It’s Surprising it Took this Long

When we first learned that Roger Penske was buying the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as IndyCar – we all joked about how long it would take for someone to claim that Penske has rigged everything for his team to win. That was back in November of 2019. This week, we got full confirmation that the loons and conspiracy theorists are out there in full force. It’s surprising it took this long.

Wednesday night, as I was going through the Mailbag, I saw the following question:

“You know the whole reason they restarted the race was so Newgarden could win, right? Penske didn’t want McLaughlin to take points off Newgarden. Scott practically lifted to let Josef by. Gotta get the win for the Penske golden boy. They even screwed Power by not letting him know in time that the pits were open after the Harvey yellow. All for the All-American boy.” –Ryan, from the Burkhart Lake Airport Grand Prix Office

I’m sure Ryan meant Burke Lakefront Airport – home of the Cleveland Grand Prix. That was my first clue that this wasn’t written by a Mensa member.

At my age, I’ve seen just about everything and I should know better than to pay attention to things like this. My first thought was that this was just a reader trolling Marshall Pruett, and this was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek – just to get a reaction. But the more I thought about it, I realized that this is the same sort of stuff we hear on talk radio – be it sports talk or political talk radio. Some people simply need to think things through, before going public with their thoughts.

I hear it a lot the next day after a Titans game. “Those announcers were obviously pulling for the Patriots. Network TV guys always want the Titans to lose”. I loved my father and miss him every day, but this was one of his pitfalls. He was always certain that the announcers were always against his Tennessee Vols, and you could not convince him otherwise. I would always tell him that they don’t care who wins, they just want a good game – but he was certain they had some mysterious bias against the Vols.

There is no shortage of people out there who absolutely hate Roger Penske, along with his race team. Some feel that he simply has too much money. Others are convinced that his money drove up the cost of doing business in IndyCar back in the 80s (there may be something to that one), while others still resent him for helping to form CART and break away from USAC in the late 70s – in what some people refer to as The Original Split.

Some have hated the man and his team as far back as they can remember. It has been engrained into their entire way of thinking, when it comes to their IndyCar fandom. That’s fine. In order for a sport to survive, you need villains as well as heroes. It’s indifference that kills sports.

But you can hate someone so much that your thinking becomes flawed and then laughable. That’s apparently what has happened to Ryan, as he spewed nonsense about fixing races and team orders to help the Golden Boy.

I don’t normally buy into conspiracy theories. I believe that Neal and Buzz actually landed on the moon that Sunday in July of 1969. I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President Kennedy, and that terrorists brought down the Twin Towers, not some evil faction within the US Government. I don’t believe that TV announcers have a bias for or against certain teams and I don’t think the fix is in for IndyCar races.

I think in the three seasons that Roger Penske has owned the series and IMS, he has gone out of his way to prevent anyone from making any rational accusation about any conflict of interest – with rational being the operative word. He has done everything possible, short of selling or shutting down his team.

But that hasn’t stopped people like Ryan from coming out of the woodwork. Have these people always been around and we just weren’t aware of them, or has the internet cultivated them and allowed them to spread like a virus? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the best thing about the internet is that it has given a voice to people that previously didn’t have one. The worst thing about the internet is that it has given a voice to people that previously didn’t have one.

Do people really think that IndyCar racing is rigged? If it was, do you really think it would stay a secret? Disgruntled employees love to talk, and a secret like that would not stay very secret, very long.

It would be bad if something like Jeopardy was rigged, but the worst that could happen is some dorky guy may not win as much money as the other dorky guy. But no one is risking their life to play Jeopardy, or putting millions of dollars on the line. If Scott Dixon or Chip Ganassi had any inkling that the series was rigged for the Penske drivers; do you think Dixon would continue to risk his life in every race, or that Ganassi would continue to seek sponsors to pay for his race team? Do you think sponsors would continue to invest in a series that was rigged?

Apparently, Ryan thinks he is smarter than Dixon, Ganassi or the folks at PNC Bank. He is the only one that is sharp enough to be on to Roger Penske and see how he is pulling one over on the entire  motorsports world.

This is also my response to those that swear the moon landing was fake – and they are generally people that weren’t even alive when it took place. With the thousands and thousands of NASA employees and government contractors that were involved with the Apollo program; don’t you think at least a few would have given concrete evidence that it was faked? Instead, we now get a few nutjobs interviewed on You Tube who quote someone now conveniently deceased that worked for NASA, who swore it was faked. Could the Government really keep a secret like that? They have enough trouble delivering a letter across town (sorry Paul H.)

No, IndyCar racing is not rigged. Some of the decisions to come out of the IndyCar offices can be frustrating, but I’ve never thought for a minute that anything in the rulebook or on race weekends was set up to benefit a certain driver or team.

Maybe I’m too naïve, because I tend to take things at face-value. I am certain that someone reading my conspiracy examples will tell me I’m dead-wrong about at least one of them. But the world is full of conspiracy theorists, and I guess I should be surprised that it took this long for them to become vocal about Roger Penske.

Look, I get it if you don’t like Roger Penske. I admire the man and think he has done a lot to save the sport, but I also agree he has inadvertently done a few things to harm to the sport over the last five decades. But I don’t think you can intelligently question his integrity and think he would use his new position to manipulate races just to benefit his team. After all, how many IndyCar championships or Indianapolis 500 wins has his team won since he took ownership? The answer is zero.

