IndyCar team owner group unites, takes concerns to Penske Entertainment

Roger Penske has faced the first big test of his leadership within the NTT IndyCar Series.

Citing their shared frustrations, a powerful faction of IndyCar team owners banded together in February to discuss their issues with the series Penske purchased entering the 2020 season under the Penske Entertainment banner.

It was the first privately organized meeting of its kind by IndyCar team owners in decades, and spanned a wide array of grievances, including the overall direction of the series, escalating costs to compete as IndyCar heads towards hybridization, and the steep year-to-year rise in administrative and operational prices charged by Penske Entertainment.


Originally scheduled for 30 minutes, the Feb. 8 call prepared through Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing lasted 90 minutes and included Andretti Global, Arrow McLaren, Chip Ganassi Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing and Meyer Shank Racing, according to four teams who confirmed their participation to RACER.

A.J. Foyt Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Juncos Hollinger Racing and Team Penske were not included in the meeting.

With the six teams’ complaints aired behind closed doors, which included raising the question of whether Liberty Media would be interested in buying the series, the team owners left the call with the intent to engage Penske Entertainment on their unified issues.

A summation of the meeting was written and the owners decided how Penske, whose wrath is easily drawn, should be approached in a manner that would be non-confrontational. Despite Penske being unaware most of IndyCar’s team owners had banded together out of concern and care for a series where all have made heavy investments, it was hoped he would receive the owners’ outreach in a positive manner.

Twenty days later on Feb. 28, a call by the group, which was expanded to represent all of the 10 full-time teams, was held with Penske and other members of his executive leadership, including Bud Denker and Mark Miles.

“It was expressing thoughts, expressing concerns,” Rahal told RACER. “To me, everybody walked away feeling good about the meeting. It was not at all contentious.”

Asked to share their views of the conference call with Penske, multiple team owners echoed Rahal’s sentiments and characterized the call as one where a new bridge was built with Penske Entertainment where their issues with the series and willingness to be a part of finding solutions to those problems were well received.

Another important development in the call came in how it ended, with Penske Entertainment expressing a shared desire to hold more talks with the owners and develop a closer working relationship. Rather than schedule all future meetings with the entire group, a decision was made to define a smaller group of owners — representing the various sizes and economic statures — in the series and have those leaders speak for all teams in follow-up calls.

“We had a really positive meeting,” Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles told RACER. “We shared several ongoing efforts to grow the series and also some important plans for the future. There was a lot of alignment and helpful dialogue. We agreed to keep talking on a regular basis moving forward.”

RACER understands Andretti Global team owner Michael Andretti and his partner Dan Towriss were not on the Feb. 28 call and were represented by COO Rob Edwards.

Andretti spoke with the media on Friday at St. Petersburg and offered some bold takes on Penske’s leadership, which included a suggestion Penske should sell the series if he’s unwilling to make sizable investments to realize its full potential. For the owners’ group, the comments come at an inopportune time.

With the others wanting to maintain a peaceful accord with Penske, multiple team owners told RACER on Friday night that they hope the public criticisms from Andretti do not burn the newly-built bridge with Penske. Although some said they share Andretti’s sentiments, a wider concern was held over the potential damage they might have caused.

Story originally appeared on Racer