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Roger Penske

General

Grand Prix gives Detroit much needed lift

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For Michigan billionaire Roger Penske, the Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix is more than a place for his formidable race team to collect a trophy. It’s a gift that can be enjoyed by the city of Detroit.

“We want to see Detroit successful,” Penske, 75, said recently as he took a tour of Belle Isle and sat down to discuss his love affair with racing, the island and Detroit. “I live in Michigan and want to see it be the best state in the U.S.”

Penske has lived in the Detroit area for more than four decades. His massive company is based in Bloomfield Hills and his heart is very much entrenched in helping the city regain its pulse after the recent severe economic downturn.

But Penske is as much a racer as he is a businessman. He is a team owner in the IndyCar and NASCAR series and promoter of the Detroit Grand Prix, which returns to Belle Isle for the first time since 2008.

The race, which has a three-year contract with Chevrolet as title sponsor, is expected to generate an estimated $50 million to $75 million, beginning today and concluding with the main event Sunday.

“We came to a dead stop like everybody else in the world,” Penske said. “I think it was prudent that we canceled the race because the corporate sponsorship is so necessary for a successful event here at Belle Isle, it would be a bit unfair to lean on them for support.”

The island has undergone yet another piece of the face-lift that Penske and his group, led by race chairman Bud Denker, have brought each year with the event. At least $150,000 has been circulated into Belle Isle for improvements.

This time, several hundred derelict pilings have been removed from the Boat Club, asphalt on the island was repaired, 5.5 million gallons of water have been recirculated in the lagoon to make the water clear, and several buildings along Jefferson Avenue have been painted or boarded up.

But the focal point of the island and a featured part of the official Grand Prix logo, Scott Fountain, is now gleaming, thanks to extensive cleaning courtesy of DTE. Yellowed by years of water stains, the fountain’s white marble has been restored.

Penske is not only about production; he is about presentation and details. And that is evident not only in his approach to racing, where his race shops and race-site garages are noted for their impeccable organization and neatness, but also in his day job. Penske Corporation manages businesses with revenues in excess of $16 billion.

It seems in some ways that with Penske, it all starts with the fine details. Here at Belle Isle, it’s about making certain he and his group are perfect race weekend hosts, showing off the island and the city. After all, if it doesn’t look appealing, why would anyone want to be there?

Added this year are track-side chalets near the casino, which will give those fans an up-close view of the race in the section of tight turns. The Grand Prix also has invited about 700 students from Detroit Public Schools who have shown an interest in technology, so event improvements are about intangibles as well as tangible effects.

“All of these things, as far as I’m concerned, make a huge difference,” Penske said of things such as the Scott Fountain restoration.

“We’re just giving back something to a city that was the core of the auto industry for so many years.

“The most important thing is for us to see the island come back and look as it should.”

Penske’s powerful IndyCar team includes Will Power and Helio Castroneves, 1-2 in the driver standings, and Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe. The series is in Detroit following last Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, where the owner has won the famed race 15 times. The Indianapolis 500 and Detroit Grand Prix are different on many levels, but both hold a large portion of Penske’s heart.

“The Indy 500, you’re competing on the world stage, (but) this is a different assignment,” he said. “This is about supporting the city of Detroit, the private sector, connecting with the City Council and the governor and the mayor to create jobs and create economic development in the region.

“We get to showcase the city. This isn’t just a stick-and-ball sport where you come in for three or four hours and everybody leaves. They’re going to be here for a few days, so we really get a ripple effect over the number of days with the teams being here. To me, this is something we need. To me, this is about community. The Indianapolis 500 might be about racing.”

Having the Grand Prix the week following the Indianapolis 500 is a huge plus; Penske believes it will feed off the Indy 500 hype and momentum. In 2007 and 2008, the Belle Isle race took place on Labor Day weekend, which clashed with the start of the college football season.

“Date equity is so important for us,” Penske said.

Television coverage also is important. The Grand Prix will get three hours Saturday on SPEED and 2.5 hours on ABC for Sunday’s race.

