6 February 2019

The Captain. Fascinating F1 Facts: 69

Roger Penske will be flying to London in the next couple of weeks to attend the annual Motoring Dinner of the Royal Automobile Club. The day before his visit Penske will celebrate his 82nd birthday, although this does not mean that he has taken his foot off the gas. Penske never looks back. He is constantly looking ahead and striving for more success.

Even at 82, he is on the move all the time, flying around the world in one of his fleet of Gulfstream executive jets. The day before he flies to London, he will be in Arizona, but will then fly overnight and arrive in the UK in the morning, ready for a series of business meetings before the RAC event. He will then jet off in the morning for meetings in Europe before returning to the US in the afternoon, which will get him back in time for meetings the next day. Penske is a dynamo, a man in perpetual motion.

His racing season began in January with the Daytona 24 Hours, in which his team ran a pair of Acura ARX-05s, which were fighting for victory but ended up in third, with Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi, with the second car of Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud finishing eighth. The season will end in late November in Australia, where DJR Team Penske will finish the Supercars season in Newcastle, New South Wales.

Penske attends all the IndyCar races and many of the NASCAR events as he can. He will be at IMSA races if they do not clash with the other series.  This means that he will attend 40 or more events this season. But, of course, Penske is a busy man. His various companies today employ more than 50,000 people around the world. There are 3,300 facilities and the empire has an annual turnover of $26 billion. Penske has also been a director of General Electric, Delphi Corporation, Home Depot Inc. and the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, while he was also chairman of the committee that got the Super Bowl back to Detroit in 2006.

But although Penske is a businessman of repute, it is his achievements in motor sport that have put him on a pedestal in the United States. This year will make the 50th anniversary of Penske's first Indy 500 entry, a Sunoco-sponsored Lola-Offenhauser for Mark Donohue. Since then Penske's teams have won the Indy 500 on 17 different occasions, as well as collecting a total of 204 race victories in USAC, CART, Champ Car and IndyCar. The team has scored a total of 111 NASCAR Cup wins since the team beagn racing in the stock car series in 1972, and a further 65 in the secondary Xfinity Series. In September last year the team reached its 500th victory in 14 different racing series, an achievement that involved no fewer than 50 different drivers in Indy car, NASCAR, F1, IMSA, CanAm, IROC, TransAm, and Australian Supercars.

The team was formed in 1966 and won a class victory in its very first race - the 1966 Daytona 24 Hours - with Dick Guldstrand, George Wintersteen and Ben Moore sharing a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.

Known to his crew, and nowadays many others, as The Captain, Penske was a very competitive driver, racing against the likes of Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Dan Gurney, Graham Hill, Jack Brabham. He retired when he was still relatively young, being sufficiently pragmatic to understand that he was a better businessman than he was a racing driver.

For a brief period, between 1974 and 1976, Penske entered cars in Formula 1 and the team won the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix with driver John Watson. Penske was the last US constructor to win a Grand Prix, but when the sponsorship ran out, he sold the team and used the facilities he had developed in the UK to build his Indycars.

But let us not forget that Penske was also an investor in Ilmor, which initially offered him success in Indycar racing but later built its own engines and was ultimately taken over by Mercedes-Benz to build its F1 engines…

In his time, he has been a driver, a team owner, a sponsor, an investor and even a circuit owner and race promoter.

About the only thing that Roger Penske hasn't done is to win the Le Mans 24 Hours…

…but there's still time for that.

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