Skip to Main Content

No. 3: Race for Equality & Change Opens New Doors

Wednesday, December 30, 2020 Paul Kelly, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Race for Equality & Change Opens New Doors

As the owner of a multibillion-dollar global transportation business and the incomparable Team Penske racing teams, Roger Penske makes important decisions affecting many people every day.

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth of a series of 10 vignettes in which IMS Senior Communications Manager Paul Kelly picks his top 10 moments of 2020 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As the owner of a multibillion-dollar global transportation business and the incomparable Team Penske racing teams, Roger Penske makes important decisions affecting many people every day.

Pragmatism, hard work and good people – what Penske likes to call “human capital” – have been the foundation of his company and race team’s success. Emotion isn’t usually a major ingredient in that mix.

But Penske admits he was moved to tears after meeting Rod Reid in early 2020, a conversation that helped pave the way for one of the most important programs in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history.

Penske had just completed his purchase of IMS and INDYCAR and was reviewing the series and programs that used the facility when he met Reid, who has run the NXG Youth Motorsports program at the track for more than a decade. The program teaches life skills and STEM education to underprivileged and mainly minority youngsters through motorsports.

While explaining the NXG karting and education program to Penske, Reid said some participants in the program drove past IMS before they joined NXG, thinking the Speedway wasn’t accessible to them.

This revelation caused tears to well in the eyes of Penske, who was first exposed to racing in 1951 when his father brought him to the Indy 500. Penske knew this was a wrong that had to be righted, and the wheels of his always-activated mind began turning.

Fast-forward to July 4, and the Race for Equality & Change was announced by INDYCAR and IMS. The program is a major effort to support diversity and inclusivity across the INDYCAR industry. A key pillar of “Race for Equality & Change” is a $1 million fund to fuel internal and external programs and initiatives that will create fundamental change.

Key focuses of the “Race for Equality & Change” include: :

  • Recruiting and developing a diverse workforce throughout all levels of INDYCAR and IMS
  • Diversifying the competitive driver field at the grassroots, Road to Indy and NTT INDYCAR SERIES levels
  • Supporting impactful grassroots youth motorsports programs, including enhancing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s longstanding partnership with Nexgeneracers, a 501c3 that introduces minority students to the world of motorsports
  • Diversifying employment, leadership and ownership within the SERIES and with INDYCAR promoters
  • Investment in minority communities to encourage greater engagement with INDYCAR and IMS
  • Establishing a procurement program to meaningfully increase the number of minority-owned businesses that contract with INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway each year

The program gained even more traction in early October when a major expansion of the partnership between Penske Entertaiment Corp. and NXG Youth Motorsports was announced, including a permanent facility for the program at IMS.

In addition, Jimmie McMillian was named Chief Diversity Officer for Penske Entertainment Corp. McMillian has been Senior Corporate Counsel for IMS and INDYCAR since 2016 and is nationally recognized as a strong and consistent voice for diversity in the legal profession. He is charged with leading the ongoing implementation of vital Race for Equality & Change pillars.

Another key step in the program also took place Dec. 3 when the formation of Force Indy, a race team set to compete in the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, was announced. USF2000 is the first rung of the Road to Indy ladder system leading to the NTT INDYCAR Series.

Reid was named team principal for the new team, which will focus on hiring and developing Black American men and women mechanics, engineers, staff and drivers. Force Indy will be based in Concord, North Carolina, and will be mentored by Team Penske, based in nearby Mooresville, North Carolina.