Penske Profile - John Haslett

July 10, 2015

In this edition of Penske Profile – our web series that profiles the people that have helped shape Team Penske into one of the most-successful sports organizations in the world – we focus on one of the unsung heroes of the team. Transporter drivers are tasked with delivering cars and crucial equipment to the racetrack each week in a safe and secure manner. One of the longest-tenured such employees at Team Penske is John Haslett, driver of Roger Penske’s motorcoach in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Haslett was born in Newtowne Square, Penn. on July 7, 1958, in the shadows of the original Team Penske shop that Mr. Penske, with the help of Karl Kainhofer, built and maintained the cars he raced to many wins. Haslett’s uncle, Harold Cummings, owned an automobile frame-straightening business next door to Penske Racing. Upon selling his business, “Uncle Harold” began helping out at the race shop, first running parts before moving up to travel with the team. This was young Haslett’s first taste of automobile racing and the professional culture that permeates from the leadership of Mr. Penske. 

While he was in the fifth grade, Haslett’s family moved from Newtowne Square to Parksburg, Penn. and began raising black angus cattle on their newly-purchased farm. After graduating from high school, Haslett joined the United States Navy where, in his four years of service, he was able to see all of the world. He left the Navy as a second-class hull technician, but not sure of his next career move. He could either return to the family farm in Parksburg, or he could join his uncle in motorsports. He chose to go racing. 

The Indianapolis 500 is a month-long commitment for drivers and crews. To ensure that everything runs smoothly, teams will send up an “advance team” to setup the garage stalls with tool boxes, scale pads, meeting spaces, driver lounges and dining areas. This process can take 10 days to two weeks and completely transforms the garage. Haslett’s first job with Team Penske was to do just that – with his uncle – in 1981. With Bobby Unser as the driver – in one of the most-controversial finishes in the 99 Indianapolis 500s that have been contested – Haslett found himself in Victory Lane. He was hooked on motorsports and never looked back. 

After the 1981 Indianapolis 500, Haslett began working with the team on a full-time basis. His first year was nothing glorious, as he ran parts and assisted the lead transporter drivers. He began driving transporters in 1982, traveling the highways of America in the beautiful, chrome Team Penske rigs. In addition to his transporter driving duties, Haslett also began holding various positions on the IndyCar pit crews for a “Who’s Who” of Team Penske drivers such as Bobby Unser, Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, Al Unser Jr., Paul Tracy, Gil de Ferran, Sam Hornish Jr., Helio Castroneves and, currently, Juan Pablo Montoya. 

In 1999, Haslett moved over to drive the transporters for Racing Experience, Inc., a company that organizes and manages racing experiences for corporate partners and other groups in various vehicles at different locations across North America. He remained there until 2001 when he moved back to the IndyCar side of Penske Corp., driving the motorcoach for Mr. Penske. 

In all, Haslett has been a part of 13 of the record 16 Indianapolis 500 victories for Team Penske. He counts this year’s victory by Juan Pablo Montoya in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” as his favorite moment, although he does admit they are all special. 

“Just the way Juan won it this year, having to come from the back of the field twice to get it done,” said Haslett. “That was amazing to watch. To be here at my age and still winning Indy 500s is very special. We’ve kept the points lead all year long as well. If we can finish that off it will truly be a great year.”

To count the number of miles that Haslett has traversed over our country would be immense. He has seen every inch of America, driven many miles into Canada and made an intense trip to Mexico City. Through it all he still has the passion to keep going because the thrill of winning a race is such a draw. 

“After I was able to be a part of Bobby Unser’s win in 1981, I was hooked on this sport,” stated Haslett. “It’s very intoxicating to be a part of something like that. To be in Victory Lane – especially at Indianapolis – seeing all the fans with the caliber of drivers that we’ve had since I’ve been here, it’s just incredible. From that first race I knew this was what I wanted to do.”

Haslett lists Rick Mears as his all-time favorite driver. He and his wife, Beth, live in Mooresville, NC. They have three sons: Joshua, Kyle and Trevor.