INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Emotions ran high Monday morning as Hulman and Co. announced the sale of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to racing team owner Roger Penske.
Many people reflected on the Hulman-George era at the track on Monday. While excitement surrounds the future of IMS, Penske recognized the work of others to make the track what it is today.
What is now known as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built as a testing facility for the local growing automobile industry.
Carl G. Fisher and his partners James Allison, Arthur Newby and Frank Wheeler purchased land for the track in 1908, and construction begin in the spring of 1909.
It opened in June of that year with a hot air balloon race organized by Fisher.
The first race on the track was of motorcycles that same year. At that time, the founders had no idea what the “motor parkway” would become.
“The history goes back to: The same people that founded this facility are founders of our community, and so that history is really strongly tied in and we are going to see that continue I think,” said Jacob Blasdel, town manager of Speedway.
In 1927, Eddie Rickenbacker purchased IMS for $750,000, but the speedway would fall on hard times during WWII, closing in 1942.
Then Tony Hulman entered the picture.
“You look at how it started after World War II, I mean, Tony Hulman saved, basically, the motor speedway. It was struggling after not running during WWII,” Blasdel said.
In 1945, the Hulman family purchased IMS for $750,000, starting the longest period of ownership in the track’s history.
“The Hulman family has been great partners to the town of Speedway,” Blasdel said.
Hulman and Co. has been around for nearly 170 years. In the company’s time, it has worn many hats.
“We have been distillers, we have been brewers, we have been grocers, we have been produce, canned goods, just about everything,” said Tony George, Hulman and Co.
After 75 years of ownership, the deal was bittersweet for the family.
“Nancy and I, anyway, we came home from the hospital to a home just right down the street here, so we have literally grown up around it. Our kids and grandkids have done the same,” George said.
A track originally built to test cars has become home to many different styles of racing and created a culture to accompany it.
“The town has changed so much over the years and this facility has changed so much over those years for the positive,” Blasdel.
Roger Penske will be the fourth owner to have stewardship of the track in its 110-year history.