How Roger Penske changed the Indy 500 – the complete series

Daily during the two weeks leading up to this year’s 103rd Indianapolis 500, RACER.com presented a fresh episode of the 15-part podcast series, ‘How Roger Penske Changed The Indy 500′. The series celebrated the most successful entrant in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history, culminating on the 50th anniversary of his team’s first appearance in 1969 and, as it turned out, on the day of another Team Penske Indy 500 triumph courtesy an on-form Simon Pagenaud.

In case you missed any of the episodes, here are links to all 15:

How Roger Penske changed the Indy 500, Ep 15, with rivals Rahal, Brown and Hull

On the final episode of our 15-part ‘How Roger Penske Changed The Indy 500’ feature, our guests are three of The Captain’s rivals, starting with Rahal Letterman Lanigan co-owner Bobby Rahal (at right in 2003 Indy 500 photo above); continuing with McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown; and closing with Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull.

Below are excerpts from Hull’s interview:

A RACER, FIRST

“If you step back maybe just a little bit, and you look back in — look at Michael Andretti, look at Chip Ganassi and look at Roger Penske when they were race drivers. You almost see the same thing in the management of their teams. And because they still have their own way of doing business, they have their own personality. And their personalities come through in the management of their teams in a very similar manner to how they drove race cars.”

THE CONSISTENCY OF MOTION

“I think that Mr. Penske approached his very first 500, now 50 years ago, the same way he’s going to approach this one. And, he sets the standard for his people with his ethic, and I think that’s always defined the culture. There’s probably not too many people left at Penske Racing, except for Roger, that have been there 50 years.

“But if you think about it, the consistency of motion, the consistency of action by him has set the standard not only for his people, but for the rest of us to follow. He’s the gold standard for the Indy 500. And in our lifetime, and my racing lifetime, with Chip Ganassi, I think Chip will probably get there, if he has the 20 years head start that Roger does have.

“And there are others — Michael team is trying to do it too, and they’re doing a great job of it. So there’s others that have followed in the wake of what Penske Racing does at Indy. For open-wheel people in the United States, for sure, that is the race that sets you apart, and it certainly set him apart in the eyes of all of us.”

How Roger Penske changed the Indy 500, Ep 14, with Helio Castroneves

Part 14 of the 15-part 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, welcomes the beloved three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. Spider-Man’s 20 years as a Team Penske driver surpass all those who’ve competed for the Captain.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

IN THE COMPANY OF ENZO

“For me, the Penske organization is very much the same level as Ferrari in Formula 1. In football teams, Patriots, or baseball, the Yankees, and so forth.”

WIN FOR RP

“When I won the Indy 500 for Roger, for me, it was like we won together as a team. It is Team Penske. We want to make Roger happy.”

How Roger Penske changed the Indy 500, Ep 13, with Tim Cindric

Part 13 of the 15-part 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, welcomes Team Penske president Tim Cindric.

Since his arrival, Cindric has played a sizable role in turning The Captain’s declining fortunes in IndyCar around and restoring it to glory starting in the year 2000.

Below are a few excerpts from the interview:

A CHILDHOOD DREAM

“I grew up here in Indianapolis and as a kid sat behind Roger’s pit. And they were almost the untouchables. When I’d go in the garage area there in the old wooden garages, they were at the end of the garage from where my dad’s was — the end of the row, I should say. And Rick Mears — he was the guy that set the stage in a lot of different ways. But the professionalism of the team was always the thing that I admired.

“The team always seemed to keep to themselves. They were different. They weren’t in Indianapolis; they were in Pennsylvania. What race teams were in Pennsylvania? So there was always a mystique around it — and always one that you wanted to be part of it, but you didn’t really know how.”

RIVAL AND OUTSIDER

“There was, honestly, in some ways, an unwelcomeness for myself … because when it was announced in ’99 that Gil de Ferran was coming to the team, Greg Moore, if you remember that press conference. And that was before I was even on the radar screen. Wow, that’s a great lineup. If they can’t win with those two guys, they’ve really got a problem.

“Well then, all of a sudden, Roger goes to make this introduction to the team and I’m part of it. And it was not until that day that anybody knew that I was part of that program. And the team really didn’t understand that part of it because Roger had never talked to them about it. He had never talked to any of the leadership. He had never talked to anybody. He just pretty much dropped me in — ‘Oh, by the way, this guy’s going to run the show.’

