The Indy USGP is/was a favorite event of mine and for all my Midwestern (and Italian) friends. I don’t think any track worked as hard to make a MotoGP event a success than Indy did. And Indy was a successful event for MotoGP from the perspective of happy fans and paddock (other than Stoner, of course).
That said, the current rumors suggesting that Austin will lose their event as it goes back to Indy in 2022 are, really, baseless. Anything is possible, as they say, but the reality is MotoGP returning to Indy is very unlikely.
Why? The long version is that for the entirety of the MotoGP event at Indy the Hulman-George family owned the facility and the MotoGP race was blessed by the Hulman-George family. Mel Harder, with the blessing from the family that owns IMS, was the point man at Indy for MotoGP until the final year of the event when he, coincidentally, took the same job with Austin’s Circuit of the Americas. Harder is and was a huge MotoGP enthusiast; he was much of the reason the race became a reality. The Hulman-George family, with Harder as point man, made the investment in the track to establish the Indy MotoGP race.
The key point to keep in mind in regards to an Indy USGP is that the Hulman-George family no longer own the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The facility was sold to motorsports legend and industry titan Roger Penske in 2020 for an undisclosed sum.
Billionaire Penske, aka “the Captain” is many things: consummate businessman, ruthless, okay, demanding team owner in several different car racing disciples and, yes, he occasionally likes to take his Harley for a spin and was rumored last June to be considering buying an Indian Scout. But he ain’t a motorcycle race head like you and I. At 84, Penske knows what works in business and racing.
Penske, according to the late journalist and broadcaster Robin Miller, was never shy about his disdain, if you will, for bike racing.
The late Tom Jobe, who was one of the most respected fabricators in racing, knew Penske for more than fifty years. He did some work for Roger and walked in the same circles as Penske, Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney and Mark Donohue when they were basically all paddock punks wearing white t-shirts like most gear heads of the era. Jobe, while he could call Penske and say “Hey, it’s Tom …” and Penske would chat, wasn’t really a big Roger Penske fan.
Aside from opining that Penske was “cheap” Jobe never said why their relationship was semi-rocky (He barked “It’s personal!” when Al Ludington tried to pin him down and hear a good “Captain” story). Jobe loved motorbikes and the racing, I always wondered if that was what fueled the riff between Jobe and Penske.
Penske bought IMS and has invested millions in the facility in the short time he has owned it, and has big plans for the track he loves. At 84 his current to-do list is packed with things that are important to him or make sense to his capitalist soul. Re-establishing MotoGP at Indy won’t stir his interests on either point unfortunately.
In many instances Penske’s business and his racing are deeply intertwined; this is also key in why MotoGP is not returning to Indy. Roger Penske is one of the few humans on the planet who could write the check to buy Dorna lock, stock and barrel if the current owners of MotoGP (Canadian Teachers Pension Union) decided to sell. If he owned MotoGP, then maybe Penske’d do it. Maybe.
Look, nobody would like to be more wrong on this than me, but the last motorcycle race held at Indy was the stand-alone MotoAmerica event last year. That MotoAmerica race may very well be the last motorcycle race ever held at IMS.