IRL: Teams react to Penske Racing announcement

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Dec. 7, 2001 - Reaction from the Indy Racing League community to the announcement Dec. 6 that Penske Racing will compete in open-wheel racing in 2002 exclusively in the Indy Racing League with sponsor Marlboro and drivers...

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Dec. 7, 2001 - Reaction from the Indy Racing League community to the announcement Dec. 6 that Penske Racing will compete in open-wheel racing in 2002 exclusively in the Indy Racing League with sponsor Marlboro and drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves:

JOHN BARNES (Co-owner, Panther Racing, 2001 Indy Racing champions): "We won't prepare any different if Penske, Newman-Haas, Team Green or Childress comes to the IRL. We go out to the best of our ability every race. I think it is a positive for them to come here, just as it is for any new team we add to the league that is coming here to compete. We have a lot of respect for Team Penske and anybody that comes on board. We don't take anybody lightly. They came for one reason, because of the strength of our league."

KEVIN BLANCH (Team manager, Panther Racing, 2001 Indy Racing champions): "It's good to have anybody come and race in our league. It demonstrates how strong the league is and how important open-wheel, oval-track racing is in the U.S. It increases the level of competition, for sure, just because of their background. I don't think they are going to come here and dominate the series by any means. There are a lot of great teams in this league."

BILLY BOAT (Co-owner/driver, Curb/Agajanian/Boat Indy Racing): "I think this announcement continues to show the growth that the Indy Racing League continues to have. For a company like Marlboro to say, 'This is where we want to be,' I think says a lot for the strength of the television package of the league and how the competition of the league has been. It's going to be great to have a team the caliber of Team Penske to compete against. Obviously, the rest of us are going to have to probably bring our teams up a notch, but really that's what it's all about. We have to rise to the occasion, and I think we're capable of doing it."

MARK F. CASSIS (Executive vice president and general manager, Kentucky Speedway): "We are delighted about this news. Mr. Penske has visited our facility before when driver Ryan Newman won here in his ARCA stock car. Our decision to join the Indy Racing League two years ago has proven itself again as the right decision. We anticipate the league will to continue to grow with more events and add great open-wheel drivers such as Castroneves and de Ferran. The Belterra Casino Indy 300 in August just got a little bigger, and we're excited."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (Owner/driver, #51 Red Bull Cheever Indy Racing, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Italy has Ferrari, America has Penske. After the Indy 500 (last May), the only team I missed - and I hope this isn't taken as offensive - was Penske. Everybody on that team has great integrity and class. Looking down the pits and not seeing them was a loss. I'm glad to see them competing in the IRL. It sure enhances the very positive things that happened in the past year. It certainly lifts the level of competition. The Red Bull team is looking forward to competing with Penske. The mistake everybody is making is to say, 'Oh, oh, the best team from CART is coming over.' What they should say is, 'The IRL just got stronger.' For my Red Bull team, competing against Penske is great. It means one more notch we have to ratchet up."

A.J. FOYT (Owner, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, 1996 Indy Racing champions, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner as driver, one win as owner only): "I'm glad to see Roger come back. I think he has realized how strong the IRL has become, and he has always known how important Indianapolis (500) is. He knows that Indianapolis made Roger Penske what he is today, and it doesn't surprise me that he is back. I just wonder what took him so long."

DOUG FRITZ (President, Richmond International Raceway): "This is a very exciting day for Richmond International Raceway and our fans. The 2001 SunTrust Indy Challenge was a great event, and this will only add to the excitement when the stars and cars of the Indy 500 return to Richmond International Raceway."

EDDIE GOSSAGE (General manager, Texas Motor Speedway): "This is great news on adding another team to the already breathtakingly exciting Indy Racing League. Not only is the IRL gaining one of the top teams in American motorsports and two of the top drivers in all of racing, they are also gaining a sponsor who is one of the premier marketers of motorsports in the world."

CURTIS GRAY (President, Homestead-Miami Speedway): "We're thrilled to be the site for Marlboro Team Penske's 2002 Indy Racing League debut. With Gil De Ferran and Helio Castroneves making their 2002 IRL debut, the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway promises to be one of the most anticipated events in motorsports in 2002."

RON HEMELGARN (Owner, Hemelgarn Racing, 2000 Indy Racing champions): "Just another race team, really. I think it shows how great the Indy Racing League is, how it has increased in popularity. It's a statement about how it has grown in stature. Him and Mo Nunn is just the beginning of those who will be coming over. Basically, we've got an epidemic of foot-in-mouth-disease. We've got some pretty gosh-darn good teams in the IRL. We've had to run against Panther Racing, a good team, Foyt Racing, a good team. We've already got fierce competition. One thing that is going to happen is the cost is going to go up. Probably in time as more and more come back, which they will, it started with Indy and now the series, things are going to be different."

SAM HORNISH JR. (Driver, Panther Racing, 2001 Indy Racing champion): "It's going to step up the level of competition a little bit. They definitely have the resources to go out there and have winning cars. We are going to compete as hard as we can no matter who is in the series. They bring a little more to the series. They will bring more fans -- fans of the drivers in his cars. There are fans of Penske Racing, even. All around, it's going to be a good deal for us."

LEE KUNZMAN (Team manager, Hemelgarn Racing): "I don't know if we can just look at Penske. There's several good teams over there (CART). I'm not concerned with how fast they can go. They have depth and efficiency. My biggest concern is they are used to spending the big dollars. The more big teams you get, the more efficient you have to become. It's not in speed but in detail. We've competed with them before. It raises the cost bar as far as efficiency is concerned. I think the IRL has an advantage in the rules package. It makes a level playing field. I hope they keep it that way so we won't get this crazy escalation in cost. It's got to be contained."

