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50-for-50: Five top-10 lists that define 50 years of Penske Racing

Roger Penske has seen a lot racing in 50 years as a team owner. He's also seen a lot of winning. Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

As Penske Racing celebrates 50 years of racing, here are five top-10 lists of the greatest moments, people and pure Penske prose that help define the team's success.

10 Great Roger Penske-isms

1. "Effort Equals Results"

2. "The Unfair Advantage"

3. "Penske Perfect"

4. "Human Capital"

5. "An organizational leak is like cutting a piece of your paycheck off."

6. "Success breeds success."

7. "I'm a 20-hour-a-day guy, thinking about my businesses."

8. "The great thing about racing is you get a report card every Sunday."

9. "The harder you work, the luckier you become."

10. "Every day, I like getting up because there is another challenge."

10 great Penkse wins

1. Roger Penske, 1962 Los Angeles Times Grand Prix: Roger Penske was a successful driver before turning car dealer/racing team owner. He bought a wrecked Cooper Formula One car, cleverly turned it into a two-seat sports car, and equipped it with the engine Jack Brabham used in the 1961 Indianapolis 500. Penske beat the world's finest drivers en route to winning the Times GP at Riverside. "That was the start of a long history for $1,250," says Penske.

2. Mark Donohue, USRRC 1966 Nassau GP: Penske Racing was formed in 1966 to compete in the United States Road Racing Championship and Can-Am series. After a disappointing season, Donohue won the last race of the season in Penske's Lola T70, convincing him to stick with racing when he was on the brink of retirement at age 29.

3. Mark Donohue, 1969 Indianapolis 500: In May 1960, Penske and his mechanic Karl Kainhofer raced at Mosport on Saturday and Bridgehampton on Sunday, and then attended the Indianapolis 500 on Monday. "Someday, Karl, I'm going to have a car in this race, and if I don't drive it, somebody else will." It was Donohue, who qualified fourth and finished seventh in a Lola T152 to claim "Rookie of the Year" honors.

4. Mark Donohue, 1972 Indianapolis 500: Bobby Unser stole the headlines with an incredible 196-mph pole speed and Penske teammate Gary Bettenhausen led the most laps, but it was Donohue who came through to win after a troubled month of practice. His 163-mph race average was a record that stood for more than 20 years.

5. George Follmer, 1972 Road Atlanta Can-Am: High off his Indy 500 win, Donohue's world came tumbling down when a bodywork failure on the Porsche 917-10 caused him to crash heavily at Road Atlanta and sustain serious leg injuries. Follmer stepped in at short notice, and his victory was a morale booster for Porsche and the team. Follmer went on to win the Can-Am championship for Penske, but after all the effort he put in developing the 917 into dominant form, Donohue said, "it must be like seeing another man in bed with your wife."

6. John Watson, 1976 Austrian GP: Donohue could only stand retirement for a year; he made a comeback in late 1974 to spearhead Penske's entry into Formula One. The PC1 chassis was not successful, so Penske bought a March. Donohue was driving the March when a tire failure caused him to crash at one of the Osterreichring's fast corners in August 1975. Struck on the helmet by a fence post, Donohue died two days later. The Penske F1 team carried on with Irishman John Watson, and the PC4 chassis introduced mid-1976 made them a winner, at the same venue where Donohue was killed.

7. Rick Mears, 1979 Indianapolis 500: Rick Mears failed to qualify in his first two years at Indianapolis, but he ran well elsewhere and caught the eye of Roger Penske. He hired Mears in 1978 to sub for Mario Andretti when Mario had F1 commitments during his world championship season. Though Tom Sneva won the 1978 USAC championship, Mears won three races and emerged as the star of the team, then triumphed at Indy in 1979 for the first time. He went on to become Penske's most successful driver, with 29 Indy car wins, including four victories (and six poles) at Indianapolis.

8. Rick Mears, 1989 Laguna Seca Indy car: Mears won three CART championships in four years and appeared headed for another in 1984 until a violent crash at Sanair shattered his feet and kept him out of a car for eight months. Mears was only able to compete on ovals for the first year of his comeback, but won his fourth race back, the 1985 Pocono 500. He began to win regularly again, but only managed one more road racing victory, in the 1989 season finale.

