Penske Profile - Rick Rinaman

January 14, 2015

In an effort to highlight the myriad employees, both past and present, that have helped shape and build Team Penske into what it is today, we are beginning a series for titled “Penske Profile.” Here you will learn about team members from all Team Penske departments that had a hand in helping us achieve over 400 major race wins, 26 national championships, 15 Indianapolis 500 titles and one Daytona 500 win. 

Our first installment will highlight a man that has enjoyed unrivaled success in the Indianapolis 500, Rick Rinaman. Rinaman was born in Mars, Pennsylvania, a northern suburb of Pittsburgh. At a young age he would buy old cars from a local junk yard and race them in corn fields against anyone who was looking for some good, old-fashioned fun. When he was not racing cars, go-karts or snowmobiles, Rinaman could be found at his local dirt track, Lernerville Speedway, one of the most-famous dirt ovals in America. Lernerville is where the racing bug firmly took hold for him. 

As racing became something Rinaman thought he could do as a profession he married the sister-in-law of the engine builder for Paul Newman’s teams that competed in Sports Car Club of America races. Rinaman would travel to as many of the sports car races the famous actor competed in, helping out in any way he could. His first professional job in racing came with Dave Kent Racing (DKR) in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Series. In 1982, Rinaman was hired by legendary racer, Dan Gurney, who had taken over Toyota’s IMSA program from DKR. 

In 1983 Rinaman met Team Penske management for the first time, ultimately leading him to make the move to the legendary race team. For a Pennsylvania-born racer, working for Roger Penske and his Reading, PA-based team was a dream come true. Upon joining the team for the 1984 IndyCar Series season, Rinaman immediately helped the team score a win in the Indianapolis 500 with driver Rick Mears. The Indianapolis 500 would become the race that would help cement Rinaman as one of the greatest mechanics in open-wheel history. 

Rinaman was elevated to the position of crew chief for the first time in 1989. The list of drivers he turned wrenches for is illustrious, including: Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Sr., Al Unser Jr., Johnny Rutherford and Helio Castroneves. In all, Rinaman won a total of four Indianapolis 500-mile races and 28 races as a crew chief. He has a total of seven Indianapolis 500 wins as a mechanic. His favorite memory of the “Greatest Spectacle In Racing” was in 2009 when he helped lead the No. 3 team to the pole position, the pit stop championship and Castroneves’ third career win in the race. 

Not only was Rinaman one of the most successful mechanics in series history, he also was one of the longest-tenured pit crew members, having spent 28 years as an air jackman, fueler, inside front tire changer, inside rear tire changer and outside front tire changer. The key to his longevity, said Rinaman: “You have to love what you are doing and surround yourself with good people who have the same goals in mind. Respect your fellow workers and you’ll never have a bad day at work.”

These days, Rinaman resides in Florida, playing softball four days a week and golf as much as he can. He still gets to the racetrack, sometimes with Team Penske and other times with the Formula-E team owned by Jay Penske. His son, Shaun, is the pit crew coach for all four Verizon IndyCar Series teams at Team Penske, meaning the Rinaman name will continue to be at the forefront of success in the series for years to come.