“It’s real important (for people) to see what we have,” Penske said.

Penske had always expected to bring the race back to Belle Isle. The work of Denker, a vice president at Penske Corporation, has been vital in that effort. It was Denker who initiated contact with local corporations to determine their interest in the Grand Prix, and the response was immediate.

“It was, ‘How can we help? How can we have our people help?'” Penske said.

Being a cheerleader for Detroit is part of the way Penske believes he can help. Penske, chairman of the host committee for Super Bowl XL in Detroit, is involved in the M1 rail project, along with private sector investors Dan Gilbert, Peter Karmanos and Mike Ilitch.

Penske said he has visited other cities with a similar rail system, including Portland, Ore., Minneapolis and Denver, and is hopeful it will be a fixture in this city.

“People see downtown, and the infrastructure being built,” he said. “We hope to get our M1 rail completed over the next few years from the old GM area up at Grand Boulevard and running down Woodward to Jefferson. This will create 13 stations. We’ve seen what a light rail does to the community — it creates commercial activity around the stops, which then bumps out into residential areas. These are things that are going to be key for us.”

He said the rail eventually will connect with Amtrak to take passengers to Ann Arbor and eventually Metro Airport.

But that is the future. For now, he is focused on hosting the IndyCar series and its fans on Belle Isle, and he wants to keep this event going over the years as long as possible.

“I think at the end of the day, when you look at civic leaders, whether it’s in Los Angeles or New York, there are people genuinely committed to helping the environment, the social aspects of the city and the commercial part of it,” Penske said. “All we want to be … we want to make sure we’re carrying a load.

“As long as we have the continued support of the corporate community, (and) the sanctioning body feels it’s a place they want to showcase the sport, I think it will be a long-term race venue here.”

[Source: detroitnews.com]

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General

Penske’s passionate about Detroit

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Roger Penske doesn’t profess to have all the answers, but he shared some strong opinions Wednesday about what’s wrong with Detroit and how to fix it.

Speaking Wednesday at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Policy Conference on Mackinac Island, the business and racing powerhouse said the city’s lighting and transportation systems need to be privatized, and a regional rail line must become a reality. The city’s priorities should be safe streets and retaining young residents, Penske said.

“I’m passionate about our city. … Momentum is there,” Penske said. “I think we have real opportunities.”

He said city officials should proceed with the consent agreement with the state because the next step is either an emergency manager or bankruptcy.

“We have spent far too much energy over the past decade focusing on who is in charge instead of focusing on solutions and revitalizing Detroit,” Penske said.

He said the private sector is willing to do its part and will continue to invest in Detroit if political strife can be minimized.

“We must remember there are no silver bullets, quick fixes or easy answers for our city,” Penske said. “It took Pittsburgh 30 years. We can’t wait that long in Detroit. … We must all get on the same page.”

[Source: freep.com]

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General

Roger Penske’s Top Pilot Streaks into Indy

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May is upon us and Team Penske’s engine is running on full power with qualifying for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing starting this weekend.

Piloting the Captain’s ship is 31-year-old Will Power. At the last IndyCar race in April, Power became the first driver since Scott Dixon in 2007 to win a third consecutive race.

Power has dominated the series in 2012. Out of 350 total laps run, Power has been on point for 111 of them (32 percent). He is the fourth driver in history to enter the Indy 500 on a three-race win streak and first since Bobby Unser in 1968. Unser went on that year to win his first of three Borg-Warner trophies.

Power’s Brickyard resume is mixed. In four career starts, he has finished no lower than 14th. However, he’s managed to lead only five of his 799 laps he’s raced. In 2010, he started on the front row and posted the race’s fastest lap, but surrendered the lead to eventual winnerDario Franchitti.

Power has the luxury of racing for Roger Penske. No owner has dominated at the corner of Georgetown and West 16th like Penske, who is celebrating the 40th anniversary of his first 500 victory with driver Mark Donohue.

