5 Minutes with Roger Penske
The name Penske has become synonymous with cars and racing, thanks to Roger Penske. The owner of the Team Penske pro motorsports organization, the Penske Corporation, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (to name just a few of Penske’s very famous automotive businesses), Penske has also won the Indianapolis 500 a whopping 18 times, making him the race’s most-successful owner to date.
While he’s proud of his company’s many accomplishments, Roger Penske points to the people who work within his organizations as his biggest source of pride.
“When we go to the Indianapolis 500 in May our teams will have over 700 years of combined experience working on our cars,” Penske said. “That is something you just cannot put a price on, and it is something that I am very proud of.”
We chatted with Roger Penske about his plans for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, what it takes to be a successful driver, and the advice his father gave him that he still passes on to his teams today.
Goodguys Gazette: If you hadn’t gone into motorsports and racing, what kind of career do you think you would have chosen?
Roger Penske: I am not sure what path I might have taken if I did not discover my passion for racing…it is challenging to consider my life without racing. The sport has meant so much to me, my family and our business, and racing has opened up so many doors for us that I can’t really imagine not having that part of our journey.
GG: It’s been a long time since you’ve been a driver, but what do you miss most about getting behind the wheel?
Penske: The thrill of the competition was always the most exciting part for me when I was racing, but, fortunately, I have been able to maintain that competitive aspect of the sport – just in different ways. Getting the car to the track, working on setups, making changes to the car, and getting the most out of those changes on the track was always exciting for me. That is why Mark Donohue and I worked so well together in the early days of our team, because we both had the same approach when it came to maximizing our performance at the track. Seeing that work translate to wins was very gratifying as a driver, and that is still the case with our race teams today.
GG: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Penske: The best advice I received came from my father and it was something he always told me: ‘Effort Equals Results.’ I believe that you can accomplish anything in life if you set goals, focus, and work hard. That ideal has become a driving force on our team. We even have coins made every year that say ‘Effort Equals Results’ and we share them with our associates. It is a simple message, but it really conveys a lot if you think about it.
GG: You have so many cars to choose from. What’s your daily driver?
Penske: Being an automotive dealer has given me the opportunity to drive a wide range of vehicles and I still have a passion for driving. Currently, I am driving a Porsche Taycan.
GG: In your opinion, what qualities does someone have to have in order to be a successful driver and separate themselves from the pack?
Penske: Clearly there is no substitute for natural talent, but talent alone will only get you so far in racing. To be a driver who wins consistently, I believe you really have to be dedicated to your craft, know the cars technically, and communicate efficiently with your team so the engineers and mechanics can work together to get the most out of the car. I think you also have to be a student of the sport, studying your opponents and how these races can play out so you can put yourself and the team in the best possible position late in the race to compete for the win.
GG: You recently purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Can you talk about some of the upgrades you have made and what else you have planned?
Penske: The Indianapolis 500 is the biggest race in the world and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the top entertainment venues globally. We want to build on these two great institutions and create an even better experience for fans. We have some long-term goals and objectives, but this year we are planning a few key enhancements that fans will notice including improving the bathrooms, creating more viewing positions, offering more online connectivity and enhancements for fans. We are so excited about the opportunities for the future at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.