Roger Penske and Paul Newman pen joint letter to fans
Once bitter rivals in the early days of the Indy Racing League, actor Paul Newman and team owner Roger Penske have joined forces in the spirit of unity.
While Penske was first to come back to Indy and break ranks with the former CART Series, Newman was steadfast in his opposition of two open-wheel series during the split that lasted from 1996 through 2007, remaining loyal to CART and later Champ Car.
Now that open-wheel racing is united with Champ Car having ceased operation and joined IndyCar, Newman hopes to heal old wounds by inviting disenfranchised fans back to the Indianapolis 500.
A letter was recently sent out to Indy 500 ticket holders who have not been back since 1998. The letter is co-authored by Newman and Penske promoting the unified IndyCar Series and inviting fans to return to the biggest race of the season.
These are exciting times for open-wheel racing in the United States, the letter opens:
With the official announcement on Wednesday, February 27, 2008, our sport is truly unified for the first time in many years. Everyone involved in open-wheel racing is a winner as a result -- drivers, teams, sponsors and most important, you, the fan.
Unification has created a new level of enthusiasm for the IndyCar Series, but the hard work is just beginning. A major part of our efforts will be directed toward fans like you, ensuring that we build a strong, fan-friendly series for the future.
We write to ask you to come back this May for the running of the 92nd Indianapolis 500, the cornerstone of open-wheel racing, our marquee event and "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
From Opening Day to the run for the pole, Bump Day to Miller Lite Carb Day, the pageantry and tradition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway await you. Drivers and teams spend the entire month of May working hard to earn a spot in the field of 33 starters, with the ultimate goal of that drink of milk in Victory Circle. Having your name etched on the Borg-Warner Trophy is one of the greatest accomplishments in all of sports. To be honored alongside some of the greatest that have competed at the hallowed Brickyard -- Rose, Mears, Unser, Foyt and Andretti -- is truly the pinnacle of motorsport.
We hope you will join us both in celebrating one of the world's greatest sporting events
-- the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race
The letter is signed by both Newman, co-owner of the Newman/Haas/Lanigan IndyCar team and Penske, who brought his team back to the Indy 500 in 2001 and left CART for IndyCar beginning with the 2002 season.
"If Paul was interested in supporting the idea, I was for it 100 percent," Penske said. "He's been my friend for a long, long time. He was an advocate of one side and I supported Tony George [founder and CEO of the IRL IndyCar Series] when we came over here in 2001. We're business guys and we put all of that stuff behind us.
"If you worry about all of the things that happen to you in the past you won't be on offense going forward. I said all of the feelings we've had, the comments we've made, let's forget about it and move forward. Now, it's one open-wheel series and if everyone feels that way, we'll all be better off."
It's another example of the spirit of unity and the realization that IndyCar racing has a tremendous opportunity to rebuild itself into a prominent, relevant series. More at SI.com