Roger S. Penske (born February 20, 1937, in Shaker Heights, Ohio) is the owner of the automobile racing team Penske Racing, the Penske Corporation, and other automotive-related businesses. A winning racer in the late 1950s, Penske was named 1961's Sports Car Club of America Driver of the Year by Sports Illustrated. After retiring from driving a few years later, he created one of the most successful teams in IndyCar Series and NASCAR racing.
He also is one of the corporate directors at General Electric and was chairman of Super Bowl XL in Detroit, Michigan. He was previously on the board of Home Depot and Delphi Automotive before resigning to chair the Detroit Super Bowl Committee. He has an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion. He is a 1959 graduate of Lehigh Universityin Pennsylvania, where he was also a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
Penske's father was a corporate executive for a metal fabrication company and encouraged his son to become an entrepreneur. As a teenager he bought older cars, repaired them and sold them at a profit from his family's home in Cleveland, Ohio. In 10 years, Penske raced and sold about 32 cars
Starting in 1958, Penske purchased, raced and sold race cars, and was very successful both financially and on the track. Penske made his first professional racing start at the now-abandoned Marlboro Motor Raceway in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
By 1960, he was a well-known race car driver (Sports Illustrated SCCA Driver of the Year), winning prestigious races until 1965, when he retired as a driver, to concentrate on his first Chevrolet dealership in Philadelphia, PA. He subsequently began his now famous Penske Racing in 1965, as well. Interestingly enough, although Penske competed in two Formula One Grands Prix, and won a NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model race at Riverside in 1963, he never ran the Indy 500. In fact, he was offered a rookie test at Indianapolis, but turned it down for business reasons. Rookie Mario Andretti stepped in for Penske to take that test at Indianapolis.
His team first competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 1969, winning that event in 1972 with driver Mark Donohue, and their first NASCAR win was in 1973. His teams have won many races in the subsequent years. He closed his European-based Formula One business in 1977. In 1982, he became the Chairman of the Penske Truck Leasing business.
Penske Racing now operates a NASCAR team with drivers Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr. It also operates an Indy Racing League team composed of Hélio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, and Will Power. Previously, Penske Racing ran cars in the CART series that included some of the best drivers of the time, including Gary Bettenhausen, Tom Sneva, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Al Unser, Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi, Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, Paul Tracy and Gil de Ferran. After many years of trying, his team won the Daytona 500 in 2008 with Ryan Newman driving.
In 2005, Porsche set the stage to make a comeback in sports car racing in the United States and chose Penske Racing to run in the LMP2 class of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). The Penske Porsches took center stage in 2006, winning immediately, including victories at Mid-Ohio finishing 1-2 ahead of Audi (competing in a higher classification) and the annual Petit Le Mans, a 10-hour showcase event held at Road Atlanta. His team scored an overall victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2008.
Penske also ran a Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototype in the 2008 Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Kurt Busch, Ryan Briscoe, and Hélio Castroneves driving. The car was run in conjunction with Wayne Taylor's SunTrust Racing. They finished third overall.
For 2009, Penske has suspended his participation in the ALMS, switching to Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series for the full season. They are using a Porsche-powered Riley with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas driving.
Penske recently purchased the old Matsushita air conditioning plant in Mooresville, NC and reconditioned it to consolidate his racing empire. Now, all of Penske's racing operations are under one massive roof, with his IndyCar, NASCAR, and American Le Mans Series(through 2009) teams sharing over 424,000 square feet (39,400 m2) of space encompassing 105 acres (42 ha). The shop includes all the necessary pieces to compete on the highest level in all of his racing endeavors, including a state-of-the-art, in-house wind tunnel. To complete the facilities, Penske imported over one million tons (250,000 pieces) of Italian marble.
Roger Penske, also an avid car collector, owns many rare American and European automobiles, including a Ferrari FXX, of which only 30 were made.