Penske will return to Indy

Roger Penske, the most successful team owner in Indianapolis 500 history with 10 victories, is Preparing to return to the Indianapolis 500 in 2001

Penske will return to Indy

"We want to go there and have a chance to test and see what it is all about, and then make a decision," Penske said.

"We can't make that decision until later in the summer."

Penske last competed in the 1994 Indianapolis 500, and won with Al Unser Jr. as his driver. He failed to make the field the following year. Since 1996, Penske has chosen not to participate in the world's biggest race because of a political dispute over the creation of the Indy Racing League.

Penske returned this year as the sponsor for rookie Jason Leffler at Treadway Racing, who finished 17th.

Penske confirmed on Saturday that he is going to rent a G Force/Oldsmobile Aurora from team owner Fred Treadway and will test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway later this summer with his two CART drivers, Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves.

"It was a good prep for us to potentially return to the Indianapolis 500 next year," Penske said. "What we would like to do is I want to rent the track at Indianapolis later in the summer and give both our drivers a full day at the track. That way, they can get used to it and run rather than us just showing up there next spring and running without any track time."

Penske said he was pleasantly surprised with the cars that are used in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series compared to the different cars that are used in CART.

"I think overall, they are building a lot of them, they have had a lot of time to develop them," Penske said of the IRL car. "Our people said they are easy to work on. Overall, it's a series that has developed. When everybody in the series is running two brands of cars, you get a lot of feedback and are able to evolve the chassis.

"The good news is the rules stay the same for the next three years. There will be equipment available with small nuances that will come into play as you move forward."

Last Sunday was Penske's first trip to the Indianapolis 500 since he failed to make the field in 1995 with Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi as his drivers.

"I'm really amazed at what they have done to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and with the Pagoda that will be used for the Formula One race," Penske said. "I think they made a lot of great changes.

"And obviously, the Indianapolis 500 is an exciting event and we would like to be part of it in the future."

Penske had hoped that CART and the IRL would unify into one series, but with Target/Chip Ganassi going to the Indianapolis 500 and winning the race, he thinks the first step would be for CART teams to return to the Indy 500.

"I think you will see more teams take a look at it next year, but you have to take a look at the schedule and it comes down to what your sponsor wants you to do," Penske said. "We couldn't have run this year as we looked at our potential because we needed to get competitive in CART. This is a competitive series over here.

"We won't make any commitment until we have a chance to run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and see where we are. As far as the CART schedule for next year, you'll have to ask Mr. Andrew Craig (CART CEO) about that."

Penske said there was tremendous excitement generated in this year's Indianapolis 500 and he would like to continue that momentum by participating with his own team in 2001.

"I think the fact you had a top CART team there and with Derrick Walker there with Sarah Fisher, that really added to the interest in the race," Penske said. "There was a lot of media coverage of IRL versus CART, which I don't think that's what it's all about, but it is obvious that takes place.

"The level of racing was great and I think it is all racing. The track is 2.5 miles and everybody runs the same car and the same engine. It's up to the execution of whether the pit stops are fast or slow, it's the guy who gets across the finish line first."

De Ferran has competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 1995 when he raced for team owner Jim Hall. Castroneves has not.

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