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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Penske throws diversity into high gear with Team Force Indy

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When the Penske Entertainment Corporation announced iits initiatives to bolster diversity in motorsports this past July, I was both enthused and curious as to how their efforts would work and when we’d see the results.

As with anything Roger Penske sets out to do there’s always a blueprint, and earlier this week details regarding the formation of the Force Indy USF 2000 race team were unveiled, with some familiar names and faces proposing to work together in terms of fostering change and promoting diversity in racing. 

Partnering with NXG Youth Motorsports President and CEO Rod Reid, the official announcement of the Force Indy USF 2000 race team was made this week, and as you might imagine there is a lot optimism regarding the opportunity to collaborate with the Penske Organization. 

“This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Black ownership in terms of cars and teams, but I do think it’s the first time we will be able to do something sustainable because of the support that’s being allocated,” stated Reid at the press conference that was attended by all the team principals. 

With over 40 years of experience in motorsports and a phenomenal track record in the NXG program, Reid was both an obvious and excellent choice to head up the team and that sentiment was echoed by Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles who spoke of the admiration he has for Reid. “Coach Reid is clearly driven,” added Boles.

“I love his passion and his unselfishness. He’s dreamed since the 1980s about developing a team like this and to place an African American business in a space that hasn’t always seen a lot of African Americans in it.”

The team will make its debut next March at the St. Petersburg USF2000 event with a sponsor and driver to be announced in the near future, but the work has already begun with the operation being housed in Concord, North Carolina, as part of a Penske Organization mentorship program for the first season.

Clearly, Reid could not be more optimistic about the future of this partnership and is looking beyond the USF2000 series with an eye on Indy Car Racing.

“While this is about diversity, we are also inviting the motorsports industry to embrace the presence of African Americans and people of color in the pits, the paddock and in other places in motorsports,” added Reid. 

“It’s an invaluable experience to be working with the Penske Organization.”

Notes: One of the biggest additions Roger Penske made in his quest for diversity at IMS was the appointment of Jimmie McMillan to the position of chief diversity officer. McMillan is no stranger to racing, having served as senior legal counsel to IMS since 2016 and played a prominent role developing the partnership between Penske and Reid. 

The Force Indy USF2000 entry will carry the number 99 upon it as a tribute to the legendary Dewey Gaston, one of the first African American race drivers who registered numerous wins in stock cars, midgets and motorcycles during his career. 

Danny Bridges, who watched Willy T. Ribbs break the color barrier at IMS in 1991, and is looking forward to watching the Force Indy USF2000 team, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or bridgeshd@aol.com.

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