Saturday 20th February 1937
Born on this day, Roger Penske, the owner of the automobile racing team Penske Racing, the Penske Corporation, and other automotive related businesses. Penske grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and was a keen American Football player until he was seriously hurt when hit by a car while riding a motorcycle when he was 16. Penske was mad about cars and after high school went to work in a gas station and began following midget racing at Sportsman Park, Cleveland. He then went to college and studied business administration at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He started racing while at college, driving a Chevrolet Corvette in SCCA modified events and was soon successful. As his career blossomed he moved on from college to become an aluminium salesman for Alcoa. In 1961 he won an SCCA national title, was named driver of the year by Sports Illustrated magazine and raced a customer Cooper-Climax in the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. The following year he won the USAC road racing championship and driving a Zerex Special won the Riverside, Monterey and Puerto Rico GPs, the Nassau TT and his class in the Sebring 12 Hours. He competed in the US GP a second time, driving a Lotus-Climax. In 1963 he tried his hand at NASCAR, won the Riverside 250 and led the Yankee 300 before retiring but at the start of 1964 he decided to quit racing and concentrate on business. He was 27. He left Alcoa to become general manager of McKean Chevrolet in Philadelphia. He acquired the dealership the following year when the owner retired and soon began to buy up other dealerships around the US. He established Penske Racing in 1966 with engineer-driver Mark Donohue and the team won its first CanAm race at Mosport Park with a Lola. In 1967 Donohue won the US Road Racing Championship and in 1968 dominated TransAm in a Penske Camaro. Donohue also the won USRRC title and the Bridgehampton CanAm. Donohue won the TransAm title again in 1969. That year he won the Daytona 24 Hours with Charles Parsons and was named Rookie of the Year at Indianapolis, finishing seventh in the Indy 500, the team’s first appearance at The Brickyard. Penske established the Penske Corporation and his businesses since then have included an insurance, tire distribution, car rental franchising, race promoting and circuit ownership. By 1982 Penske was in a position to buy Hertz Truck Leasing which is now Penske Truck Leasing and Penske Truck Rental. In 1987 he joined with GM to help rescue their Detroit Diesel company. He controls a car dealership network of more than 200 dealerships in the US and abroad. His performance division has been dominant in Indycar and NASCAR. Penske Racing has won a string of Indycar titles and Indianapolis 500 victories and ran an F1 team between 1974 and 1977 – the team winning a race in Austria in 1977.