hand, which was bringing home another championship, but I wanted to wish him well on the grid, and I just simply said, I’d like to meet with him and talk about stewardship.

He got a very serious look on his face and followed up after he clinched his championship with an email and then another email the next morning, and we set it up. I invited Mark to join us for that meeting, and kudos to both organizations who worked very closely together very quickly. It was a pretty easy — not easy by any means, but this isn’t their first rodeo, your first rodeo, your first rodeo. So they were able to execute around diligence very quickly, and it led to an announcement that miraculously — not many things are kept under wraps around here, but this was fairly well contained, and we were able to really, I think, present this to the world this morning.

That’s kind of the way it came about, and we’re just very thankful for the opportunity to be here today and to work towards this closing. Very excited about welcoming the Penske Corporation, Penske Entertainment as new corporate citizens.

THE MODERATOR: We’re thankful to be here with you, as well, today with you and your family. Thank you. Mark, I’ll ask you a question now. We’ve seen some great positive growth and momentum from the series over the last several years, of course, the Indy 500-mile race, seeing crowds of 300,000 plus year after year after year, and some great action of a competitive nature, what’s happening on the speedway across North America. With today’s announcement and the new era that’s beginning, how can that momentum continue and move forward in your eyes with the Penske Corporation?

MARK MILES: Thanks, everybody, for being here, and thank you, Tony, for all your support over the years and your comments today.

I know I speak for everybody. I think we have 260 people or so that work either at the speedway or INDYCAR or IMS Productions, and it’s fair to say that every day people understood that whatever progress we were making was based on what had come before us. So before we say anything about the last few years, we just want to recognize that it was really everything that came before us that gave us the opportunity to try to make more progress and to achieve more growth.

And I think Tony and perhaps other family members will continue to be involved, so I think that’s really important.

We will make great progress because to me this is an absolute hand-in-glove fit. Roger’s background in racing and his superb effectiveness of everybody that works in the Penske Corporation is pretty well-known to everybody, and as was said, he didn’t need a lot of diligence on the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or INDYCAR to know us.

So the most important thing I think in this transaction in making these arrangements was the convergence of really the transition from the phenomenal heritage we come from and the understanding of that with Roger to what is possible going forward. We are very proud of what’s happened over the last several years, and many of you are from Indianapolis. You know here that we had this unbelievable opportunity with the 100th running in 2016. I think the community really responded to that. And that gave us the chance to build from there, and so we’re still staying at a really good place in terms of attendance and all that — in terms of fan engagement here. And we’ve tried to be innovative in the events we bring here, and I think that will probably continue.

INDYCAR we’re just so proud of. It’s probably been a little bit more of an up-and-down history over the longer term, but there’s no question we have great momentum now. Every fan metric shows growth. We’ve kept our traditional longtime fans, and we’re growing the fan base and adding younger fans all the time.

It’s without a doubt in our minds the best form, most exciting form of racing on the planet, and with Roger and Penske Entertainment as our leaders now, we see nothing but more of that growth.

And I don’t want to forget IMS Productions. It’s a great company that has turned — has earned a reputation of being great storytellers, so they create a lot of content, not just for racing but for other customers, as well, and of course they are the nerve center for the television productions that allows Indy car racing and everything from the 500 to reach so many people around the world.

So the shorter answer to your question is we have a parent now that appreciates the history of the past, the history and the past, knows our business inside and out, gets things done. I love that Roger has said more often than not he cares about the talent, the people around him and how hard they work, how much we can get done, and I know that everybody at the Hulman & Company has felt that way for some time and looks forward to working for you, Roger.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Mark, and know that we have your interests in mind in keeping that momentum going. Believe us.

Roger, to you now. You and your race teams have had an incredible history, legacy here at the speedway and of course in the NTT IndyCar Series. Can you describe what this moment means to you personally and professionally as you sit here today?

ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think to everyone that’s here today and around the world listening to this iconic event, I really have to wind back to 1951 when my dad brought me here when I was 14 years old, and I guess at that point the bug of motor racing got in my blood I’d have to say, and to think about what it’s meant to our company, the brand that we’ve been able to build — it’s interesting, 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.

And 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.

Certainly Mark, you’ve got a great team. We don’t have a gymnasium full of people to bring here. When we buy a business, we look at the people, and the great thing is we’ve rubbed shoulders with many of the people here over the years, so we’ve seen this organization grow, and I certainly think that certainly, IMS Productions does a great job.

What’s happened today with the media partners, there’s just no question that we have the opportunity to grow, and (INDYCAR) will be one of the greatest series as we go forward.

I’m humbled today to say that, and I want to thank Tony, you again and the family for this opportunity, and Mark, I look forward to continuing to work with your team in the future.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Roger. Now let’s open it up to questions from the media.

With that, I’ll open it up to an orderly fashion here with the media, if you can state your name and where you’re from. There’s a microphone being passed around.

Q. Why is this important for you to take over this place, and are there some changes in mind that you’d like to make?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, we look at businesses that we invest in where we have domain knowledge, and I think the fact that we’ve been coming to this track for almost 50 years and seeing the growth of the series and understand the technology and it’s also a great business opportunity for us to grow it to the next level, and we look around this thousand acres and we say, can this be the entertainment really capital, not only the racing capital of the world but entertainment capital of the world in Indiana, and be able to support the state, the governor, the region, the city, the town of Speedway, and continue to grow it.

We’re going to invest capital. We know the economic benefit today that this race brings to the region is amazing, and we want to grow that. It’s important to us.

Q. Part of the speedway is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway nonprofit foundation and the museum. What are your plans moving forward with that part of the speedway?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, every time I get to go to the museum and get to see all the wonderful pieces of art there, it’s amazing. I can assure you that as part of our discussion, we’re going to support the museum the same way the Hulman family has done in the past.

Q. Tony, 1945, Tony took over this place. Great history, obviously, with his family. How difficult ultimately was this decision for you and the family?
TONY GEORGE: Well, it’s obviously emotional, emotionally difficult, hence the choking up. But we all love it, and we all care deeply for it. I think we all realize that as a family and as an organization, we probably had taken it as far as we can.

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

Q. Roger, we’ve talked about the momentum. How do you build on the momentum? What’s on your wish list for let’s say the first 30 to 60 days?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think what I plan to do tomorrow, ironically, is to walk the entire facility and strategically sit down with the existing team and get their top 10. I always like to work from a top 10 and see the things that we can do to make it fan-friendly, certainly from a competitive perspective, I’m planning to really step down from being a strategist on the pit box. You won’t see me there on race day. I think I’ve got a bigger job to do now, is to try to see how we can build the series to the next level. It will be nice to bring another car manufacturer in. I know Jay Frye is working on that; can we have someone else come in to join the series.

I think we look at the speedway itself, the investment with the 100 million dollars that was put in a few years ago before the hundredth, I think you’ve seen a tremendous change, and we want to add capability as there are more fan zones, what can we use this for, can we run a 24-hour race here, can we run a Formula 1 race here. What are the things we can do? This is a great asset. Once the tradition had been broken in adding the NASCAR race, which obviously we’re going to get behind that in a big way because for 27 years they’ve run here. So I look at all of these across the board to see what can we do.

This business is not broken. This is a great business, and the leadership team that’s been here has done an outstanding job, and what we want to do is be a support tool.

We bought Michigan Speedway in 1973; it was bankrupt. We built California. We help with the promotion of the Grand Prix in Detroit. This is in our DNA, and I think with input from the media, certainly input from our sponsor partners and all the teams — I had a chance to talk to most of the teams today, the principals, and we’re looking forward to getting together with the car owners and seeing what we can do to make IndyCar even stronger, and I think that’s something that would be a priority for me.

