This is the 25th installment in RACER’s ongoing 25th anniversary celebration during which we share the 25 most important issues from our first quarter century.
For a half century, one team has defined American racing to the world through its unrivaled accomplishments and an unrelenting drive to achieve perfection in almost every category of the sport. Team Penske truly is the benchmark of excellence by which all of motorsport is measured, so it was no surprise that RACER‘s editors chose to honor Roger Penske and his team on its 50th anniversary with 2016’s RACER Great Teams Issue.
Renowned artist Ricardo Santos artfully captured the scope and enduring performance of Team Penske’s success across a full spectrum of pinnacle racing series with his cover illustration that featured the legendary 1973 Can-Am championship-winning Porsche 917/30 of the late Mark Donohue, John Watson’s Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix-winning 1976 Penske PC4 Ford, Rick Mears’ 1988 Indy 500-winning Penske PC-18 Chevy and Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2015 Indy 500-winning Verizon Team Penske Dallara Chevy. Amazingly, Issue No. 277 marked the 27th time Team Penske had been prominently represented on the cover of RACER, a number challenged but not beaten by Ferrari and Hendrick Motorsports.
The centerpiece of the Great Teams Issue was an expansive feature titled “The Penske Way,” and Team Penske’s unmatched 16 Indy 500 victories were front and center. From SCCA’s USRRC, Trans Am, Can-Am, F5000, USAC, the Indy 500, Formula 1, NASCAR and IMSA, Team Penske competed and won. Often they did so with what Mark Donohue once called “The Unfair Advantage.” One such example was detailed in a feature titled “Secret Weapon,” when Team Penske shocked the world at Indy in 1994 with the reveal of the mighty 1000hp Mercedes-Ilmor pushrod V8 engine that dominated the race.
The RACER Great Teams issue wasn’t just about one team, though, and none was more fitting for recognition than Corvette Racing, which has taken America’s sports car into battle on the world stage and onward to victory since the turn of the century. Marshall Pruett’s insightful “The Sum of All Parts” looked at the men and teamwork behind the Corvette’s remarkable record at Le Mans and in IMSA.
Formula 1 is all about the team and in “Glimpsing Greatness” Paul Fernley examined brave and visionary F1 teams that had the right stuff but came up short in results. In “Silver and Gone,” RACER looked at Mercedes-Benz’s 1955 Grand Prix effort that set the template for the modern era. The feature “Perfection Postponed” looked at McLaren-Honda’s nearly perfect 1988 Grand Prix season that stands today as one of the greatest on record and as a reminder of how far today’s McLaren-Honda alliance has to go. “Impero Rosso” celebrated the brilliance of Ferrari and Michael Schumacher during the first five years of the 21st century.
The business and competitive model for the modern NASCAR team is defined by the multi-car vision and financial commitment by Rick Hendrick in building his Hendrick Motorsports championship-winning dynasty. In “Stronger Together,” Tom Jensen explored the motivations and spirit of the man and his team that changed the NASCAR game forever. In “The Human Factor,” Gary Watkins examined the tech-savvy teamwork inside the cutting-edge world of World Endurance Championship competition.
As a footnote to the Great Teams Issue narrative, RACER‘s connection to Roger Penske runs deep. In 1996, Roger asked Paul Pfanner and the Racer Studio team to help him launch his new California Speedway (now Auto Club Speedway) in Fontana, California. A byproduct of this was the development of a new icon and logo for Roger’s famous racing team and a contract to provide creative and marketing services for the Penske Motorsports racetracks: California Speedway, Michigan Speedway, North Carolina Speedway and Nazareth Speedway. An interesting twist to the story came in 1999 when former Penske Motorsports and Penske Corporation President Rich Peters assisted RACER founder Paul Pfanner during his negotiations with UK-based Haymarket Media that ultimately led to the majority of Racer Communications being acquired by the publishers of Autosport, F1 Racing and Motorsport News. At the time, Rich Peters predicted that Pfanner and his investors would eventually have the opportunity to reacquire the company and 11 years later he was proven right!
Pfanner has often cited Roger Penske as one the key influences in his life and his love of racing from an early age, so it is safe to say RACER would not have existed nor would have it prospered without Penske’s validation and collaboration in RACER‘s first decade. Today, RACER is once again in the hands of the founders and stands as the largest general interest racing publication in North America and is respected as one of the best in the world. RACER.com leads the Alexa.com motorsports media website rankings for the United States and is widely regarded as the authoritative and trusted voice of American racing.