“And Clive Howell, at the time, he was the general manager of the team, and I had known Clive from afar but I couldn’t tell you I knew him well. And I remember the first meeting we had. He and I laugh about it . We were sitting in the conference room there in Reading , and we finish this meeting, and I could tell that I was the outcast in some ways. It was kind of like, ‘Why is this guy here?’”

How Roger Penske changed the Indy 500, Ep 12, with Derrick Walker

Part 12 of the 15-part 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, is led by former chief mechanic and general manager Derrick Walker.

The Scot’s efforts at Team Penske from the late 1970s through the late 1980s helped the program become the most dominant force in IndyCar competition.

How Roger Penske changed the Indy 500, Ep 11, with Al Unser Jr

Part 11 of the 15-part feature series ‘How Roger Penske Changed The Indy 500,’ which celebrates the most successful entrant at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the 50thanniversary of his first which took place in 1969, welcomes two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr.

Little Al’s time with Roger Penske in the 1990s, including an unforgettable win at the 1994 Indy 500, marked the high point in a long and storied driving career.

The Architect

“The Indy 500 is the crown jewel of American racing,” he says. “I mean, it was here long before stock cars were. And so, to actually change Indianapolis Motor Speedway is saying a lot. And so, when I think about what Roger did to actually change the 500, I think about the business model that is in our racing today. And when I say that, I talk about sponsors. And Roger, Roger is like the car owners of the ’30s and ’40s where they had a passion for racing. They loved racing, and that’s why the did it.

“Unfortunately, they couldn’t drive the car as well as a professional driver could, but they could own it. And when we start talking about the beginning of the Indy 500, it was all about the owner. It wasn’t about the driver. Like when Ray Haroun won the Indy 500, it was Marmon that was congratulated. The driver was like a jockey in today’s world. Where the jockey is the guy who rides the horse, and to be honest with you, I think the jockey should get more credit.

“And so, it wasn’t until Tony Hulman came along in the ’40s that he started honoring the race car driver. So, when I talk about Roger Penske as an owner, not a driver, at the Indy 500, what Roger brought was the business model of sponsorship. And he introduced that with Sunoco. And then it became a business model from that day forward. You had the Johnny Lightning Special with Vels Parnelli. And so on. And prior to that, it was STP with Andy Granatelli. But it was really Roger who took it the next steps. I would venture to say that that was the time that it really became a business model that we, in Indy car racing today, totally lived by.”

How Roger Penske changed the Indy 500, episode 10, with Jon Bouslog

Part 10 of the 15-part 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, welcomes Jon Bouslog to the conversation.

Nicknamed ‘Myron,’ Bouslog’s been the closest thing to a Team Penske mascot during his four decades with the outfit as he’s risen up the ranks from junior mechanic to managing The Captain’s IMSA sports car team on behalf of Acura.

Below are a few excerpts from the interview:

BROTHERHOOD

“There were so many talented people that I didn’t want to let anybody down. That seemed to be the way the team was. No guy wanted to let the other guy down, so it was always this level of … Ultimately, nobody wanted to let Roger down, and he was right there with us all the time. Obviously, he had his business going, but he was around a lot. Just really forcibly and willingly, I got better — forcibly being people not letting me get outside the box, off the reservation; reeling me back in when I was screwing up, or going down a road that shouldn’t be going; or messing around too much, or whatever. I didn’t really know, you know?”

THE BIRTH OF FANATICAL PRESENTATION

“If you look at the ’72 win, if you look at photos of the ’72 Donohue car, if you look on the inside of the wheels, the inside wheel lip is polished. The faces are polished, but the inside of the wheel lips are polished, and Karl actually pointed that out to me. He says, ‘You guys think you do it right? Well that’s where it started.’

“So that detail started at the very beginning, and as preparation, and as we went along the years, it was almost an internal competition who could make their car the nicest within reason. We used to polish bolt heads, and we’d run our … Raychem. Raychem’s a heat shrink that goes over the wiring. On the right side it went from … you could read it front to back, and on the left side you could read it front to back.

“Bolts always pointed to the right or down. These things came up by everybody. They’d all come up with these little preparation tweaks, and it was encouraged. Roger, he loved that, and that’s how he was. He always set the standard in that early on. Everybody might have a Porsche, but do they have a Porsche with nice paint and chrome wheels? I don’t know, maybe not, but he did.”