On the list of the greatest personalities in the American motorsport history, Roger Penske (nicknamed The Captain) is definitely on the top, even the number 1 according to many. Since his racing debut in the late 1950s, he marked six decades of the American racing as a race car driver, team owner, businessman and entrepreneur.
As a driver, Penske was a four-time SCCA National Sports Car champion (1960-1963) and USAC Road Racing champion (1962). He recorded two starts in Formula One races, at US Grand Prix in 1961 and 1962. He retired from racing in 1965, founding his own racing team in 1966.
As a team owner, Penske collected 19 victories at three greatest American races - 16 wins at Indianapolis 500, two wins at Daytona 500 and one win at Daytona 24h. Team Penske is the most successful team in the American open-wheel racing, recording 198 wins (until the end of 2017) and 15 championship titles.
Currently, Team Penske competes in the IndyCar Series, NASCAR and Australian V8 Supercars Championship (as DJR Team Penske). Previously, Penske was running teams in Formula One, endurance races (ALMS, Grand-Am), Trans-Am Series and Can-Am Series.
As a businessman, Roger Penske is a leading man of the Penske Corporation, that features Penske Truck Leasing, Penske Automotive Group and Penske Performance Inc. Team Penske is a part of the Penske Performance Inc.
Combining business and motorsport since the beginning
Roger S. Penske was born on February 20, 1937, in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Roger's father was a corporate executive and he implanted a business spirit to his son Roger from the earliest days. As a teenager, Roger started to combine business and motorsport, as he was buying, repairing and selling cars. Penske started his racing career in 1958, competing with Chevrolet Corvette at Marlboro Motor Raceway in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. A year later, he graduated from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
Two consecutive SCCA championship titles
In 1959, Penske started to race with Porsche cars, using Porsche 550 RS and Porsche 718 RSK. In 1960, Penske has won his first championship title, being the best in the SCCA National Sports Car Championship with Porsche 718 RS 60. The Sports illustrated magazine awarded him as the 1960 SCCA Driver of the Year. He captured one more SCCA title in 1961, driving the Maserati Tipo 61.
Class win at Sebring 12h and F1 debut at Watkins Glen
In 1961, Penske debuted at 12 hours of Sebring, driving Porsche 718 RS 61 for Brumos Porsche. He and Bob Holbert finished 5th overall and first in Class S1.6. In October 1961, he participated in Formula One US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, driving the #6 Cooper T53-Climax for John M. Wyatt. He finished in 8th place.
Both SCCA and USAC champion in 1962
At 1962 Sebring 12 hours, Penske participated together with Bruce McLaren, driving Briggs Cunningham's Cooper Monaco T57. They finished in fifth place.
Cooper Monaco was also Penske's victorious car for his third SCCA title. He was a double champion in 1962, as he participated with different cars in the USAC Road Racing Championship, taking the championship title ahead of Dan Gurney.
In October 1962, Penske returned to Watkins Glen to participate one more time in Formula One US Grand Prix. This time, he was driving Lotus 24-Climax for Dupont Team Zerex, finishing in ninth place. Penske captured his fourth consecutive SCCA National trophy in 1963, driving the Zerex Special.
Sebring class victory and Le Mans debut in 1963
Penske scored one more class victory at Sebring 12 hours in 1963. Together with Augie Pabst, he was driving the #24 Ferrari 250 GTO for Mecom Racing Team. They finished fourth overall and first in GT3.0 class.
In 1963, Penske debuted at 24 hours of Le Mans, sharing North American Racing Team's Ferrari 330 TRI with Pedro Rodriguez. After starting first on the grid, they retired after 113 laps because of an accident.
Racing until 1964, concentrating on business since 1965
In 1964, Penske competed in the US Road Racing Championship with Cooper Monaco T61M and Jim Hall's Chaparral 2A. Together with Jim Hall, he participated at 1964 Sebring 12 hours, finishing in 18th place with Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport.
It was Penske's last competitive season. In 1965, he retired as a driver and concentrated on his first Chevrolet dealership in Philadelphia. Racing remained a key element in Penske's overall business plan and he founded Penske Racing in 1966.
Penske Racing debuted at 1966 Daytona 24 hours
Penske Racing debuted at 1966 Daytona 24 hours, fielding Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray C2 for Dick Guldstrand, Ben Moore and George Wintersteen. They finished 12th overall and first in GT3.0 class. One more class victory followed at Sebring 12 hours, with Wintersteen and Moore in the #9 Corvette.
After that, Penske joined forces with Mark Donohue to put Lola T70 in the USRRC and Can-Am Series. Penske Racing quickly found success with Donohue, winning two consecutive USRRC championships and three SCCA Trans-Am titles.
Open-wheel racing debut for Penske Racing in 1968
After three years of campaigning sedans and sports cars, Penske Racing and Mark Donohue made their debut in open-wheel racing, running a pair of USAC-sanctioned road races in 1968. In 1969, the team made its debut at the Indianapolis 500 and Donohue finished seventh, earning the Rookie of the Year honors.
