The Indy 500 Will Always be Special to Team Penske

August 17, 2020

"Penske Material" provides an inside look at some of the personalities, stories and moments that make Team Penske so unique. 

Though the calendar says August and, unfortunately, there will not be hundreds of thousands of fans in attendance, the Indianapolis 500 will take the green flag this weekend and there is still no denying the importance of this event in Team Penske’s history and especially in today’s sports landscape.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected every sport and every event in the United States this year and the Indianapolis 500 has certainly felt the effects as well. Rescheduled from its traditional month of May back in the spring to this Sunday, August 23rd at 1 p.m. ET on NBC, the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place without fans at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). And while the event will certainly feel different in this year when nothing is normal, the Indianapolis 500 will endure and build on its tradition of being the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

It also continues to have a very special meaning for Team Penske. No team has experienced more success at the Indianapolis 500, with Team Penske producing a record 18 victories and 18 pole positions in the historic event. The team has also won the annual Pit Stop Challenge at the Indy 500 a record 17 times in its history.

From the moment that Roger Penske attended his first Indianapolis 500 with his father in 1951, igniting his passion for racing and a love for the event that burns just as bright today as it did on that May afternoon 69 years ago, this race became forever linked to Team Penske and its founder in a very profound way. As Roger Penske began his successful career as a race car driver in the late 1950s and early 60s, he continued his interest in Indianapolis. He made the decision to step away from racing cars to build his business before he formed his own team in 1966.

After several winning seasons in sports car competition, Team Penske made its debut in the 1969 Indianapolis 500 with legendary driver and Team Penske Hall of Famer Mark Donohue racing the No. 66 Sunoco DX Lola/Offenhauser. Donohue finished seventh, won race Rookie of the Year honors and victory at the Indianapolis 500 became a vision quest for Team Penske. Just three years later, Penske, Donohue and the team reached the mountain top, producing the organization’s first Indy 500 title. The performance, the prestige and the pride that Team Penske produced by winning at Indianapolis not only helped build the team, it also helped elevate the Penske brand.

“This event and our success at Indy have been essential to the growth of our organization,” said Roger Penske in the book produced last year celebrating Team Penske’s 50th anniversary of competing in the Indianapolis 500. “Our first victory in 1972 helped lay the foundation for our race team and the opportunity to shine every year at one of the biggest sporting events in the world has allowed us to build our company and our sponsors to build their brands.”

More than 50 years after the team’s first race at Indianapolis, the statistics are astounding for the team and they only begin to tell the story of Team Penske’s performance in what is annually the biggest race of the year.

A total of 13 drivers have won the Indianapolis 500 for the team. Team Penske has led over 2,300 laps at Indy and produced eight victories from the pole position. The team has earned 46 front-row starts and 117 starts overall in “the 500.” All of those numbers reflect Indy 500 records for the North America’s winningest racing team.

How has Team Penske managed to produce so much success at an and event and at a track that has proved so challenging to competitors over the years? The commitment of Roger Penske and his famous “Effort Equals Results” philosophy is certainly one of the biggest reasons. But another impressive number also factors into the team’s remarkable track record at Indianapolis. Among the members of its four teams competing in this year’s Indy 500 Team Penske will bring nearly 800 years of collective INDYCAR experience to the garage and to the track.

Roger Penske Indy Timing Stand“The key to our achievements is really our people – our human capital,” said Penske. “Our team has always welcomed the challenge of the Indy 500 and our team members know that preparation, innovation and execution make the difference in this race.”

So, while the team’s four entries in this Sunday’s race might be starting from a little farther back in the field than fans might be accustomed to seeing, there’s no question that Team Penske will rely on its experience and execution on race day. The people behind the No. 1 Shell V-Power Nitro Chevrolet driven by reigning NTT INDYCAR champ Josef Newgarden, the No. 3 Pennzoil Chevy piloted by three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, the No. 12 Verizon 5G Edge Chevrolet raced by 2018 Indy 500 champion Will Power and the No. 22 Menards Chevy driven by defending Indy 500 victor Simon Pagenaud will help put Team Penske in a good position to race for win No. 19 at Indy this Sunday.

The fact that Roger Penske and Penske Corporation are the new owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2020 will make this year’s race even more special for Team Penske, despite the challenges of hosting the race during the pandemic.

“It’s just great to be here. I’m just pumped we are running the Indianapolis 500,” said Newgarden. “I can’t say thanks enough to Roger (Penske) and everyone at IMS for making this happen. We are going to put on an amazing show next weekend.” 


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