Throwback Thursday - 1972 Can-Am Championship

March 10, 2016

Team Penske will be celebrating our 50th anniversary in motorsports in 2016. To bring you some of the terrific stories of our five-decade run of excellence, Team Penske is running weekly online features highlighting some of our drivers and our key events. We hope you enjoy this memorable time in our history.

The 1972 Can-Am Championship

By the start of the 1972 season, Team Penske was entering just its seventh season of motorsports competition.  But in those first six seasons, the team had already won five championships – all coming with Mark Donohue behind the wheel.

And the 1972 Can-Am (Canadian-American Challenge Cup) season would be no different.  But the driver celebrating the end would be.

Deciding to run the full Can-Am season for the first time, Team Penske was already in development of the new Porsche 917/10.  Donohue was the primary race driver and test driver, and he got the car ready for its first race at Mosport Park in June.  In that race, Donohue qualified on the pole and finished second, setting the stage for a great season ahead.

However, while continuing to test and develop the 917/10 later that month at Road Atlanta, Donohue crashed and broke his leg, sidelining him for months while he recovered from the accident. 

Enter Donohue’s former Trans-Am (Trans-American Sedan Championship) teammate, George Follmer.

Follmer took over seat of the No. 6 Porsche 917/10 for the next four races and won three of them (Road Atlanta, Mid Ohio and Road America). 

In September, when Donohue was ready to return to action, Team Penske gave him his No. 6 ride back.  However, the team also entered a second car, the No. 7 Porsche 917/10 for Follmer to race the remainder of the season. 

The results were astounding.

In the final four races, each of Team Penske’s two drivers were nearly unstoppable.

Donohue won the pole at Donnybrooke, while both drivers failed to finish due to mechanical issues.  In Edmonton, Follmer won the pole and finished third, while Donohue started second and won the race.

At Laguna Seca, the drivers actually tied for the pole, which Follmer winning the race and Donohue coming home second.  And at the season finale at Riverside, Follmer won the pole and the race, while Donohue finished third.

So, on the strength of five wins and while driving two different cars, Follmer became the first driver not named Mark Donohue to win a Championship for Team Penske, as he took the title over Denny Hulme from McLaren Racing.