Q. Mr. Penske, what can fans expect will be different in 2020 race and then going forward over the long-term?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, that’s an all-encompassing question. Number one, I want to be sure that we’re as good as we’ve been, and I’m going to count on this team here. Remember, I’m going to be the new guy in town, so we’re going to take those plans and see if we can add anything to it that makes it better. But I don’t think you build a business overnight. This didn’t get to 300,000 in three or four years, so we have to be rational on our investment.

But we’re interested in economic development in the community, the Hoosiers that support this all over the state want to see this become and still be the iconic race of the world. So we’re going to do this a step at a time, and I think that we’ve got here probably the next 60 days we’re hoping to close this very early January based on all the regulatory things we go through, and I think at that time we’ll have a had a chance to talk to all the leadership here and get some good input because this is obviously a chance for us just to add our support and our shoulder to make this better.

Q. Roger, what do you envision in terms of a management structure being put in place? I know you mentioned that you weren’t overflowing with personnel so far, but what do you envision as an either combined Penske Corporation, IMS/INDYCAR fusion of management and how far have you and Mark Miles and company wandered down that road?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think, as I said earlier, we have no intention of changing the management teams that are place today, and certainly we’ll have a board that we’ll announce at the time of the final closing of the transaction, and we hope to have a diverse group of people on there that know the business and can support the business, take us to the next step. That’s going to be part of our plan.

And we also, just to put it in perspective, we’ve offered the Hulman family members if they’d like to have an interest in the company that we would look at that during between now and when we get to the end of the closing.

Q. Just another one quickly on looking at the investments needed, Roger. You’ve always been one who you’ve never spent freely for the sake of spending, you’ve always said show me a business reason to invest and I’ll take that under consideration. Are there areas that you see now maybe less with IMS but more with the NTT IndyCar Series where you believe some infusion of funding would actually help move the series higher, faster, sooner, something to get it to some semblance of what it once was?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, let’s look at TV ratings are up, attendance is up, social media is up. We’ve got NBC as our partner, not only the network but also on cable. It couldn’t be better. The competition, you know it yourself, coming down to three or four drivers being able to win the championship at the last race. I think the racing product is excellent, and the fact that we have short ovals, big ovals, the Indy 500, then you have street courses and permanent road courses, I think the venues are well-balanced.

Look, it would be great to have another venue here in the U.S. this is a North American sport, including obviously Canada. I think what we have to do is be sure that we can get people that want to invest in the series with us, and to me, the product is good, I think the officiating, Jay Frye, Kyle Novak, certainly Arie Luyendyk and Max Papis from the stewards, that process is the best it’s been.

I think what we have to do is maintain our data equity and through social media and getting the sponsorships, I think when we sit down with the team owners and give them a chance, and we be very transparent with them and we’ll let them see how they think we can add to this sport because this has got to be done not just by us, it’s got to be done as a team effort, and to me, you can’t walk in here today and make an announcement like this. We’ve been wide open here for the last six weeks to try to get to this finish line, and I think now what I want to step back with our team and with Mark’s team and be able to look at the things that they see because they’ve been much closer to it than I am.

I can tell you what the garage area looks like and what pit one or pit two looks like. I like being in the winner’s circle, I do know what that looks like. That I do know. But I can’t tell you that — we’ll have, I think, as I say, a top 10 by the time we hopefully get to the closing at the end of the year.

Q. Mr. Penske, you talked about an investment. Everybody likes to know the details. Want to share the purchase price with us?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, we’re a private company and the Hulman Company is private. We don’t really discuss those at this time.

Q. Mr. Penske, Penske Entertainment is going to be a new core company that you create. Are you going to be spending more time in Indianapolis maybe from the Penske Corporation up in Detroit, or I mean, how are the logistics of that going to work? And also I have a question for Mr. George as a follow-up.
ROGER PENSKE: You can be sure that with an investment like this that I’ll be here other than the month of May for sure.

