Famous team owner Roger Penske is celebrating a special milestone today, with the American celebrating his 75th birthday today!
While the racing driver has long since disappeared into the pages of the motorsport almanacs, Penske is by far better known as an imposing figure in the pit lane, who has built an motor racing empire out of what began as a small racing team.
A keen footballer in his youth, he had to give the game away after he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle when he was sixteen.
Mad about cars as a teenager, he finished his business administration studies after high school and started out behind the wheel while he was still in college. In 1961, he won the SCCA national title, and he made his Grand Prix debut racing a customer Cooper Climax at Watkins Glen, finishing eighth.
In 1962, he won the USAC road-racing crown, also winning the Riverside, Monterey and Puerto Rico Grands Prix, the Nassau TT and his class in the Sebring 12 Hours, before he made his second and final World Championship appearance at Watkins Glen, this time bringing his Lotus 24 home in ninth place.
After dabbling briefly in NASCAR, he quit racing altogether in 1964 and decided to go into business, all at the age of 27.
He moved into car sales, and quickly acquired a host of dealerships around the country. He used his funds to establish Penske Racing in 1966 with driver Mark Donohue at the wheel, and they claimed victory in a CanAm race at Mosport.
Together, the pair continued to kick goals, winning races and titles in CanAm and TransAm, before they dipped their toe into the IndyCar scene in 1969; Donohue won ‘Rookie of the Year’ honours with a seventh-placed finish at the Brickyard.
The rest, as they say, is history. Penske has since gone on to be one of the powerhouses in the motorsport world, with his empire including an IndyCar team, a NASCAR operation and a sports car team, all of which have proven to be extremely successful ventures. He even briefly ran a Formula 1 team in the mid-1970s, with driver John Watson famously winning the 1977 Austrian Grand Prix.
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