72 OCTOBER 2017
CHEVROLET CORVETTE STINGRAY
“If you go back to 1966, my first race was
with a Corvette and we’ve come a long way.”
Penske Racing was birthed as a sports
car team, quickly graduated to Indy cars,
eventually added stock cars to its growing
family, and today, the rechristened Team
Penske reaches as far as Australia with
the DJR Penske Supercars program. But
everything comes back to sports cars as
the Captain’s spiritual moorings.
Daytona’s new 24-hour race was the site
of Penske Racing’s professional debut in
’ 66 with a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. In
typical fashion, the coupe started the race
immaculate and, despite a nose-crunching
altercation with a slower car, won the GT
class with drivers Dick Guldstrand, Ben
Moore and George Wintersteen.
Race No. 1 earned win No. 1. And 51
years later, with 29 assorted championships
in hand and 500 victories in sight, the entire
Penske organization has a beautiful blue
Corvette to thank for the embarrassment
of riches that have followed.
2. 1967-’ 69
CHEVROLET CAMARO, TRANS-AM
Sunoco blue and yellow would garner
iconoclastic status starting with Penske’s
Trans-Am Camaros, its hues made famous
by the winning ways of the first true
Penske driver, Mark Donohue.
At a time when only a manufacturers’
championship was awarded, Donohue’s
19 wins over a three-year span also
delivered Chevy the ’ 68 Over 2-Liter title.
Beyond the car and its multitude of
chassis improvements authored from the
Penske shop in Pennsylvania, the team’s
360-degree approach to racing made its
first appearance with the Trans-Am
Camaros. Left unregulated, Penske
Racing built a refueling contraption in
1969 that looked like a 20ft rocket
launcher; by hiking the fuel sky high,
gravity took over and forced fuel into the
Camaro’s fuel cell as much as 500
percent faster than its competition.
An unfair advantage? Absolutely. And the
team has never halted its pursuit. Strange
in ’ 69; we’ve come to expect nothing less.
Before Roger Penske’s eponymous organization became
an Indy car racing benchmark, or a NASCAR powerhouse,
it honed its racing chops in sports car racing. Since its
foundation in 1966, Team Penske’s sports car lineage has
been far from continuous, but when it’s deemed it
appropriate to enter the sports car racing waters, the
results have often been...well, Penske-like. Here are four
examples of successful programs and one that, through
its relative failure, might just have paved the way for the
Captain’s sports car return with Acura’s ARX-05 DPi...