Welcome to the feature series ‘How Roger Penske Changed The Indy 500,’ which celebrates the most successful entrant at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the 50th anniversary of his first which took place in 1969.
This 15-part series spans some of the greatest drivers, managers, mechanics, designers, and the man himself, Roger Penske, to document The Captain’s vast influence on America’s defining motor race, the Indy 500, and in many instances, the sport as a whole.
Our guest for the first episode is the man himself, Roger Penske.
Below are a few excerpts from the interview:
MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO
“Well, I think you know we picked up this theme of unfair advantage. What we were trying to do is go to the next step. You know we were never good enough wasn’t good enough, and I think that there was a lot of monkey see, monkey do in this sport over time where people copied the guy next to them, but we tried to go a step further.
“I certainly was interested in if there’s no risk, there’s no reward, so I pushed and I never had anybody turn back and say, “No, we’re not going to do that.” And I think that gave us somewhat of an advantage that people called it unfair.”
MAYBE PEOPLE THINK WE DO FROM THE OUTSIDE
“To me it’s about this next race, and it’s hard to believe we’ve won 17, to be honest with you. If I had to go back and think about how did it all happened, it would probably take me a long time to understand each lap.
“I do know that looking at some statistics here lately that we’ve won 38 percent of the time that we entered here. We led over 2,300 laps which is more than 11 races, so that I do understand, and understand the commitment. But the more you race here, the more you prepare. And I think the little things are what takes people out here, and [in] many cases, we’ve made those mistakes, but you know I don’t look at we’re some big guys that come in to the Speedway and try to take over.
“Maybe people think we do from the outside. We’re really low-key here. I know it’s a tremendous hill to climb. We come here in 2019; there’s a lot of good cars. A lot of good teams and to me, we’re here to compete. People want to beat us and we want to beat them.”
MY NAME’S ON THE DOOR
“My name’s on the door, but there’s no way I can take all the credit. You know for what’s taken place, and what will take place in the future, good or bad, I think it’s a team effort. I want a flat organization when we go racing.
“You know the guy that drives the truck here, the one that airs the tires or cleans the shop is just as important as the driver, and the day we don’t think they are as important is the day we’ll never win. And to me, that’s our profile.”