Overall, Penske has compiled 15 wins and 16 poles at Indy — both race records. Since 2001, Team Penske has won this race five times. Helio Castroneves scored the team’s last victory in 2009.

On May 27, there’s an excellent chance a Team Penske driver will be leading the field to the green flag. That’s because Team Penske has won the pole four of the previous six years.

Penske will have three chances to win his 16th Indianapolis 500. Castroneves and Ryan Briscoecould deliver that, but the primary focus will be on Power, who has won 18 of 91 career IndyCar starts (19.8 percent).

However, only one of those wins took place on an oval course. In fact, Power is 1-for-28 on ovals. His lone win came in the second race of the Texas doubleheader last June.

Power will try to join Scott Dixon (2008) as the only Australian winners of this race.

Penske enters May with wins in each of the season’s first four races, the first time he’s done that since the inception of CART 33 years ago.

[Source: Espn.go.com]

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General

Racetrack Capitalist: Roger Penske

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The death of Carroll Shelby last week got me thinking about what race car drivers do after they pull into the pit lane for the last time. Some, like Shelby, have made even bigger names for themselves off-track than on.

Shelby was a consummate promoter and entrepreneur. After winning Le Mans in 1959, he retired from the sport with a heart ailment and dabbled in a variety of ventures. Besides developing the Shelby Cobra and the Shelby Mustang GT350, he lent his name and expertise to Ford (FFortune 500) and Chrysler for various projects with varying success. And that wasn’t all. According to his obituary, he also ran an African safari business, dealt in diamonds, and invested in radio stations, motels, cattle ranches, and restaurants. In his spare time, Shelby founded the Terlingua International Chili Championship in Terlingua, Texas, and his name appears on boxes of Carroll Shelby’s Original Texas Brand Chili Preparation.

It was an eclectic path for an energetic, entrepreneurial man, who cut a few corners in the process and became enmeshed in a number of legal squabbles. Most retired drivers typically follow a more conventional path that builds on their racetrack experience and the fame that came with it. Some of the more prominent names now in business include:

Bob Bondurant. Bondurant raced in Corvettes, Shelby Cobras, and stock cars until he decided to quit after a 1957 accident at Watkins Glen, when his car flipped over eight times. He went on to found the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, coaching celebrities like Tom Cruise and Nicolas Cage behind the wheel. The school is based in Phoenix, where it operates out of its own purpose-built track and has taught evasive and stunt driving in addition to teen driving and karting to more than 300,000 students.

Bobby Rahal. Rahal won the Indianpolis 500 as a driver in 1986 and then won it again as a team owner in 2004. He was also an early backer of Indycar and Nascar driver Danica Patrick, whom he hired as an unknown 20 year-old and saw her go on to finish third in the Indy 500 (though not on his team). Rahal currently overseas three auto dealerships in Pennsylvania representing 11 different franchises.

Skip Barber. Barber, who started racing while still enrolled at Harvard where he majored in English, founded his eponymously named racing school in 1975 after winning sports car championships and competing in Formula One. His alumni have since won races in every major series. Barber built the school into one of the largest of its kind before selling it and devoting his energies to Lime Rock Park, a historic road-racing track in Lakeville, Conn.

Then there is Roger Penske. In terms of name recognition, he trails Shelby in many circles, but when scope, reputation, impact, and wealth accumulation are considered, there is no contest. Now a billionaire, Penske presides over a transportation empire that he created from scratch — as well as a racing organization that is one of history’s most successful.

Penske was a prominent sports car driver who had enjoyed buying and selling cars as a teenager. After he arranged the financing to buy a Chevrolet dealership at the age of 28, he felt he had to choose between business and racing, and business won. As Penske told MotorTrend’sTodd Lassa in 2005, “I made the decision to become a businessman instead of a race driver when I became a Chevy dealer. I was a good race driver. I don’t know that I was a great race driver. Mario Andretti [a contemporary] went on to be one of the greatest race drivers of all time. I took the business route.”

