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Penske buys famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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By Reuters
Penske buys famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Roger Penske in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 24, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner   -   Copyright  Tom Brenner(Reuters)

By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) – Roger Penske bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) and IndyCar Series from Hulman & Company on Monday and said he plans to invest new money into the famed track and may even look into bringing Formula One racing back to the venue.

The deal makes the former professional driver the fourth owner of the sprawling 110-year-old speedway, where the crown jewel of American open wheel racing is held each Memorial Day weekend with the running of the Indianapolis 500.

“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,” Penske, the 82-year-old founder and chairman of Penske Corp., told a news conference.

Financial terms of the deal, which will see Penske Corp. subsidiary Penske Entertainment acquire all principal operating assets of family-owned Hulman & Company, were not disclosed.

Penske, who is the most successful owner in the Indianapolis 500 race with 18 victories, was very bullish when speaking about the future of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is already the highest-capacity sports venue in the world.

“We look around this 1,000 acres and think, ‘Can this be the racing capital of the world and the entertainment capital of the world in Indiana?’” said Penske, whose racing interests include IndyCar and NASCAR teams.

“We’re going to invest capital. We know the economic benefits that this race brings to the region is amazing and we want to grow that, it’s important to us.”

Penske floated several possibilities for what could be in store at the speedway, ranging from additional fan zones to a 24-hour race and even a return for Formula One, which held its United States Grand Prix there from 2000-2007.

“This business is not broken. This is a great business,” said Penske. “We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do to make IndyCar even stronger.”

Penske began racing in the late 1950s and won the Sports Car Club of America’s Presidents Cup in 1960, 1962 and 1963. He won Sports Illustrated’s Driver of the Year award in 1961.

After retiring from driving in 1965, Penske started his own race teams. Over the years he has built an automotive company with one of the most recognizable names in American motorsports and employs more than 50,000 people worldwide.

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump awarded one of the nation’s highest civilian honors to Penske when he presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Rival team owner Michael Andretti said Penske’s purchase is positive news for both the speedway and the IndyCar Series.

“Roger has always strived to do great things for both IMS and IndyCar racing and I’m sure he will continue to do so in this new ownership position,” said Andretti.

“Both the Indy 500 and the NTT IndyCar Series have been on a rise, and I look forward to the continued climb.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ken Ferris)