“I’ve always said that the only reason people know how fast the cars are going is when they announce it,” Penske said. “I don’t think you can tell the cars are going 230 to 240 unless someone said ‘it’s a new track record.’ We can’t race at those speeds and I think it adds cost to the equation if we are going to race at a lower speed and have to run at that speed to qualify.”
“There’s a lot of things that come along with those speeds that I think. Let’s just leave it at that,” he said. “I don’t want to be a naysayer, or a poo-pooer. Maybe they’ll be going 300 someday, I don’t know. I just think that with everything, with the state of the sport right now, there are a lot of other places to put our energy and our growth funds to work that I think you would get more mileage for than somebody going 240 miles per hour. Just my opinion.”
Penske said the focus should be on ensuring the Indy 500 is a good race.
“We need to do the racing at 218, 219, where the guys can pass on the outside. That’s what we need to be sure we have,” he said.
BUSCH’S DOUBLE: Count Penske among the many in the industry pleased to see Kurt Busch making a bid at running Indianapolis and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.
Busch drove for Penske for six seasons. Now with Stewart-Haas Racing in NASCAR, Busch will run the Indy 500 for Andretti Autosport.
“I think Kurt is a focused guy. I think this is something he’s always wanted to do, he’s talked to me about it before, he’s with a good team and quite honestly, this will be a real good thing for him and (create) a terrific bit of interest in the speedway,” Penske said. “Andretti has had success there, I’m anxious to see him and we’ll try to help him if we can.”
RACE CONTROL: Derrick Walker, IndyCar’s president of competition and operations, discussed in-depth Saturday a handful of new rules, including the eliminations of double-file restarts on road and street courses. The double-file restarts will still be held on all ovals, except Indianapolis.
IndyCar’s decision to use a rotating group of three stewards in race control is not a reflection on race director Beaux Barfield, Walker said. Instead, it’s part of an overall upgrade to race control as Walker seeks to improve the consistency.
Barfield was heavily criticized several times last season for calls he made, but Walker said some of it was too harsh.
“Last year we had one person, who would have an on-or-off again love affair with the media. Beaux was the story for the weekend. He got a lot of calls that were blamed on him, and some were and some weren’t,” Walker said. “We needed to be better, and I wouldn’t say it was Beaux that was the problem. It was a collective we. It’s a tough job when you are a one-man band making those calls. Especially when you don’t have all the eyes that you need to have.
“Beaux, like anyone else, is human and he makes his mistakes just like all of us. But I don’t think he was the ogre of race control. I think race control just got left behind in the technology race.”
WEATHER WOES: A strong storm moved into St. Petersburg roughly an hour before the scheduled start of Saturday’s qualifying session. The grandstands were cleared and spectators were urged to take shelter inside the parking garage where many teams are housed, a nearby stadium and theater, or the airport terminal located behind turn 2.
Several drivers passed the time by gathering for a “selfie” photo similar to the one Ellen DeGeneres did with celebrities during the Oscars. Justin Wilson took the picture that included 11 other drivers.