Penske founded Penske Corporation in 1969, and today it acts as a holding company for 16 operating units, including truck rental and leasing, a logistics company, two suppliers of truck parts, and a manufacturer of high-performance engines. Privately held, Penske Corp. claims revenues of more than $16 billion and employs more than 16,000 people.

[Source: Money.Cnn.com]

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General

Roger Penske & Indianapolis

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Roger Penske is renowned as one of America’s most successful businessmen.

But before that, Penske made his name as one of America’s most successful auto racing team owners. And long before that, he was a highly successful race car driver, a road racer good enough to earn recognition from Sports Illustrated as the magazine’s 1961 “Sports Car Driver of the Year.”

Penske’s passion for auto racing is directly responsible for his reputation and success as a businessman. In 1965, he made a calculated decision to focus on business and leave the driving to someone else; starting with a single Chevrolet dealership in Philadelphia and a six-man race team that fielded cars for the Mark Donohue across the entire spectrum of automobile racing, Penske has cultivated a corporate empire that manages businesses with revenues in excess of $16 billion, operating in nearly 2,900 locations and employing more than 36,000 people worldwide.

“I was a good race driver, but I don’t know that I was a great race driver,” Penske told Motor Trend in 2005. “I made the decision to become a businessman instead of a race driver when I became a Chevy dealer. Jim McGee had asked me to test at Indy, to drive Indianapolis in fact. I wasn’t able to do it, and Mario Andretti took the test in that car. Mario went on to be one of the greatest race drivers of all time. I took the business route.”

It proved to be a wise move for Penske. That lone Chevy dealership has blossomed into 336 retail franchises representing 42 different nameplates. And Penske Racing has grown too: The team now fields full-time entries in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.

And the racing and business sides of Penske’s empire remain closely connected. He attends almost every race his cars compete in, sometimes multiple events on the same weekend. You could say that racing is his hobby, except he takes it far more seriously than that. At 75, he’s still an active participant, a team owner who leads by example. At IndyCar races, he calls Ryan Briscoe’s race strategy.

“The racing is obviously a great catalyst for everything we do,” Penske remarked. “It’s our marketing arm, though we don’t spend a lot of money, other than our automotive retail arm, where we have certain advertising campaigns. We built the truck-leasing brand because of the racing heritage over the last 25 years, and I think they’re interconnected, though there’s not a clear delineation where one starts and one stops. It’s something we use as customer entertainment, as employee entertainment.”

Still, after all of Mr. Penske’s achievements on and off the racetrack, he’s most famous for one thing: An unmatched record of 15 victories as a team owner in the Indianapolis 500.

Penske’s achievements at IMS will be celebrated on Saturday, May 26 during ‘Legends Day Honoring Roger Penske’ at the Speedway. It will mark the 40th anniversary of Penske’s first Indianapolis win, earned by Donohue in 1972.

Other featured events on Legends Day include the annual Public Drivers’ Meeting on pit road adjacent to the Tower Terrace grandstand, autograph sessions with the 2012 Indianapolis 500 starting field as well as former Indy 500 drivers, and a racing memorabilia show featuring vendors from the United States, Europe and Australia.?

Admission to IMS on Legends Day is $10 for adults, with children 12 and under free when accompanied by an adult.

Since entering Indy car competition in 1968, Team Penske has won 167 races and ten full-season championships. But it’s those 15 wins at Indianapolis that stir the memories, and even sixty years after attending his first race at the Speedway, the place remains special to Penske.

“I don’t think you can come to this race track and think it’s ho-hum,” Penske marveled. “This is the greatest race in the world, and I love coming here. I look forward to it every year. We spend a lot of time and effort planning. One of the things we say to our people is that we come here every year like it’s the first time. And when we leave here after the race, we’re already thinking about next year’s race. That’s the kind of preparation it takes to be successful at Indianapolis.”

