February 4, 2016

1966 USRRC Race at Kent

Team Penske’s 50 years in racing has produced over 420 race victories. The winningest driver in the team’s history is the legendary Mark Donohue, who was one of the inaugural inductees into the Team Penske Hall of Fame in January. Donohue produced a remarkable 59 wins for the team over his 10 years of competition but his very first victory for Team Penske came in the organization’s debut season of 1966.

On June 31, 1966, Donohue and Team Penske competed in the Pacific Northwest Grand Prix United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) race at Pacific Raceways International, the facility that hosted road racing and drag racing events located near Kent, Washington.  Donohue qualified fifth for the event and drove to victory in the No. 16 Chevrolet Lola T70 Mk.2. The win came after Donohue and Roger Penske decided to switch from a 427-cubic-inch big block Chevy engine to a 333-inch Chevy small block after reliability questions on the larger engine.

It marked the third overall win for Team Penske following class wins in the endurance events at the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring that initial season.

Donohue won at Kent, completing 68 laps as one of only two cars to finish on the lead lap. He edged out John Cannon, who was driving a McLaren Chevrolet as Chevys claimed the top three finishing positions.

Following the win at the Pacific Northwest Grand Prix, Team Penske began extensive testing with the Lola T70. Donohue continued to build on his first win with the team and carried the momentum over to the next USRRC race, winning Team Penske’s first-ever pole position with a strong qualifying run at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Unfortunately, mechanical issues forced an early end to his race at Mid-Ohio, but that did not deter Donohue.

Keyed by the win at Kent, Donohue went on to finish eighth in the final 1966 USRRC championship standings. The 1966 season and Donohue’s first victory with the team set the table for a remarkable run. The combination claimed Team Penske’s first championship with the USRRC title the following year – the first of Donohue’s six series crowns with the team.