9. Gil de Ferran, 2000 Nazareth Indy car: From the start of 1996 through the end of 1999, Penske's Indy car team managed only three race wins. "The Captain" cleaned house. He hired Tim Cindric as team manager, brought in new drivers (Greg Moore was supposed to be one, but he died before he could start a race for Penske), and ran Reynard/Hondas on Firestones. First win for the "new" Penske Racing happened to be the 100th for the team, courtesy of de Ferran. The CART-sanctioned race was run the day before the IRL Indianapolis 500 after the Nazareth race had been postponed by snow in April.

10. Helio Castroneves, 2001 Indianapolis 500: Roger Penske was a founder of CART, but at the height of the CART/IRL war and after a remarkable DNQ in 1995 and four more years away due to politics, he could no longer stay away from his beloved Indianapolis 500. Castroneves and de Ferran scored Penske's first 1-2 finish at Indy as CART teams swept the top six places.

10 Great Penske People

1. Karl Kainhofer: Served as young driver Roger Penske's mechanic from 1959-64, then a variety of mechanical and managerial roles for Penske Racing from 1966 to 1997. "I appreciated Roger's approach and he appreciated my spit and polish," Kainhofer said. "That's why we stayed together." 171 wins out of 535 starts.

2. Don Cox: A Chevrolet engineer who joined Penske Racing and played an important role through the Donohue years.

3. Earle Macmullan: Trans-Am mechanic who became Penske's chief transmission technician for some 30 years. Wife Jean was Roger Penske's personal secretary for much of that time.

4. Geoff Ferris: Chief designer of the Penske Formula One cars, then the Indy cars from PC6 through PC12. Remained at Penske cars as a gearbox designer.

5. Nick Goozee: Managing director of Penske cars, which designed and built Formula One and Indy cars from 1974 to 2001.

6. Dan Luginbuhl: Penske's communications chief for some 30 years, the man who practically invented racing PR in the USA.

7. Derrick Walker: Joined the Penske F1 team in 1976 and switched to Indy cars, where he remained as team manager through 1987 before becoming a team owner in his own right.

8. Nigel Bennett: After a prolonged slump in the mid-80s, Penske hired the designer of the rival Lola chassis that was winning many races. The Bennett designed Penskes from 1988 to 1997 are considered some of the most beautiful Indy cars of all time.

9. Clive Howell: A man with many roles in the Penske organization over the years, who calls himself "chief cook and bottle washer."

10. Tim Cindric: Penske hired up-and-comer Cindric away from Bobby Rahal to revive his Indy car team, and eventually put him in charge of all racing activities.

10 Great Penske Drivers

1. Mark Donohue: The original Penske driver, and the one who all future Penske drivers would be measured against. A hard-working all-rounder who won in nearly everything he drove and was instrumental in the evolution of driver-as-engineer.

2. Rick Mears: One of RP's greatest success stories, this desert racer plucked out of obscurity became arguably the greatest Indy 500 driver of all time, claiming four wins and six poles. Still works for Team Penske more than two decades after he retired from driving.

3. Helio Castroneves: With 16 years of service and counting, Castroneves is the longest-tenured driver in the history of Penske Racing. Tied with Mears with most Indy car wins for Penske (29), including three at Indianapolis.

4. Emerson Fittipaldi: Won the Indy car championship and his first Indianapolis 500 for Patrick Racing using a Penske chassis, then delivered lucrative and long-running Marlboro sponsorship to Team Penske and earned a second "500" trophy.

5. Rusty Wallace: A founding member of Penske Racing South, Wallace scored 37 of his 55 career NASCAR Cup Series wins during a 15-year partnership.

6. Tom Sneva: Won two USAC series championships and clocked the first 200-mph laps at Indianapolis for Penske and still managed to get fired after famously clashing with the team owner throughout their successful four-year run.

7. Al Unser: Didn't win many races while driving for Penske toward the end of his career, but still earned two CART series championships and an unlikely victory at Indianapolis in 1987.

8. Gil de Ferran: Under the leadership of Tim Cindric, de Ferran and fellow Brazilian Castroneves rebuilt Penske into a championship-caliber Indy car team after a prolonged drought in the late 1990s.

9. Danny Sullivan: With Mears recovering from injuries, the flashy Sullivan became Penske's lead driver in the mid-'80s, and established himself as a top-level driver by delivering the famous spin-and-win in the 1985 Indy 500 as well as a CART series championship.

