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Roger Penske was beaming at the 2019 Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is his home. A Team Penske car won the Indianapolis GP on the road course and claimed pole position and the race win in the Indy 500, another month of May masterclass from Penske’s team.
For the man known as ‘The Captain’, his playground is the biggest single-day sporting event in the world: 320,000 people fill the grandstands that line the iconic 2.5-mile (4km) track on the same day he had three cars lining up at Charlotte Motor Speedway for NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 and, on the other side of the world, two Supercars at Winton Motor Raceway. Only his International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) team was sitting idle on that one weekend.
Team Penske is in action week in, week out in the United States of America. The season starts in January and ends in November with more than 65 weekends of racing. There are 14 regular series drivers across the four categories, between 60 and 80 cars in action or being prepared at any given moment with about 600 staff making it all happen.
It is a phenomenal enterprise that effectively started when Penske was just a driver. He retired from driving in 1965 to focus on his first business, a Philadelphia Chevrolet dealership. However, racing remained a key element in Penske’s overall business plan, and he soon entered cars in a variety of categories in North America.
Mark Donohue led the team on the track, delivering Team Penske’s first Indy 500 and NASCAR race wins. The American was killed following a crash at the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix. Team Penske raced on and fittingly won in Austria the following season, becoming one of only two American teams to win a Formula 1 grand prix in Europe.
From there Penske used motor racing and his team ownership to build his business enterprise. Great drivers such as Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Rick Mears, Emerson Fittipaldi and more drove Team Penske forward to the benchmark in North American racing and, now, in Australia.
Penske’s wealth is estimated at $1.5 billion and he recently received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump, making him only the second motorsport recipient of the award behind Richard Petty.
We sat down with Penske at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to discuss the rise of Team Penske, in North America and Australia.
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