IndyCar Penske IMS Auto Racing

Roger Penske responds to a question during a press conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Nov. 4.

With Roger Penske taking ownership of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there are a lot of good reasons to believe it will once again be “The Racing Capital of the World.”

Nothing that takes place at IMS will surpass the annual running of the Indianapolis 500, which is correctly known as the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

But under the Captain’s leadership of IMS, what is the next step forward for the facility and IndyCar?

Daytona International Speedway has two NASCAR weekends and, of course, the 24 hours of Daytona endurance race for sports cars.

So how does Penske elevate IMS to draw the attention of corporate sponsors and, more importantly, racing fans from around the country and world?

Penske has already indicated he is planning to spend “millions” to improve the facility.

Some of those changes will probably start to fall into place after the Brickyard 400 on July 4.

There is speculation parking lots will be paved, restrooms improved and a new paint scheme installed for IMS.

All of those are improvements that will enhance the fan experience. There is nothing worse than being parked in a dirt lot following rain and watching RVs and cars attempting to escape from the mud.

But what is more important is what takes place on the track.

IMS can make the town of Speedway an entertainment venue with events other than racing at the facility.

Penske has been a supporter of the concept of a NASCAR and IndyCar doubleheader at a race track.

IMS would be an ideal location for such an event. But I believe it has to be on the road course.

This could take place in May as part of the Indy Grand Prix weekend leading up to the Indy 500.

Ideally, a doubleheader on the road course would take place later in the year — September or October.

Bring IndyCar back for a third race, a second on the oval, and include NASCAR on a Saturday.

Of course, Penske will have to get NASCAR officials to agree to a change in schedule. But, with the Captain’s influence, that is a possibility.

Can he entice Formula One to return to IMS? Formula One already competes at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas, and there are reports an American city is interested in a Formula One race on a street course.

Although there were struggles in the past with a Formula One race at Indy, it could become a major event.

I believe Penske will add lights at IMS, probably on the road course at first and maybe eventually around the entire 2.5-mile oval.

Lighting the road course would allow for the running of a 12- or 24-hour sports car endurance race at IMS.

A sanctioning body would jump at the opportunity, and it would certainly attract a lot of racing teams and fans.

Penske has already announced there will be no guaranteed starting positions for the Indianapolis 500.

A great move, since the race was founded on the fastest 33 cars making the starting grid.

I do support his idea of giving teams more than one opportunity to make a qualifying run. Aside for the run for the pole position, the most exciting part of qualifying at Indy is “bump day.”

I suspect the Captain will not disappoint when it comes to changes with IMS and IndyCar.

Ken de la Bastide may be reached at or 765-640-4863.

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