Team Penske's Roots Trace Back to Sports Car Success

November 23, 2020

"Penske Material" provides an inside look at some of the personalities, stories and moments that make Team Penske so unique.

It was fitting that Team Penske closed the most recent chapter of its sports car program by being crowned DPi Champions after the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 2020 season finale. The title earned by the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 team following the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race at Sebring International Raceway on November 14 marked the 40th championship in the team’s rich history. It also became the latest story of success in sports car competition – the racing discipline that laid the foundation for the winningest team in North American motorsports.  

Roger Penske’s race team began its legacy in sports car racing and its where the team earned its first race victory, first pole position and first series championship. Those early accomplishments set the tone for the team’s tradition of triumph as, 54 years after taking its first green flag, Team Penske has produced 584 wins, 651 poles and 40 national championships.

The very first race for Team Penske was the 24 Hours of Daytona on February 6, 1966. With drivers Dick Guldstrand, George Wintersteen and Ben Moore racing a Chevy Corvette, the rookie team delivered in its debut as the trio captured a GT class victory. The first pole won by Team Penske came later in that 1966 season when legendary driver Mark Donohue paced qualifying for the U.S. Road Racing Championship (USRRC) race at Mid-Ohio driving the team’s Lola T70. In Team Penske’s second season, Donohue produced the organization’s first-ever championship when he won the 1967 USRRC title.

Competing and winning on some of the most challenging tracks in racing among top-level sports car competition provided Team Penske its earliest opportunity to shine and prove itself against the very best in the sport. And those same challenges have kept the team engaged in the various forms of sports car racing over the years, as the success on track has continued for Team Penske. Over the course of its history, the team has earned 94 victories, 96 poles and 12 championships in sports car competition.

A total of 36 drivers have raced sports cars for Team Penske since that first season in 1966 with 19 of those visiting Victory Lane for the organization. The roster includes some of the most established sports car stars like Sam Posey, George Follmer, Ronnie Bucknum, Peter Revson, Brian Redman and David Hobbs.

Of course, no driver has come close to producing as much success as Donohue, who earned 53 wins over 10 seasons for the team while earning six championships in sports car racing alone during his Hall of Fame career. The drivers that rank second in team history in sports car victories are Timo Bernard and Romain Dumas, who were teammates on the Team Penske Porsche program from 2006-09, and were just a little bit behind Donohue’s whirlwind winning pace as they both contributed to 16 wins for the team.


Regardless of the name of the series or the specific cars or manufacturers, Team Penske’s sports car teams have won at a remarkably consistent level. With 94 victories in 210 sports car races in its history, the team has produced an incredible 45% winning percentage!

From Can-Am to FIA Endurance competition and Trans Am to USRRC racing, Team Penske established itself as a sports car force early in its existence and the team has carried on its production through the more recent series championships. According to legend, the team’s performance could even be credited with shutting down an entire series! After dominating Can-Am competition with Donohue driving the legendary and powerful Porsche 917/30 to six wins across eight races in 1973, the series altered its rules for 1974 and the season was canceled midway through the year. Since then, the 917/30 has been referred to as the “Can-Am killer.”

After the 1974 season, it would be more than 30 years before Team Penske returned to full-time sports car competition. The team revisited its roots beginning in 2005, when it started racing in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). Team Penske’s Porsche RS Spyders were incredibly successful, producing 24 wins and three series championships over three full ALMS seasons.

While Team Penske has no plans to continue in sports car racing next season, the past has shown that the team is open to returning to the discipline where it began its winning tradition if the right opportunity presents itself. Roger Penske has mentioned before that competing in and winning the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans annual endurance sports car race remains a goal of the team.

 “We all need goals and we’ve been very fortunate over the years racing with our teams to earn championships and great wins,” Penske said earlier this year. “There’s always that one you want. I think that’s one of the things that Le Mans would mean to us as a team.”

One thing is for sure, if and when Team Penske does return to the sports car track, the team will bring decades of experience and a winning tradition with them.




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