Q. Mr. George, when you think of the Hulman family legacy that has existed within the state of Indiana for 150 years or more and just the historic perspective of what the family has really meant for the state of Indiana, how can you even begin to put that into perspective?
TONY GEORGE: Well, I can’t say that I know for sure, but it’s an honor. It’s close to 170, and just this past 18 months or so, I had the opportunity, which I never took the time to do before, but that was to read a historical transcript of sorts – it’s really a book on the first 100 years of Hulman & Company, and that really shed a lot of — it opened my eyes to a lot that I didn’t know. Some of my sisters knew some of that lore and whatnot, but I wasn’t really familiar with it.

You know, that’s been kind of baking for the last 18 months or so. But you know, it is somewhat bittersweet, I said, because the 170-year-old company as we know it is coming to an end. But we’re very, very proud. We feel like we’re going to continue to be a part of it. Everybody who comes here has their own story, and there are memories and the accomplishments that make it special for them.

We’re just fortunate that our family and our family business has had a 73-year run being part of it and being a steward, and we continue to be grateful for the opportunity that we may have going forward, and I for one intend to take advantage of it. We’ll be here supporting the events with teams. Maybe our little team to expand to do other things, which we’re going to need to do. So if Roger has a 24-hour race, by George I think we’re going to try and be here. We may have to look at getting into NASCAR, too.

You know, those are all things.

I think once the momentum continues to swell here, I think it’s going to raise all boats, so hopefully, we’ll have that opportunity to continue to be involved and work right alongside Roger and his group and all of the teams and fans and media that come here to enjoy it.

ROGER PENSKE: We’ve got a couple of extra NASCAR cars, too, Tony. (Laughter.)

Q. I’m from the town of Speedway. We live here. We’re going to miss you, Tony and family. We’ve been talking about you for 100 years, so we have to change our conversation now. But Mr. Penske, do you have any message to the town of Speedway in anticipation of us welcoming you with open arms to this area?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, obviously the town of Speedway has been very important, surrounded this iconic track for the entire time it’s been here. What I would say that the growth and the ability to see what’s happened there is just part of what we see the momentum is around the track. I take my hat off to the city fathers and the people that are there. I of course represent Al son in one of our businesses, so I’ve been coming here a long time. To see the growth and what’s going on just makes me even feel better about the opportunities we have here, so I would say to the citizens and the people that live there and work there that we’re excited to be a partner.

Q. Roger, one of the few things that’s come up that people are questioning on this is conflict of interest. I noticed you said you’re going to step down from the pit stand; how will it work with a team owner running both the speedway and the series?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think as you look at the construct as we go forward, the sanctioning body and (NTT IndyCar Series) will be a separate company, and the other assets will be in the speedway.

And I think with the proper board — I think you have to ask our competitors at this point. Tony has been a car owner and we were talking about it today. I think Tony has said all along, Wilbur Shaw or Eddie Rickenbacker have been drivers, so there’s been some history, but I don’t want to leave this conversation without knowing that I understand the integrity, and there’s got to be a bright line, and to me I know what my job is, and hopefully I’ve got enough credibility with everyone that we can be sure that there is not a conflict, and I’ll do my very best to be sure that isn’t. If you think it is, I hope that — I know that you folks will tell me pretty quick. So I’ve got a lot of guys watching me.

Q. My second question is you have been on record as wanting guaranteed spots for INDYCAR regulars in the Indy 500, which is the second question that fans are asking. Is that something that you can now implement, or what is the process on rule changes going forward, and where do you stand on that?
ROGER PENSKE: I didn’t understand the question. Would you repeat it?

