Roger Penske, the iconic racing car owner, sat down Saturday afternoon in his trailer with a handful of media and fielded questions on a variety of subjects. Here are some highlights:
What's the financial state of IndyCar now?
We don't have the TV reach that NASCAR has. That's one of the things that Randy (Bernard) is looking at right now. … The good news is that the costs here, to run a team, are a third of what they are in NASCAR. And that's huge. Now we don't run as many races so that should cut it in half probably, but overall, I feel pretty good about how the economics of the sport are now.
Speaking of new Indy Racing League CEO Randy Bernard, what's your take?
The key thing is he's engaged every day, seven days a week, and that's important. Tony (George) did a hell of a job bringing this thing where it is, but he had other interests. He had a team. Randy doesn't have a team and he doesn't own a track. His job is seven by 24 to run the league, which is great. I really think he's a breath of fresh air. When somebody said we're going to hire the guy from the professional bull riders I said, "What the hell does that have to do with auto racing?" But when you sit down and listen to him, and what he's been able to accomplish, I think he's a friendly individual. I think he's going to be accessible.
Aside from your driver, Will Power, winning there, how did the race in Brazil go?
I had a chance to meet the next day with a gentleman who runs the (equivalent of the) chamber of commerce and they were really excited about having it in Sao Paulo and it'll be much bigger next year. I was amazed they were able to get it done (so well). … What I don't want to see, though, is we go all over the world with the sport because we can't offer our sponsors the promotion here in the U.S. That's one of the things NASCAR's figured out; if you go all over the world and your sponsor is a domestic sponsor, you're saying, half your races you're operating outside your territory.
Any territory domestically you'd like to see IndyCar?
I'd like to go back to Detroit as soon as we can get the economy turned in the right direction. We've got the track. We've got all the assets there. The state of Michigan has 16 percent unemployment; Pontiac, Mich., has 25 percent. We're talking about 12 percent here in Florida. Just double it and see how it feels, so we've got a little work to do from the economy standpoint (first).
What are your thoughts on a redesign for 2012?
If there's going to be an engine (and car) change, let's do the engine change and put it in the existing car because that would save us. You've got 24 teams with two or three, that's 75 cars, you've got 20 million bucks that would have to be spent by the teams right now in an environment where you don't want to spend that (much) capital. That's a lot of money.
Brian Landman, Times staff writer