Mears and Kainhofer Join Team Penske Hall of Fame

May 25, 2017

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears and legendary chief mechanic Karl Kainhofer were inducted into the Team Penske Hall of Fame this afternoon, joining team owner and founder Roger Penske and the team’s first champion, Mark Donohue, as the first four members of the historical group. The announcement was made during the Verizon IndyCar Series Media Day at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway in advance of this weekend’s 101st running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Few drivers have epitomized “The Penske Way” more than Mears during the course of his career with Team Penske, which began in 1978. His 29 INDYCAR wins are tied with Helio Castroneves for the most by a Team Penske driver, but it was the respectful yet determined way Mears raced and conducted himself that set him apart. One of three drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 four times, Mears also won three INDYCAR titles with the team in 1979, 1981 and 1982 while becoming an American icon. He remains a valuable member of the team as an advisor and spotter to the current Team Penske contingent competing in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“To be honored as one of the early members inducted into the Team Penske Hall of Fame is one of the highlights of my career,” said Mears, who also holds the record with six pole positions won for the Indianapolis 500. “I like to think I played a part in the history of this organization, but I was just a part.  There have been so many talented people who have been involved in Roger’s organization – from drivers to mechanics to front office personnel. To join Roger, Mark and Karl and to be recognized is humbling.”

Kainhofer began his motorsport career as a Porsche-trained master mechanic before becoming Penske’s personal mechanic during the legendary owner’s brief stint as a driver. Once Team Penske was formed in 1966, the Austrian-born Kainhofer became the team’s first full-time employee and helped guide the likes of Mark Donohue and others to victories in the Can-Am Series, Formula 5000, INDYCAR and Formula 1. For the second part of his career with Team Penske, Kainhofer worked as the head of Penske’s engine shop until his retirement in 1997 after 32 years with the team. Through a career in racing that spanned 40 years from 1958 through 1997, Kainhofer was part of a remarkable 170 wins, including 10 Indy 500 victories.

“This is a great honor,” said Kainhofer.  “I’m just happy to be here and to have played a role in what Team Penske has become today.  I’ve made a lot of good memories over the years and had the chance to experience a lot of amazing moments.  Today is just another one of those.”

Inductions into the Team Penske Hall of Fame will occur annually. Each year, two inductees will be chosen from current and former drivers, employees and partners that have made a significant impact on the team and its history. The Hall of Famers will be honored both at an event and within the walls of the Team Penske facility located in Mooresville, NC.

Penske, the founder of Team Penske and an accomplished racer in his own right, and Donohue, who won 59 events across eight different series for Team Penske, including six championships and the team’s first Indianapolis 500, where honored as part of the inaugural class last year during Team Penske’s 50th Anniversary Celebration.