Q. Yes. The second thing that fans are quick to question is your position on guaranteed spots in the Indy 500. Now that you run the race and the series, is that something that you will try to implement?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, that’s been a discussion before, and I think that that will be a strategic discussion that will be taken up with the senior leadership here. I wouldn’t make a comment today one way or the other. I think it’s really up to Mark and Jay and the team to make that decision. I think some of the excitement has been in the past the fact that we had people that wanted to come into the race. We also have to understand people who commit to the entire season and take this series around the country, around the world potentially, we need to be sure they’re taken care of.

I think it’s a debate, but at this point, I wouldn’t comment one way or the other.

Q. Mark, you’ve been involved with Indy Sports Corp, you’ve been involved with the Super Bowl. How do you see this change of ownership and this legendary handover of this iconic site and this race affecting Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the overall sports agenda and world here in central Indiana?
MARK MILES: I think the news today has international implications that are very positive, but I think for Hoosiers, people here, it’s even more true. So we’re involved in the Super Bowl here. Roger chaired the Super Bowl in Detroit. He understands community and the importance of great corporate citizenship. I was talking to Roger a couple nights ago, and he was traveling to raise money for United Way in Michigan.

I know him to be a great corporate citizen. I know their company thinks that way. It’s just their mentality, and I think it can only be a really great thing. I think Tony said to have a new — an additional family as a corporate citizen here in central Indiana.

And then to have the resources and the knowledge and the ability to execute that they do will mean that this place will continue to grow and the series will continue to grow, and that can only be a good thing for the city and the state.

Q. This is a two-part question for Roger. You talked about having a commitment to NASCAR. Can you go specifically into what that means, and will NASCAR continue to have a date there long-term?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think you look at 27 years, there’s no reason to break that string of races. I had a chance to talk to Jim France late last night to tell him that we were going to have this conference here in the morning, and he obviously was excited. We’ve worked together. We were partners with ISC at Homestead. We actually sold our business to them back several years ago. So we have a very close relationship and certainly with Jim and with Steve Phelps and Steve O’Donnell and the entire France family. We would expect to take this for many, many years.

They need to run at Indiana. We want them to, and there’s no question that we’re going to look at opportunities to expand the relationship with them in the future.

Q. One thing you have talked about that you’re in favor of is running a double-header weekend, INDYCAR and NASCAR running on the same track in the same weekend. Is Indianapolis now a candidate for that to happen?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think it was interesting to see (Josef) Newgarden run around what they call the Roval here down in Charlotte several weeks ago, and I think it was pretty exciting. I think some of the fans had never seen an Indy car on an oval or a racetrack. Look, those are things, sitting down Tony will give us some of his input and certainly Mark and the team, are those things we can do, can we execute those so we bring value here to the speedway.

Look, we’ve got to break some glass on some of these things, don’t we. We’ve got to try some of this. I’m prepared to take a risk. No risk, no reward in many cases. Those are the things that Mark, with you and your team, that we’ll take a look at. But I wouldn’t say it’s out of the possibility.

Q. Roger, Tony had talked about how everyone has their own story here, and I know you know the tradition here is so important to so many people, from the name of the venue to not having lights at the venue to bringing in your own cooler. It goes all the way down the list. How do you balance progress while still being aware of the tradition and the heritage, and how much does that get tweaked moving forward?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think it’s important to know that one of the things that I care most about are the men and women in our armed forces and the first responders that we represent and compliment every Memorial Day, and then having the July 4th race, think about the two of those, we’ll continue to support that with our hearts, and certainly from a tradition perspective.

There’s nothing more to me, that gives me more feeling than to stand on the grid and see the flyovers and see the men and women in the services each year, so I can tell you we’re going to push harder on that to be sure we respect them and the tradition and the pomp and ceremony is certainly going to be top of mind.

Q. Will you explore night events in terms of racing at this venue?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think we have to look as is the investment in lights or is the investment in something else we can do here to make the speedway and (INDYCAR) a going entity which gives us the results we expect.