Team Penske has won all four IndyCar Series races in 2012 and Verizon-sponsored driver Will Power leads the point standings. Power has three consecutive wins after his teammate Helio Castroneves, who is second in the points, won the season opener at St. Petersburg.

Castroneves is considered one of the strong favorites at this year’s Indy 500, and the Brazilian will be aiming to join Rick Mears, Al Unser and AJ Foyt on the prestigious list of four-time Indianapolis winners.

[Source: Indianapolismoterspeedway.com]

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General

Shell V-Power Sponsors Legends Day Honoring Roger Penske

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Shell V-Power will serve as the presenting sponsor when legendary Indianapolis 500 team owner Roger Penske is saluted for his remarkable career during Legends Day Honoring Roger Penske Presented by Shell V-Power on Saturday, May 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 96th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 27 will mark the 40th anniversary of Penske’s first Indianapolis 500 triumph when Mark Donohue drove Penske’s McLaren to victory in the 56th Indianapolis 500 on May 27, 1972. Penske-owned cars have earned 15 race victories and 16 poles – both records by a wide margin – in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Admission to IMS on “Legends Day Honoring Roger Penske” will be $10 for adults, with children 12 and under free when accompanied by an adult.

Shell V-Power is presenting a terrific savings to fans by offering a buy-one-get-one-free offer for Legends Day Honoring Roger Penske Presented by Shell V-Power. Any fan who buys at least 8 gallons of Shell fuel can bring their receipt to the cashier to receive a free ticket voucher, which can be redeemed at the IMS Ticket Office with the purchase of one general admission ticket.

Fans also can receive a free Legends Day poster with no purchase necessary at participating Shell stations, while supplies last.

Penske will participate in a question-and-answer session with fans on the Coca-Cola Stage in the Pagoda Plaza on Legends Day Honoring Roger Penske Presented by Shell V-Power.
Other featured events will include the annual Public Drivers’ Meeting on pit road adjacent to the Tower Terrace grandstand, autograph sessions with the 2012 Indianapolis 500 starting field of 33 drivers and former Indy 500 drivers, and a huge Indianapolis 500 memorabilia show featuring vendors from the United States, Europe and Australia.

Shell Oil Products US, a subsidiary of Shell Oil Company, is a leader in the refining, transportation and marketing of fuels, with a network of approximately 6,000 Shell-branded gasoline stations in the western United States.

Team Penske and Shell already have reached the winner’s circle this season in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves drove the No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil-Ultra Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet to victory March 25 in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

IMS Legends Club available: A great addition to Legends Day Honoring Roger Penske Presented by Shell V-Power is the IMS Legends Club available to those looking for a premium, yet affordable, guest experience on Legends Day.

The climate-controlled Legends Club is located in the center of activity in the Pagoda Plaza. It will be fully catered with food and a complimentary bar, and decorated to provide a tasteful and exciting atmosphere.

For only $200, Legends Club members will receive access to the club, one convenient parking pass per party, a reserved section in the grandstand for the Public Drivers’ Meeting, closed-circuit television, an event program, lanyard and Penske-autographed poster.

As an added bonus, the first 100 fans to register for the Legends Club will have access to a private autograph session with Penske.

[Source: Indianapolismotorspeedway.com]

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General

Motor sports legend Roger Penske talks NASCAR, IndyCar and more

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When it comes to racing excellence Roger Penske is the gold standard. From his series-high 161 IndyCar wins, including a record 15 Indianapolis 500s, to his 72 career NASCAR victories, including the 2008 Daytona 500, Penske has visited Victory Lane 353 times in his storied motor sports career.

So far this season, Penske’s drivers have won both IndyCar races, with Helio Castroneves winning at St. Petersburg and Will Power at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala. In NASCAR, Brad Keselowski drove to victory at Bristol in March and A.J. Allmendinger finished second in the last NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway on April 1.

Penske, who was Sports Illustrated’s Driver of the Year in 1961, is also one of the top industrialists in the world. Even at 75, the man shows no signs of slowing down and recently sat down to talk with SI.com about a variety of topics, including NASCAR, IndyCar and his decision to switch engines.

