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The NTT IndyCar Series kicked off its 2024 season this weekend at St. Petersburg, FL. But the celebratory mood has been under dark clouds due to controversy surrounding some big names. Roger Penske’s ownership and management of IndyCar is facing a fiery challenge to “sell” from none other than series legend and bearer of one of the most iconic names in motorsports, Michael Andretti.

The founder of Penske Corporations acquired IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in late 2019, ushering hope for a new golden age after becoming the fourth person in history to claim the IMS as his own. However, five years after the historic acquisition from Hulman and Co., the son of F1 legend Mario Andretti and co-owner of IndyCar mainstays Andretti Global, believes Penske’s reign hasn’t lived up to its potential.

Chip Ganassi Comes to IndyCar Owner Roger Penske’s Defense

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Tensions struck the Indy infield on Friday, with the 4-time championship-winning team owner calling the series a “diamond in the rough” that requires “big money” to elevate it to F1 and NASCAR levels. Andretti did not mince words, suggesting if Penske isn’t willing to invest heavily, he should “step aside” and “sell it,” allowing someone else to take the wheel. A lot of this dissent is driven by the recent announcement of a 1-million dollar NASCAR-style charter for a guaranteed starting spot throughout the 16 races of the schedule.

Read More: After F1 Snub, Michael Andretti’s NASCAR Dream Could Turn Into Reality

Andretti’s fiery criticism made headlines, but the response from IndyCar team owners wasn’t a unanimous chorus either. Chip Ganassi, the only team owner in history to have won the Indy 500, the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans and owner of Indy heavyweights Chip Ganassi Racing offered a more measured take.

“Anybody that can run the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with no fans in the stands? He’s got my vote,” said Ganassi according to a recent release by AP.

A veteran of American Motorsports with more than 30 years of experience, he continued, “He coughed up the money to buy the place, and he coughed it up during COVID and kept the series running. I’m going to give him a pass for a couple years… I’m not going to sharpshoot him. I don’t want to forget about COVID so quickly and all the effects that had.”

Nevertheless, Ganassi and Andretti aren’t the only ones voicing their ‘thoughts’ in the simmering debate regarding Roger Penske’s IndyCar initiative.

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Another team owner, Brad Hollinger of Juncos Hollinger Racing, had a very interesting opinion. Hollinger, albeit echoing Andretti’s concerns, wasn’t as critical of Penske’s “financial commitment” but rather the direction of that very same investment.

Hollinger pointed out the stark contrast between the muted promotion of IndyCar events and the extravagant presentations that precede Formula One races. “We have by far the best product, the racing is spectacular,” Hollinger said. He argued, however, that “the way it is packaged and promoted needs to be dramatically enhanced.”

The Williams F1 shareholder went on to advocate for a significant increase in investments, specifically for marketing and social media promotions. He outlined the need to raise IndyCar’s profile beyond just the Indianapolis 500 crown jewel, “You go to any race in the world in Formula 1, and the second you get off the airplane, you know a race is there, any race that we have, you get off the plane, and half the people don’t even know that there’s a race at the racetrack.”

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While Brad Hollinger’s focus was on promotion and not financial commitment itself, IndyCar’s efforts seem to be in resurgence. A recent promotional video garnered almost 2.5M views, merchandise sales are up by 30%, and the St. Petersburg race is expected to be a record-breaker. The star power of Jon Bon Jovi narrating the NBC broadcast alongside Helio Castroneves adds another layer of excitement.

However, the path forward remains unclear. Can Penske bridge the divide with team owners like Andretti and Hollinger?