Roger Penske’s Secret Weapons

One month ago today, it was announced that Roger Penske was buying the NTT IndyCar Series, IMS Productions and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Since then, we’ve all been discussing all the different possibilities that The Captain brings to the table. The common saying throughout the past three weeks has been “Everything Roger Penske touches, turns to gold”.

While that seems to be true, I think Roger Penske’s greatest attribute is the way he deals with people. Not only does he seem to have an uncanny knack for identifying and hiring his kind of employee, his business history away from the track shows that he can get the most out of the people he has inherited through his business acquisitions.

For years, I’ve said that Tim Cindric is Roger Penske’s secret weapon. Cindric joined Team Penske in 1999, after serving as Team Manager for Team Rahal since 1992. Prior to that, he was with the old Truesports team. Cindric came to Team Penske at one of their lowest times in the team’s history. The team was in the midst of a fifty-one race winless streak that started about one-third through the 1997 season. They didn’t win another race for the rest of the decade. In that time, they had produced two bad chassis in a row – the PC-27 and the PC-27B. It didn’t help that they were also saddled with the underpowered Mercedes and Goodyear tires

Mercedes and Goodyear pulled out after the 1999 season and Penske abandoned his own chassis in favor of the Reynard chassis that had been dominating for the past few seasons. Along with Cindric, came Gil de Ferran, Helio Castroneves and the next two CART championships in 2000 and 2001. Cindric oversaw the team’s switch to the IRL in 2002.

Tim Cindric was named president of Team Penske in 2006. In addition to the IndyCar program, Cindric also oversees the company’s sports car program in IMSA as well as their stock car program on NASCAR; along with other racing programs and racing related Penske business entities.

Cindric has a unique and matter-of-fact sense of humor; but most of all – he mirrors Roger Penske’s business approach; which is to develop and reward the people around you, prepare for anything and have an extreme attention to detail. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m sure that Tim Cindric is the main cog in Roger Penske’s succession plan for his racing team, whenever health or age make Penske step away from things for good.

Now that Roger Penske has purchased IndyCar and IMS; he has more on his plate besides his championship winning race team. The fate of the series and the event it revolves around, have both been entrusted to Roger Penske. While we are all counting on that Penske golden touch to elevate IndyCar, IMS and the Indianapolis 500 – he knows he can’t do it alone.

While so many are focusing on his purchase if IMS – I think Penske’s biggest influence will be mostly felt in the NTT IndyCar Series. Fortunately, he has inherited a secret weapon there as well. While his race team is in excellent hands with Tim Cindric; Roger Penske has someone just as capable on the IndyCar side. He’s another secret weapon. No, I’m not talking about Mark Miles. I’m talking about Jay Frye.

In my opinion, Jay Frye has been the best hire in IndyCar since, well…ever. That goes back to every CART leader from John Frasco, Bill Stokkan and Andrew Craig to Joe Heitzler and Chris Pook. Of that bunch, I personally think Andrew Craig did the best job – but his reign included The Split.

Jay Frye has not had to deal with such turmoil, but he has brought some dynamic and much-needed leadership to the NTT IndyCar Series. Frye joined the series in 2013 as the Chief Revenue Officer, but quickly rose in the ranks. In 2015, he was promoted to President of Competition and Operations. In 2018, Frye was named president of IndyCar, overseeing competition, operations, technical matters, marketing and communications. He was a key person in the design and development of the new common body kit that began racing in 2018. He has also been working tirelessly on getting a third engine manufacturer to join the series.

Frye has also led the development of the aero screen that will be on all of the cars by the season-opener at St. Petersburg, and he is in the process of reviewing RFPs for the hybrid technology that will be powering the cars in 2022. One item that Frye was in charge of that got little mention was he oversaw the revamp of the communications department within IndyCar this past summer. My one hope is that he and Roger Penske will overrule Mark Miles on double-points for the Indianapolis 500 and especially the season-finale.

Jay Frye presents a common-sense face of IndyCar. He is very personable and very knowledgeable when it comes to motorsports. That’s a combination that knows how to build relationships. It was Frye’s relationships that allowed him to add Watkins Glen to the schedule in a matter of weeks to replace the defunct Boston race in 2016. To pull off something like that in such a short amount of time was nothing short of miraculous. Those are the kind of things that only a Roger Penske can do.

Roger Penske went out and hired Tim Cindric, because he knew he was a young up and coming star in the CART paddock. Twenty years later, he has fulfilled all expectations and more. Next year, he will become the face of Team Penske, while Roger Penske deals with other matters. By buying the NTT IndyCar Series, he inherited another star in Jay Frye. I think in the coming months and years, Frye will become a confident to Penske just like Cindric has. Together, they form Roger Penske’s dream team and will both serve as secret weapons in Penske’s arsenal.

George Phillips

3 Responses to “Roger Penske’s Secret Weapons”

  1. billytheskink Says:

    While it certainly struggled, I though the PC-27 was a very cool-looking car. I even once outfitted a bathroom with a toilet paper holder and a towel ring that reminded me of the PC-27’s elevated nosecone because I liked the look of that car so much. Despite its struggles, the PC-27 did seem to include some good ideas. As Penske’s Reynards morphed into “Renskes” during 2000 and 2001, you can see some influences from the PC-27, especially on the sidepod (which looked very much like the PC-27’s by the end of 2001).

    Also, much concurrence from me on Jay Frye.

  2. Good points, George. I was pleased that Mr. Penske kept Jay Frye in his role within the series. He is so capable and his accomplishments speak for themselves. Jay also listens to others. I stopped him at the Glen to thank him for putting together the race weekend at such short notice. He seemed genuinely pleased we were all having such
    a great time. And then he asked me where I was from and was surprised I came out from California.

    We really need to get back to the Glen sometime soon.

  3. BrandonW77 Says:

    While I’m glad you probably thoroughly enjoyed your trip to Lucas Oil Stadium….my god what a terrible game that was for Colts fans. I mean…ugh. I really like our new QB and I we’re headed in a good direction finally, but this season went from really promising to DOA real quick.

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