Team Penske must remove tobacco logo
Marlboro Team Penske learned late Wednesday it will be compelled to run the Indianapolis 500 simply as Team Penske.
Marlboro logos will be removed from the team's two qualified cars.Federal tobacco legislation limiting a company's participation to one racing series has forced Phillip Morris USA to accept a compromise. Marlboro logos will be removed from the team's two qualified cars, reducing the company's visibility at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway through Sunday's race.
"We're waiting for further direction from Phillip Morris," said Dan Luginbuhl, Penske Corp. vice president. "By the time the sun rises, you'll see some changes in our look."
Luginbuhl didn't know Wednesday night whether those changes might include the signs on the Penske garage, team uniforms or its support equipment. He said the cars will have the same red-and-white paint scheme but with all references to Marlboro removed.
Luginbuhl also would not speculate as to why the group of state attorneys general administering the tobacco settlement -- which has been in effect since November 1998 -- waited until now to get involved.
At issue is the Penske team's participation in the Indy 500 as a member of Championship Auto Racing Teams. Although CART sanctioned its members to compete at Indy, the 500 is an Indy Racing League event.
"It's a matter of interpretation," Luginbuhl said. "All this just came up in the last few days after we had been here for a week and practiced and qualified."
CART announced its 2001 schedule last August, clearing the way for its teams to come to Indianapolis. Team Penske made its intention clear in January. Why, team officials wonder, did it come to a head four days before the race?
"That's the $64,000 question," Luginbuhl said.
Penske was traveling Wednesday but was kept apprised of the developments by phone.
Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing, said the team wasn't looking for a loophole in the law and never anticipated a problem.
"If we weren't confident we're doing the right thing, we wouldn't be here in the first place," he said. "This wasn't something where we rolled in here in the dark. It's been a very methodical undertaking."
Cindric said the decision won't be a distraction in preparing drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves to pursue Penske's 11th Indianapolis 500 victory.
"This will have little or no effect," he said, adding that the crew was planning on working late Wednesday anyway to install a new engine. "If we're not strong enough to work through this as a team, then maybe we're not the right team."
Phillip Morris senior official Ellen Merlo said the company is "pleased to have reached this resolution." But a meeting with the attorneys general has been requested after the race to discuss establishing consistent guidelines.
Asked if Penske's future participation in the 500 is at risk, Cindric said, "We'll know more about that after that meeting."