Q. It’s obviously going to take up a lot of your time, so how much less time do you think you’ll be able to devote to your NASCAR team and possibly your INDYCAR team?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I don’t know if there’s any more weekends than 52, but if there are, I’ll probably fill them up with some racing opportunities. My wife says, I tell her that this is my fishing trip and golf game. My golf game is not good these days anyhow. But look, I spent a lot of time on the tracks. I love it. I want to be there, and I think that’s a knowledge base for me, too. I’ll continue. The good news is that it’s a short flight here from Detroit to get to Indianapolis. We know a lot about it, and I think with the communications capability we have today, we can be connected from a business perspective.

But from a racing perspective, I’m committed 100 percent to our team. We’ve got over 500 people down in Mooresville where we have all our teams, and with Tim Cindric as our leader, I’ll be working with him just as I have in the past.

Q. You got dropped off here when you were 14 years old, and I wonder what your memories of that day were like, what you saw, what you heard, what you felt.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I’ll tell you, it’s interesting. I’ll tell you a little story. My dad worked for a metal warehousing company, and they were a lap sponsor, so he got a couple of tickets, and we were invited to go to a luncheon, and I remember we got here, and we got to the house and everybody was gone. But out back was a — if you can believe it, was a show car, a front-end roadster, and I sat in it and got my picture in it. So that was one of the things that really made me start my interest. Then we came out to the track obviously and saw the race. Lee Wallard won that race in 1951, and I think I was here every single time until one of the poorer moves we made is when we split from the speedway and running here for a number of years, but I was I think here every year since then.

To me that was my first encounter with the speedway.

Q. Mark, I wanted to ask first of all, do you think having the Penske Corporation behind it, does that encourage more involvement from be it manufacturers or bigger corporate sponsors who have possibly dealt with Roger in the past and know that he’s a guy that gets the job done?
MARK MILES: We think so. Roger’s relationships and reach globally in a number of sectors, many sectors of the industry and sport, are remarkable. Some of us have to work really hard to get the right person to pick up the phone. Roger may short-circuit that a little bit, and not infrequently.

Yeah, I believe Roger will answer our call and have his own thoughts about all parts of how to grow this. But as he already mentioned, having a third OEM is one of our priorities and one of our goals, and I’m sure Team Penske and Roger will help.

— Acquisition to include the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions —

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. (November 4, 2019) – The Board of Directors of Hulman & Company announced today that it has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Penske Corporation, a global transportation, automotive and motorsports leader. Penske Entertainment Corp., a subsidiary of Penske Corporation, will acquire all Hulman & Company principal operating assets, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions. The transaction will close following receipt of applicable government approvals and other standard conditions.

The acquisition by the Penske organization will carry the future of the legendary Speedway and the IndyCar Series forward for the next generation of racing fans.

It was the vision of Carl Fisher to build the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) in 1909 and the track hosted its first races later that year. Eddie Rickenbacker later purchased the Speedway in 1927 before selling it to Tony Hulman and Hulman & Company in 1945. IMS has been the host of the world’s largest single-day sporting event – the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race – for more than 100 years. The iconic venue has also hosted NASCAR, Formula One and other racing series events throughout its storied history. The NTT IndyCar Series continues to be the premier open-wheel racing series in North America and is one of the most competitive championships in the world. IMS Productions is a leading video services and production company.

“We recently approached Roger Penske and Penske Corporation about this opportunity and began working to put an agreement in place,” said Tony George, Chairman of Hulman & Company. “The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the centerpiece and the cathedral of motorsports since 1909 and the Hulman-George family has proudly served as the steward of this great institution for more than 70 years. Now, we are honored to pass the torch to Roger Penske and Penske Corporation, as they become just the fourth owner of the iconic Speedway. There is no one more capable and qualified than Roger and his organization to lead the sport of IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway into the future.”

Penske Corporation has a rich history of managing major motorsports properties, beginning with the acquisition of Michigan International Speedway in 1973. Over the course of its history, Penske and its subsidiaries have also operated the Grand Prix of Cleveland, Nazareth Speedway and California Speedway, along with investments in North Carolina Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Penske Corporation currently promotes and operates the Detroit Grand Prix, hosted annually at the Belle Isle Park street circuit.