SI.com: You are joining Ford in NASCAR next year. How are things going with that?

Roger Penske: We’ve had a lot of conversations with Ford leading up to the announcement and are talking to a lot of people in Ford moving forward. … I have not had a meeting with Jack Roush yet. At the end of the day it’s a business and Jack has done a great job. If Ford is successful he will get the benefit and so will we. We have a lot of people calling us wanting to run Dodge. We have a big investment in our engine shop so we are not going to shut the door. That engine shop will operate in some mode because we have transient dynos and things like that. I think we bring a lot to the party. If Dodge is interested in having us build engines as a separate source, then our shop can be available for that.

SI.com: Ralph Gilles of Dodge noted that Ford gave you a long-term contract. Did that play into your decision?

Penske: You want a long-term commitment from your employer if you can. We are in a business where we are contractually bonded with race engineers, drivers and sponsors. We prepare contracts to make sure we are in a position to commit to our people, so a long-term commitment is very important to us. We had very good discussions with Dodge and based on their senior management they weren’t able to make the kind of commitment we felt was necessary to compete at the higher levels. …We haven’t won the championship in NASCAR yet and combining our efforts in ways that are meaningful for Ford would be good. Ralph Gilles and the whole SRT team were very supportive. They understood our position. We had a lot of discussion with them from the standpoint of what we could do. One wins and one loses and that was the pressure for me because we were with Dodge for 10 years.”

SI.com: Are you pleased with where IndyCar is right now?

Penske: One of the great things is we have a full field of cars and will have 27 when we go to Brazil [on April 29]. The new engine programs with Chevrolet and Honda are in pretty good shape. I think Lotus is a little bit behind but [they] have been fielding the five cars they are committed to. Overall, the cars have been good. I like the looks of the cars. It’s a new look and a new season and quite honestly a change always makes it better.

SI.com: Will the change in cars and engines effect influence wins races and titles or will it be you and Ganassi?

Penske: We didn’t want to change cars and go backward. I think the good news is we didn’t have any idea how we would stack up when we came to St. Pete. but the good news is we were all competitive. We feel good about it and I think there are some good drivers there. With new cars and new engines we have a level playing field. We don’t have the experience with some of the subtleties you can build into the car after you’ve had it for a number of years. That is going to be important. Our drivers know they have to perform. Certainly, Chip Ganassi feels the same way about his team. He’s with Honda and we are with Chevrolet so it is a pretty interesting battle just from that standpoint of the engine side. I think resources are sometimes overplayed. We all have exactly the same car and this car is so limited from what we can do in terms of the changes we can make. We can’t change a bracket without approval. … Then it comes down to strategy. We have a lot of engineers and some of our best people are the ones we just hired in recent years. The technology is out there. Sports car people are migrating from ALMS and Grand Am to IndyCar. They see the benefit to racing at the Indianapolis 500 and [with] the series.

SI.com: Part of what makes NASCAR so successful is the driver personalities; people know them and are familiar with them. Where do you see IndyCar right now in terms of personalities?

Penske: When you look at NASCAR we’ve got drivers that have been iconic drivers for 10 or 15 years. We’ve gone through a period with IndyCar where we had two series so we didn’t have continuity. We haven’t had the same schedule with the date equity that you want at these tracks with people coming back every year. … We have Marco Andretti, and Helio Castroneves has always been someone from a fan perspective that people love to see run because of Dancing with the Stars. Dario Franchitti is a superstar from what he has been able to do on the track. It’s more racing in these cities where we get the proper crowds and different demographics. … We have to build these stars around that. When NASCAR is running 43 cars with 38 races and twice in these markets you look at the top 15 people in NASCAR today [and] most of them have been around for five to 10 years, so there is a lot more continuity, so name recognition has been generated. The TV and overall publicity has been generated because of the continuity and that has made a big difference. That is something Randy Bernard needs to do.