Maiden Indianapolis 500 victory in 1972
Donohue finished second at Indianapolis in 1970 and recorded the team's first Champ Car victory at Pocono 500 in July 1971. Donohue brought Penske the first Indianapolis 500 victory in 1972.
Since then, Team Penske has become a synonym for the American open-wheel racing, with more than 170 victories and 14 championship titles. At Indianapolis 500, Penske's team collected 16 victories.
Penske's champions and Indy 500 winners
The drivers who captured open-wheel racing titles for Penske, in the USAC, CART and IndyCar championships, were Rick Mears (three times), Tom Sneva, Al Unser, Gil de Ferran (two times each), Danny Sullivan, Al Unser Jr., Sam Hornish Jr., Will Power and Simon Pagenaud.
The Indianapolis 500 winners for Penske were Rick Mears (four times), Helio Castroneves (three times), Mark Donohue, Bobby Unser, Danny Sullivan, Al Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr., Gil de Ferran, Sam Hornish Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Victory at 1969 Daytona 24 hours
Three years after Daytona 24h debut, Penske Racing scored a surprising victory at the greatest American endurance race. Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons were driving the #6 Lola T70-Chevrolet, beating the nearest rivals for 30 laps.
Another great result at Daytona followed in 1971 when Sunoco-sponsored Ferrari 512 M took pole position and finished the race in third place, driven by Mark Donohue and David Hobbs. In 1971, Penske Racing debuted at 24h Le Mans with Ferrari, not finishing the race.
Formula One debut in 1971
Penske-White Racing had Formula One debut in 1971, participating in the last two rounds, at the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport Park and US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. The team fielded McLaren M19A-Cosworth for Mark Donohue in Canada, where he finished on the podium, behind Jackie Stewart and Ronnie Peterson. At Watkins Glen, David Hobbs finished in tenth place with Penske's car.
Mark Donohue has been killed in August 1975
Penske Cars team returned to F1 in 1974, entering Penske PC1-Cosworth for Mark Donohue in the last two races (Canada and US).
Maiden F1 victory at 1976 Austrian Grand Prix
John Watson continued to drive for Citibank Team Penske in 1976 Formula 1 season. He scored a maiden win for Penske at Austrian Grand Prix at the Österreichring, a year after Mark Donohue was killed on the same race track. John Watson finished 7th in the points at the end of the season.
Roger Penske withdrew from the team at the end of the year to refocus on Champ Car racing, although two teams (ATS and Interscope) were using Penske PC4 cars in 1977 F1 season.
NASCAR debut for Penske Racing in 1972
A diverse schedule during the 1970s was increased when Penske Racing debuted in NASCAR in 1972. Penske's NASCAR team made its debut at Riverside International Raceway where Mark Donohue was driving a factory-sponsored red-white-blue American Motors Matador.
After running a part-time schedule, the team entered full-time schedule in 1976, with Bobby Allison as a driver. In 1977, Penske sold his machinery to Bill Elliott and left stock car racing.
Two Daytona 500 wins and two NASCAR titles
Penske returned to NASCAR in 1991, with Rusty Wallace as a driver in the #2 Pontiac, and since then the team was a regular entry in the NASCAR premier series. The first great success came in 2008 when Ryan Newman won Daytona 500 with #12 Dodge Charger.
In 2010, Brad Keselowski became the NASCAR Nationwide Series champion. In 2012, Keselowski became the champion in the Sprint Cup Series with #2 Dodge Charger. One more Daytona 500 victory for Team Penske followed in 2015, with Joey Logano in the #22 Ford Fusion.
Three consecutive ALMS titles with Porsche RS Spyder
Penske Racing returned to the roots in 2005 after more than 30 years, driving the Porsche RS Spyder prototype in the LMP2 class of the American Le Mans Series.
The first win came in the last race of the 2005 season, at Laguna Seca, with Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen as drivers. In 2006, Penske Racing scored seven wins in 10 races, taking its first ALMS title, while Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr were drivers' champions. In 2007, the team was absolutely dominant, taking eleven wins in 12 races and defending a title. Penske's drivers Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard were the champions. After five wins in 2008, including Sebring 12h, Penske Racing captured third consecutive ALMS LMP2 title. Dumas and Bernhard defended their titles.
In 2009, Penske Racing switched to Grand-Am Rolex Series, running Porsche-powered Riley prototype. Dumas and Bernhard finished fourth in the points.
Two legends together – Roger Penske and Dick Johnson
Between 2010 and 2014, Team Penske participated only in the IndyCar Series and NASCAR. Then, in September 2014, Roger Penske made a deal with another racing legend, the Australian Dick Johnson and he purchased a 51% stake in Dick Johnson Racing.
They formed DJR Team Penske and entered the #17 Ford Falcon FG X in the 2015 season of the V8 Supercars Championship. In 2016, the team expanded to two cars, adding #12 Ford on the grid.