Team Penske goes into
this year’s Indy 500
looking for its 17th
win, and a record like
that gives rise to all
sorts of quirky stats.
Like this one: Its Indy
honor roll includes
three Unsers. Bobby
earned Penske’s third
Indy win in 1981, Al
followed six years
later, and Al Jr
rounded it out with his
KEEP IT IN
HOTEL LOBBY TO VICTORY LANE
1987 INDIANAPOLIS 500
t the start of May 1987, neither Al
Unser nor Penske’s spare March 86C
were meant to participate in the 71st
Indianapolis 500. By the end of the
month, the combination had won it.
Penske’s plans for that year’s “500”
centered around three Penske PC-16s,
although the team also entered three
March 86Cs as backups. But “Big Al” had
been left stranded when Danny Ongais
secured the team’s third car alongside
regulars Rick Mears and Danny Sullivan.
However, a crash in practice ruled
Ongais out for the race, meaning the team
now needed a backup driver. Then the
PC-16s were parked when Mears and
Sullivan decided the March was quicker, so
Penske needed all three of its spares, too.
Things is, at that point, the team’s third
March was serving as a hotel lobby display
in Reading, Pa. The team quickly retrieved
and prepped it, got Unser on the phone,
and the veteran was in the field.
On race day, Roberto Guerro was
promoted into the lead when Mario
Andretti slowed, only to then be forced to
pit for repairs himself. Just a couple of
weeks after contemplating an enforced
retirement, Unser took the lead and held on
to become Indy’s second four-time winner.
Penske led the
introduction of the new
Ilmor Chevy V8 at Indy
in 1987. Perversely, the
only Penske entry that
didn’t use a Chevy
that year was the
March 86C display
chassis that ultimately
took Unser to victory
Just about any Penske entry is a potential Indy 500 winner. But the ’ 87 race pushed that to the limit.
1979 Mears’ first of four
Starting from the pole, Rick Mears drives
his Penske-Cosworth PC- 6 to the first of a
record-equaling four Indianapolis 500 wins.
In a great season for “The Rocket,” he also
takes the first of three CART titles for R.P.
1977 Breaking 200 at Indy
Tom Sneva, a two-time Indy car
national champion with Penske,
records the first official 200mph lap
at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
1981 Roger’s first winning Unser
Al and Al Jr. will follow him later, but in
1981, Bobby Unser driving a PC-9B
becomes the first member of the New
Mexico racing dynasty to win an Indy 500
with Penske Racing (see above).
“Thing is, the team’s third March chassis
was serving as a hotel lobby display in