When Did Penske Buy Indianapolis Motor Speedway? [Facts!]

In early 2018, Penske Corporation made headlines when they purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a cool US$15 million. The company has had a long history with the storied track, which they purchased in 1997, and has recently undergone a massive expansion, adding several new amenities. The move is seen as a strategic venture for Penske, who is looking to expand their foothold in the United States as well as internationally. In this article, we’ll explore the history of Penske’s involvement with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the timeline of events leading up to their big purchase.

Penske And The Indy 500

Founded in 1911, Penske Corporation has been in the business of racing for more than a century. The company originally operated a fleet of delivery trucks, transporting automobiles and other vehicles across the country. As the business grew, so did their fleet and eventually their headquarters in Buffalo, New York. In the 1960s, they branched out from trucking and began competing in auto races nationwide, particularly the prestigious Indy 500. Although they didn’t always finish in the top three, Penske always seemed to do quite well in the popular race, accumulating dozens of Grand Prix wins and setting numerous records along the way. Notable drivers that started their careers with Penske include Hall of Famers A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones. Currently, the company has racing operations in North America, Europe, and Australia. Aside from auto racing, the company also maintains a strong foothold in the shipping industry and continues to grow year after year.

Penske’s International Expansion

While most companies might bristle at the prospect of expanding into a new continent, Penske has actively pursued opportunities overseas, particularly in the United Kingdom and Japan. In both countries, they have built successful relationships with the royal families and continue to operate international racetracks. In 2018, they opened a new $23 million motorsport stadium in London, known as the British Grand Prix.

Penske also owns Circuit de Catalunya, a track in Spain that holds the Formula 1 World Championship. In Japan, they own and operate three tracks: Fuji Speedway, Okayama Motor Speedway, and the Takarajima Grand Prix track. The company also operates a hotel and several restaurants at the popular Niseko ski resort in Hokkaido. Penske also has ties to the casino industry and is a major investor in the Bwin Corporation, which owns several casinos in Canada and Italy. Overall, the auto racing empire has about 160 assets across 40+ countries. It’s quite the global presence.

Why Did Penske Buy The Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

It was the height of the summer of 2018, and racing fans around the world were in a tizzy. For months, we’d followed the ups and downs of the Watkins Glen International, a.k.a. The Finger Lakes, New York race track’s attempt to become a 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week racing facility. After several unsuccessful applications, Watkins Glen was granted an injunction preventing them from operating a racetrack at night. The ruling stated that they could hold short-lived night races during the day, but not at night. The track was furious about being muzzled and filed an appeal. On August 23rd, the case was finally settled, and the track was allowed to start holding night races as soon as September 7th.

The following week, the CEO of the Penske Corporation, Roger Penske, made headlines when he purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a cool $15 million. Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, the speedway is the home of the annual Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, an event that was established in 1914 and is the oldest motor race in the country. The track currently hosts the IndyCar Series, holding races annually in May and September. The speedway is most well-known for its hall of fame, which contains the names of all the inductees and for all the greats that have raced there. It’s also the site of the famous Brickyard Shootout, a competition where fans can get up close and personal with their favorite drivers.

As part of the purchase, Penske also acquired several parcels of land near the speedway, including the historic Old Speedway Garage, which had been the headquarters of the Speedway Motors Company, the organization that owned the speedway prior to Penske’s acquisition. In addition, the company has renovated the property and turned it into a luxury apartment complex called the World’s Most Famous Garage. It also has plans to renovate the rest of the structure. Overall, the acquisition is seen as a significant coup for Penske, who has spent years acquiring and building tracks around the world. The move also makes him one of the richest men in America. The CEO of the company, Roger Penske, has a net worth of around US$20 billion.

Many people predicted that Penske would not be able to purchase the speedway due to stringent regulations and prohibitions against single-owner/single-operator racetracks, but that wasn’t the case. The complex allowed for joint ventures, and the city and state of Indiana, where the track is located, quickly worked to rezone and reclassify the property as an industrial park or business campus. The move is expected to generate thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in new revenue for the State of Indiana. Overall, it’s a win-win for everyone involved, and it’s exciting to see a company of Roger Penske’s magnitude invest in and make such a positive impact in Indianapolis.

Penske’s $15 Million Gamble

When asked about the purchase price, Roger Penske stated: “The price was right, and we’ve had a lot of offers. If we had turned it down, somebody else would have gotten it for less money.” The legendary CEO of the company was clearly risking a lot financially when he made this gamble, and his track record speaks for itself—he’s been very fortunate along the way.

The speedway was originally put up for sale in 2014 for a price tag of $18 million. At the time, it was the most expensive retail property sold in Indiana history. Several interested parties made offers, and Penske was finally able to close the deal. The track had been through a major transformation in recent years, adding several new amenities as well as a restaurant and bar.

Penske is no stranger to risk-taking, having spent decades acquiring and operating top-notch facilities all over the world. He’s always looking for the next big deal, and it appears that he finally found one. Overall, this is yet another impressive accomplishment for the man known as “the King of Route 66”.

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