I don’t think we have to have 20 races. If we have 15-16 events in the right markets, I think we are trying to decide that now moving into 2013. But we have to have some ovals.

SI.com: Talk about your NASCAR team.

Penske: We are really happy with the driver lineup we have. They are working well together. It’s early days. The cars have been good. We had a fuel problem at Las Vegas, but Brad Keselowski’s run at Bristol shows how good he really is. You don’t lap Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman because you don’t know what you are doing. I think Brad is really focused. A.J. Allmendinger is keen to perform. We’ll get him where he has the confidence. It took Brad a good part of last season to get where he wants. I think we have the equipment and the people to succeed. These guys are on it but it’s a long season. Getting a win early on makes a big difference. It’s so close. We see the same momentum on the Nationwide side with Sam Hornish Jr. He is getting some rhythm and Brad is very competitive.

SI.com: It was 15 years ago that you opened up the track in California. Do you have any interest in getting back into the race track business?

Penske: My son Greg said a number of times that we sold tracks at a time when there was overcrowding of dates, but we wish we had kept Michigan and California. If they were ever up for sale, we would be interested in it. But I’m not exploring it.

SI.com: What will it take to get Will Power over the hump in the championship?

Penske: We just can’t make the mistakes that we made last year. We had pit accidents, and he doesn’t have the experience on the ovals. We were anxious to compete at Las Vegas and then had that terrible accident with Dan Wheldon so everything stopped and we moved on. As a road racer he has shown how good he is and the number of road races on the schedule should play into our hands. He is going to be a factor, as will Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe. These guys are really motivated.

SI.com: Isn’t one way to break up the pack in IndyCar to give the engine more horsepower with less downforce?

Penske: I think by taking downforce off you can run with the horsepower we have today. We need to test at Indy and not run in the packs. With these cars we have now it’s pretty easy to drive flat on the ovals. I think it is something the series will take a look at. Will Phillips [INDYCAR VP of Technology] has done a very good job. He is a good thinker and doesn’t move too fast or make mistakes. They will address some of that.

SI.com: Do you think high-banked ovals are still good for IndyCar?

Penske: I think open-wheel racing side-by-side on any oval is important. You get much higher speeds on the big tracks. At Indy you have to get off the throttle to go through the corners. You have to have some ovals to prepare for Indy. It is where we can run on our schedule; the promoter is important and where we think it will be a good show for the fans.

SI.com: Is it good for IndyCar to have international races?

Penske: We’ve talked a lot about the series going outside of the United States. NASCAR ran a couple of races in Japan and it didn’t work out for them. We [IndyCar] had a reason to go to Japan because Honda was such a supporter to the series. I haven’t seen anybody calling us up to write a big check because we are going to China. The way to make this series better is date equity of races in the United States and then to have a balance of permanent road courses with street races in Detroit, St. Pete, Long Beach and Toronto and places like that, and then have some ovals. If you can have 16 races with one-third on ovals, one-third on streets and one-third on permanent road courses, then you have a balance and have a pretty good schedule and find out who are the best drivers and teams.

SI.com: What markets do you want IndyCar to go to?

Penske: I like Houston because we will be running around Reliance Park so the infrastructure is there. It’s a location that has capital and the proper sponsor with Shell/Pennzoil. Baltimore was a great location — we just had problems with the promoters. I saw a lot of people there with kids and we need to get new people involved in the sport. Long Beach is good. We need to be in different locations.

SI.com: What about the commitment Chevrolet has made to the IndyCar engine program?

Penske: They made the commitment to invest in the brand and there is no question they have committed to IndyCar from an engine perspective but also made the commitment to be involved with the race in Detroit that will be run the week after Indy. The nice thing is from top to bottom within General Motors North America motor sports has support.

SI.com: Do you miss the good old days when you only had seven guys working in your garage?

Penske: We used to drive the truck ourselves with a two-wheel trailer and a station wagon going to the races. Something has changed.

[Source: SportsIllustrated.cnn.com]

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