10. Brad Keselowski: Penske Racing has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series since the early 1970s, when Donohue won a road race at Riverside in an AMC Matador. It took more than 40 years to earn a Cup championship, and it came courtesy of an outspoken driver outside the traditional Penske mold.

10 Great Penske Cars

1. 1962 Zerex Special: Roger Penske acquired the 1961 Cooper Formula One car that Walt Hansgen crashed in the U.S. Grand Prix and converted it into a "2-seater" with an alloy body. Penske won on the debut of the rule-bending car at Riverside against a field that included Jack Brabham, Dan Gurney and Graham Hill.

2. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro (Trans-Am): Always seeking the "unfair advantage," Penske and driver/engineer Mark Donohue had the body of their Camaro acid dipped to lighten it. They left it in too long, creating suspicious ripples in the roof. Solution? Equip the car with a black vinyl roof in the popular style of contemporary production cars ...

3. 1972-3 Porsche 917 (Can-Am): Big-block McLarens dominated the Can-Am Challenge from 1968 to 1971, until Penske Racing teamed up with Porsche and turbocharged the 917's flat-12 engine to devastating effect. After Donohue was badly injured in a crash, George Follmer drove the 917-10 to the 1972 Can-Am title. After Donohue dominated the series in 1973 in the uprated 917-30, the SCCA essentially banned the car.

4. 1973-5 AMC Matador (NASCAR): After Donohue won the 1968 and '69 Trans-Am titles, Penske Racing did a deal with AMC to run Javelins and Donohue added another championship in 1971. Penske also entered an AMC Matador in selected stock car races, equipping the car with disc brakes that allowed Donohue to easily win the road race at Riverside in 1973. Bobby Allison campaigned the Matador full time in 1975, winning four races.

5. 1976 Penske PC4 (Formula One): Donohue retired at the end of 1973, but it lasted less than a year as he came back to develop Penske's first F1 car. Sadly, Mark was killed practicing for the 1975 Austrian GP, but his replacement John Watson claimed a memorable win exactly one year later at the same venue in the new PC4.

6. 1979 PC6 (Indy car): Penske shuttered the F1 team at the end of 1976, but maintained the Penske Cars operation in England. The PC4 F1 chassis was adapted to carry a similar turbocharged Cosworth engine that was starting to dominate USAC Indy car racing. The PC6 won two consecutive CART championships (1978 and '79 with Tom Sneva and Rick Mears) and Mears won the 1979 Indianapolis 500 in what he still calls his favorite car.

7. 1984-86 March (Indy cars):Penske Racing was the class of the Indy car field in the late '70s and early '80s, but the PC11 and PC12 chassis from 1983 and '84 were uncompetitive. So on the eve of the 1984 Indy 500, Penske acquired a fleet of March chassis and Mears promptly won the race. Al Unser won the 1985 CART championship and the 1987 Indianapolis 500 in Penske Marches, and Danny Sullivan added the famous "spin and win" victory at Indy in 1985.

8. 1988 Penske PC17 (Indy car): Roger Penske co-founded Ilmor Engineering to take on Cosworth, and tried again with his own chassis in 1986 and '87. The lack of speed shown by the PC15 and PC16 forced Penske to keep running Marches, but for 1988, he hired Lola designer Nigel Bennett and the resulting PC17 won Indy (Mears) and the CART championship (Sullivan).

9. 1994 Penske PC23 (Indy car): The most dominant of the Bennett-designed chassis, Al Unser Jr, Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy combined to win 12 of 16 races and finished 1-2-3 in the CART championship. At Indianapolis, Penske commissioned (and Mercedes-Benz sponsored) a unique pushrod engine that met the letter (if not the spirit) of the rules, and with an estimated 200-horsepower advantage on the field, Fittipaldi and Unser led all but seven laps at Indianapoilis, with Unser winning after Emmo crashed while leading.

10. 2000-01 Reynard (Indy car): Handicapped by inferior Goodyear tires and Mercedes engines, Penske changed everything in 2000. He went the customer car route again, switching to the successful Reynard/Honda/Firestone combination. Substantially re-engineered, the Penske Reynards represented the absolute peak of Indy car technology, allowing Gil de Ferran to earn two CART championships and set a closed course speed record of 241.428 mph that still stands.