The first time I read a detailed story about the man who would become my hero, Roger Penske, I was flying from Toronto to Indianapolis via Detroit in the 1990s. We were on a Northwest Airlines flight (I’ve always loved that defunct airline). because of the movie “North by Northwest”, which is one of my two or three favorites), but there was something wrong with the plane.
After sitting on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport for a while, the pilot told us that we weren’t going anywhere and that we had to make alternate arrangements.
A guy named Jack Cooke, who had been a racing champion at Pinecrest Speedway in Vaughan and worked for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, nodded to me. “Stay with me,” he said. We knew each other, so he tried to book two seats through Chicago, but no luck. Instead, I managed to get on a Sabena World Airlines flight.
Cooke and I boarded the plane, taxied to the tarmac, and realized we were the only two people on the flight. I’m serious. This was a jumbo jet that had just flown a group of people to Detroit, and was going to make a stop in Indianapolis before heading to Los Angeles.
We were on the plane for about 40 minutes and had the time of our lives. The hostesses served us filet mignon and a bottle of wine. We were offered a bourbon cocktail. One of them handed me a magazine. “Here,” she said. “There is a good story here. He’s a really interesting guy.”
The guy was Penske. He was a race car driver and owner. He was in the automobile business and had just completed the purchase of Hertz Penske Truck Rental. His motto was “effort equals results”, and I liked that.
He is perhaps best known for founding Team Penske in 1968 and leading the American professional racing team to one of the most successful in the history of the sport.
Last month he celebrated his 600th win when driver Josef Newgarden won the NTT IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on March 20. It’s just one of the records Team Penske has amassed over decades. Here’s a look at some of those impressive numbers.
- First win: Dick Guldstrand, George Wintersteen and Ben Moore at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway on February 6, 1966.
- 50th win: Mark Donohue in the Michigan 200 at Michigan International Speedway on July 18, 1971.
- 100th win: Bobby Unser in the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 24, 1981.
- 200th win: Paul Tracy in the Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway on May 25, 1997.
- victory 300: Ryan Briscoe at ABC Supply AJ Foyt 225 on the Milwaukee Mile on June 1, 2008.
- victory 400: Brad Keselowski at the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway on September 6, 2014.
- victory 500: Keselowski at the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 16, 2018.
Fifty different drivers have won at least one race for Team Penske since 1966. The top five winners are Keselowski with 67 wins, Donohue with 59, Scott McLaughlin with 49, and Rusty Wallace, Joey Logano and Will Power with 37 each.
Team Penske has won races in 14 different global series, with the most wins coming from performances in IndyCar (224 wins), NASCAR Cup Series (134), NASCAR Xfinity Series (81), Australian V8 Supercars (56), and IMSA (32). ). The 2010s have been his most successful decade so far, with 231 race wins for Team Penske. In the 2000s, he won 111 races, compared to 17 in the 1990s.
The 2020s could very well redefine success for the team. He already has 55 wins in this decade, which is just beginning his third season. Penske’s chances of winning more trips down Victory Lane will increase in 2023 when it resumes sports car competition with a Porsche LMDh prototype.
When it comes to Team Penske, it seems like effort equals some impressive results.