“My passion for racing began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1951 when I attended the Indianapolis 500 with my father,” said Roger Penske, whose race team celebrated its 50th anniversary of first competing at IMS this year. “We have so much respect and appreciation for the history and tradition of the Speedway and the sport of IndyCar racing. I want to thank Hulman & Company for the opportunity to build on this legacy and it will be an honor for Penske Corporation to help lead these great institutions forward into a new era.”

“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and the NTT IndyCar Series have enjoyed considerable growth over the past decade, with significant increases in television, digital and social media audiences combined with record attendance at many of our race venues,” said Mark Miles, President and CEO of Hulman & Company. “With their track record of business success, their venue, operation and event experience and their passion for motorsports, Roger Penske and Penske Corporation will help us take the IndyCar Series, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all of our properties to new heights. Everyone on our team looks forward to working with them to capitalize on the momentum that the Series and the Speedway have achieved.”

Hulman & Company’s financial adviser was Allen & Company LLC, and its counsel was Ice Miller LLP for this transaction.

Media Advisory: Hulman & Company Announces Sale to Penske Corporation

WHAT: The Board of Directors of Hulman & Company are announcing the sale of the company and certain subsidiaries, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Productions (IMS Productions), to Penske Entertainment Corp., a subsidiary of Penske Corporation

WHO:  Tony George, Chairman of Hulman & Company
Mark Miles, President & CEO of Hulman & Company
Roger Penske, Chairman & Founder of Penske Corporation

WHEN:  Monday, Nov. 4, 2019
11 a.m. ET

WHERE: IMS Media Center – 4th Floor
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
4790 W. 16th St.
Indianapolis, IN

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series have been sold to Penske Entertainment Corp. in a stunning deal that relinquishes control of the iconic speedway from the Hulman family after 74 years.

Hulman & Co. Chairman Tony George and CEO Mark Miles scheduled an 11 a.m. Monday news conference with Penske Corp. Chairman Roger Penske at the speedway.

Penske Corp. is one of the most successful and influential companies in the history of auto racing and regularly fields several drivers for the IndyCar series and Indianapolis 500.

Tony Hulman bought the dilapidated speedway in 1945 and brought racing back to the city after a four-year hiatus following World War II.

The speedway spun off multiple other subsidiaries, including the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Productions, which are also part of the deal to Penske Entertainment. That group is a subsidiary of Penske Corp.

Penske, 82, is the winningest team owner in Indianapolis 500 history with 18 victories.

The billionaire is the chairman of Bloomfield Hills-based Penske Corp., which operates the country’s second largest auto dealership group, and the owner of motorsports racing organization Team Penske.

Roger Penske has also championed the annual Detroit Grand Prix race since resuscitating it in 2007. Penske organizes the race, which his camp claims has a $50 million impact on the local economy each year.

Penske’s love of the Indianapolis speedway dates to 1951 when his father, Jay, scored a pair of tickets to the Indianapolis 500 from the metal fabrication company in Cleveland he worked for. He brought his 14-year-old car-loving son to the speedway to see the event live after listening to it only on the radio for so many years.

Penske was instantly hooked and has missed only six Indianapolis 500s since, five of which came when the IndyCar Series was formed by Tony George and split from CART. Penske teams remained in CART, and CART teams were not welcome at the 500.

Penske Corp. generated revenue of $31.8 billion in 2017 with nearly 60,000 employees worldwide and is Southeast Michigan’s largest privately held company, according to Crain’s data.

Penske himself has a net worth of $1.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Tony George, the grandson of Tony Hulman, has long run the speedway and its properties along with his sister and a board of directors. But matriarch Mari Hulman George, daughter of Tony Hulman, died last December and the family has now turned over all of its racing properties to Penske.