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Penske’s IndyCar leader comments easier said than done

Mar 29, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT

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Roger Penske has been in racing, specifically open-wheel racing, long enough to know how frequently the series’ leadership structure changes.

Penske told Autosport this week that IndyCar needs to follow NASCAR’s standard set in terms of leadership.

“We’ve never had a strong enough leader as they do in NASCAR,” Penske said. “They say, ‘Hey, guys, here’s the rules, here’s how we’re going to race. Guess what? If you don’t like it you can park your car outside and sit in the stands.’ And that’s what we need. We need some leadership. And I think that we can develop that as we go forward over the next 12 months.”

Compared to NASCAR, which the France family has ruled since the series’ inception in 1948, IndyCar has had a revolving door of presidents and CEOs.

IndyCar has not named a permanent replacement for its departed CEO Randy Bernard, the head of the series from 2010 to 2012. Mark Miles, the new head of IndyCar parent company Hulman & Co., attended his first race outside the Indianapolis 500 last weekend at St. Petersburg.

The long standing perception in IndyCar has been one where the team owners, not a head of state, run the series. The perception was reality in the CART era, when team owners helped to create the series and later served on its board of directors.

When CART as an entity folded at the end of 2003, it was a group of team owners that purchased the remaining assets to create the Champ Car World Series, which lasted through 2007 before its acquisition by IndyCar.

The owners, collectively, hold more power in IndyCar than do the same owners in NASCAR or even Formula 1. Both have dominant leaders at the top, and it’s with that premise that Penske’s comments are easier said than done in IndyCar.

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