broke down 18 laps from an easy win. But
Donohue inherited the lead and fittingly
gave his mentor win No. 1at Indianapolis.
A drought then set in as Bettenhausen
badly damaged his arm in a dirt car and got
fired in 1974, before Donohue lost his life in
an F1 accident in ’ 75. Tom Sneva received
his pink slip, despite back-to-back USAC
titles, because he and R.P. constantly
tangled. That left Mears, who began life at
Team Penske as a part-timer, but was
suddenly shoved into the catbird seat –
and he turned out to be Penske Perfect.
The Rocket was the consummate team
player, an essential trait in a culture that’s
existed through Danny Sullivan, Emerson
Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr. and Sr., Gil de Ferran,
Sam Hornish Jr., Castroneves and Montoya.
“With Roger, it’s always about the team;
it’s never about you,” offers Penske’s
three-time Indy 500 king Castroneves.
“There’s a lot of selfishness in racing, but
there’s none at Team Penske.
“When I joined, Gil hadn’t won a title
and I hadn’t led a lap, so I knew I had to
get along with him and learn as much as
I could, and it was fantastic. It’s the spirit
of the team and you want to make Roger
It’s wrong to say that Team Penske has been a genuine contender every time it’s
raced in the Indy 500. But when it is, its conversion rate is staggering. In its 42
appearances, 11 drivers have accumulated 16 wins – and doubtless there’ll be more.
SWEET 16…AND COUNTING
PENSKE’S INDY 500 WINS
three Indy 500 wins
(ABOVE, No. 2 in
2002), put him
second only to Mears
at the Brickyard for
Penske. (LEFT) Bobby
in 1981 is one of
three Unsers to win
the “500” with R.P.
Juan Pablo Montoya
Sam Hornish Jr.
Gil de Ferran
Penske-Cosworth PC- 6
Al Unser Jr.
Penske-Mercedes PC- 23
Penske-Chevrolet PC- 20