SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Most people vividly remember their first visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In 1951, a 14-year-old teenager named Roger watched his first race from the wooden stands in Turn 4.
Roger Penske was captivated by the sights and sounds of the track. And now, "The Captain" owns the place.
I recently spent a Monday evening with the 85-year-old business leader.
We covered many topics during our lengthy interview. Roger told me, he’s invested more than $30 million since the purchase was announced in 2019.
"I don't know how many hundreds of gallons of paint we have used to bring the facility back to where we want to have it. It's the little things. We have tried to make it fan-friendly. Most important thing we can do is have a fan experience that you come back, the parents come back, the kids come back. 'I want to go to the Indy 500,'” Roger said.
I asked Roger if he ever second guessed himself on making the investment in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the pandemic.
"Why did I make the decision so fast back in October of '19 when Tony George came up and said, 'I want to talk to you in Indianapolis...get together with you to talk about the future,” Roger said.
He has built an empire through all of his business holdings, but the Speedway holds a very special place in his heart — and it's not about making more money.
"I call this an opportunity. My wife says, 'You coming home with another opportunity?' This one is a bigger one than normal, obviously. It's a terrific place, and they understand it," Roger said. "It's a family tradition, and there is no question, from my perspective, that we, as a family, want to be known as someone who added and made this place better.”
Roger told me he is in it for the long haul. At 85, I had to ask why he isn't slowing down.
"If I slow down, I will just stop," Roger said. "You have to keep moving."
Roger is still very much involved in the day-to-day operations. Most days, he is in the office by 7:30 a.m. and usually stays past dinner time. I asked him who would succeed him one day running the Speedway,
"I think from a Speedway perspective, we have a family that is all interested. And I think it would be up to them to decide who would become Chairman," Roger said.
Roger has that winning touch. From winning on the race track to the boardroom, nothing seems impossible for this hard-charger.
Roger Penske at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: 1971-1988
Roger is a very gracious and humble man. I asked him about the legacy he hopes to leave behind.
"I don't have a list of things that I am trying to check the box. I hope people said I was a good competitor. My legacy would be that I have a great family, and my family members are successful and healthy would probably be more important than personal legacy," Roger said. "I don't have to leave a big stamp somewhere. My big stamp would be today when I am working with people and try to make them better. To me, that's the legacy...that I helped people be better, and I helped them with their lives and families to help them for many years. That would be my story.”