BUDDY LAZIER (Driver, Hemelgarn Racing, 2000 Indy Racing champion, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner): "From an Indy Racing League competitor's point of view, I think it's a great announcement. My feelings are the more the merrier. It is a testament to see the way so many teams and different sponsors are coming to the Indy Racing League, and how year after year the league continues to build momentum. It seems like every offseason, even from the very beginning of the Indy Racing League in 1996, there were so many things happening in the offseason that really represented growth and momentum in the series. So every offseason we have something to look forward to the next season. The way that the series grows, the number of races, the television package, it's so great to see now that the racing community as a whole shares Tony George's original vision, that this is the future for open-wheel racing in America. It's going to be exciting to be competing against and with Team Penske. As Indy-car teams go, they have as much history or more than any in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That is a great race team. They have a great budget. It's a great sponsor, great team owner, and great drivers. Obviously in the last two years we've had two major goals, winning the championship and winning the Indianapolis 500. By winning the championship and being second last year in the championship, obviously for next year we're going (to try) to win the championship again. So now we have to look at Team Penske as one of our absolute biggest competitors and competition. It definitely steps up what it's going to take. We need to be at our best, just as though I think they'll have to be at their best, there are a lot of great teams in the Indy Racing League."

JAQUES LAZIER (Driver, Team Menard): "I am very excited to have Team Penske join the Indy Racing League. I believe the history and reputation that Mr. Penske has created with his team in open-wheel racing can only better our league, our sponsors and all teams currently in the Indy Racing League."

JOHN MENARD (Owner, Team Menard, 1996-97 and 1999 Indy Racing champions): "I think it means a lot to the league. As a car owner, I welcome the chance to compete against him. It'll be a lot of fun, interesting, and good for the fans. This series is going to get even tougher with Roger bringing a two-car team that won the championship and the Indy 500, too. It's going to be pretty tough, and I'm certain his presence will be felt. The one thing I see is we'll have to step up a little and spend a few more dollars."

GREG RAY (Driver, Kelley Racing, 1999 Indy Racing champion): "I think it is fantastic for the Indy Racing League. It is fantastic for the fans. It says a lot for what Tony George stands for and what he has done in the last several years, his influence and guidance of motorsports. I think Roger Penske is an exceptional individual and a great race team owner. It says a lot for the state of affairs of the league and the health, promise and direction of the Indy Racing League."

DENNIS REINBOLD (Co-owner, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "When Team Penske comes in, I think it's a very positive thing for the league, and it's going to make a big impact on other teams because the bar has raised as of now. We know that in order to compete we have to get ourselves ready to compete against a big-budget team and to compete on a different level than where we've been in a lot of different aspects. That's a positive from the standpoint of preparing the race car and from us preparing the way we run our team. It's also a positive from the sponsorship standpoint and the growth-of-the-league standpoint. I think it's tremendous that they are coming full time to the IRL. I think it's a very, very big pat on the back to Tony George and Brian Barnhart, the IRL staff, and everything they've done."

SCOTT SHARP (Driver, Kelley Racing, 1996 Indy Racing co-champion): "I'm excited that the whole Penske team is here. I think it shows great value for the kind of product the IRL has developed into. Certainly, it is a team that is going to raise the bar of competition and be a front-runner, but when you win races you want to beat the best of the best, and lately that is what they have been. So I think we all welcome them."

OWEN SNYDER III (Team manager, #51 Red Bull Cheever Indy Racing): "I think it is the kind of PR you can't put a value on. It would be pretty pricey and has a lot of credibility. It shows where the league has come. It's a pretty big step. The competition level is going up. I think the things the IRL have are pretty overwhelming, the TV package, the schedule, the competition. It's a heck of a product. We'd like to think we have a bit of an advantage (over the incoming Penske team). We've run the IRL a few years. I like to think we have to step up and be able to compete not having the same budget. This year will be the most level playing field. Then it will become harder and harder."

AL SPEYER (Executive director, Bridgestone/Firestone Motorsports): "Marlboro Team Penske has an excellent reputation in the international motorsports community, and we are proud to continue providing them Firestone Firehawks as the team moves to the Indy Racing League in 2002. The Firestone-Penske relationship has been strong and effective -- truly a winning combination on many tracks, including the last Indianapolis 500 where Helio Castroneves gave the Firestone Racing program its 52nd win at the Brickyard and Roger Penske his 11th. We're confident Marlboro Team Penske will join an already impressive collection of teams and drivers in the IRL to create more great racing action on oval tracks around America."

BILL THORNTON (Senior vice president/director of marketing, SunTrust Bank, Mid-Atlantic, title sponsor of Indy Racing event at Richmond, Va.): "When SunTrust made its commitment to the inaugural Indy Racing League event at Richmond International Raceway in 2001, we were making an investment not only in the future of the event but with the series as whole. Today's announcement signifies that the series and the SunTrust Indy Challenge will continue to grow and add to the tremendous crowd we had in 2001."

FRED TREADWAY (Owner, Treadway Racing): "I'm happy. Obviously, if you have a team, you want to try to beat Penske. If your team can beat Penske, you've done a good job. Not only Penske but beat Marlboro, too. They give credence that you are a league. Roger was with us two years ago with Jason Leffler. He indicated then he just wanted to be a sponsor. (About competing against Penske): "That's OK. That's what racing's all about. People show up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and you want the best to be there to compete. Having a limited field, you wouldn't feel like you had beaten the best. I could say I could beat Ali, but until I got in the ring with him and did it, it wouldn't mean much."

-IRL-

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