George Phillips

14 Responses to “It’s Surprising it Took this Long”

  1. I saw Ryan’s comment but ignored it. No point in engaging. More to the point is why did they publish such twaddle.

  2. Also anybody who “hates “ RP is 99% sure to be a loser anyway.

    • James T Suel Says:

      I think you are right on this one. There are people out there that if things do not turn out the way they think it should,they spout this nonsense such as Ryan. I admire Roger Penske and his race team. I am a big Newgarden fan. Just watch the way he drives. I don’t agree with everything RP has done, however overall he’s been good for this sport.

  3. This kind of letter is the reason why I don’t read the mailbag anymore

    • billytheskink Says:

      Marshall and Mark sure do print a lot of stinkers and Marshall’s response usually offers no enlightenment at all because they are simply dismissing the silly question. I wonder if that is simply bad discretion on their part or if the number of letters received is down to the point that stuff like Ryan’s conspiracy are actually some of the better ones.

      That said, I did think his response in this last mailbag to Mike from Cincinnati’s wild rant about how he is going to stop attending the Indy 500 because Penske wins all of the races while owning the series was good (1. Penske won “all” of the races before he owned the series too, and 2.Penske has not won the 500 or the championship under his ownership).

  4. It’s all a plot by the illuminate to take over the world by rigging indycar races. Elvis told me about it at a waffle house the other night. I saw a few other places where people made similar comments about Penske, they all want to hate something.

  5. I certainly agree with you on this one, George. In fact, I make the same argument that you do regarding these conspiracies, when rigging a result would require perfect coordination by many different people. Anyone who makes such a claim should present evidence to support their claim that the result was rigged. If they won’t, or if, like Ryan, they provide evidence that’s easily refuted, they’ve shown that they shouldn’t be taken seriously. We can only hope that “Ryan from the Burkhart Lake Airport Grand Prix Office” isn’t in a position of responsibility.

    With that said, there is an underlying issue that results when a participant in the series owns the series. Putting aside silly claims that the results are rigged WWE-style, there’s always the concern that judgment calls made by officials that happen to favor the series owner will be questioned. And it seems that a lot of judgment calls made by IndyCar officials these days, ranging from the circumstances under which drivers will be penalized to the conditions under which a race will be red-flagged, are made by the seat of the pants. I think that the series needs to do something about that.

    Otherwise, seat-of-the-pants officiating is always going to raise concerns that the officials are biased—perhaps subconsciously. Suppose that the scenario at the end of the 2002 Indy 500 were to occur today, with a Penske-owned car being the beneficiary of a highly controversial officiating decision. It would be best if the criteria used to decide who won that race were spelled out as clearly as possible in the series rulebook, using objective criteria to the extent possible, instead of leaving it to the (unchallengeable) discretion of series officials. Even if those officials are doing their best to apply the rules as impartially as possible, it’s important to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    Even if Ryan’s silly theory is correct, the race restart could not at all guarantee Newgarden a win unless the Coyne cars and O’Ward were also in on th scheme. I suppose McLaughlin also slowed down to let Malukas by as well… Also, I believe folks listening to Power’s radio have confirmed that Power was supposed to pit with his teammates but that this was miscommunicated (Colton Herta understands).

    “It would be bad if something like Jeopardy was rigged, but the worst that could happen is some dorky guy may not win as much money as the other dorky guy.”

    It think that would actually be a federal crime too, after the laws were amended in the wake of the late 1950s quiz show scandals.

    • You are absolutely correct. I can attest from personal experience that when you’re on one of these shows, you’re assigned a minder who accompanies you to make sure no one gives you the answers.

  7. There was no conspiracy of course, but I am surprised more wasn’t made of the screw job Will Power got from the team by leaving him out during that yellow, yet having Scott and Josef pit (or ‘box’ as the cool kids say). I don’t know if that was Will’s fault for not pitting, or just a bad decision by his strategist. Whatever the reason, it cost Power some valuable points in the championship.

  8. Anyone who believes in these grand conspiracies where tens of thousands of people keep the secret has clearly never either a) organized a surprise party or b) done any sort of project management. I

  9. Tim Nothhelfer Says:

    I think Roger Penske is paying a very high price for taking responsibility for the speedway, the series and the future of the sport. He seems to be aging like most American Presidents while in office. He is a very competitive person that walked away from the team activities to make INDYCAR great like it should be .

  10. how to tell the Moon Landing was real:
    the Soviet Union gave up on the Moon.

    regarding Jeopardy, there is precedent for “fixing”:

    some secrets can be kept by a lot of people for a long time:

  11. This seems a little one-sided.

    I have no idea about Ryan and also think “God bless Roger” is well directed … but …

    Having heroes and villains is OK as long as the villain is the same as yours?

    The only part on an Indycar you’re allowed to mess with is the shocks. You can start your own shock company in the hopes of beating the competition. We heard recently about Andretti shocks being brilliant on one type of track and back-of-the field at other types of tracks.
    … So … pitting Dale Coyne against some random BILLIONAIRE in spending on shock research is fair??

    And besides, Jeopardy guys are dorky?????? Now you’ve really gone over the top.

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