Roger Penske has literally done it all in the sport of auto racing. Although he started his career as a driver in the 1950s, he is best known for his work as a car owner in both IndyCar and in NASCAR. No one associated with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 has enjoyed the success that the man known as “The Captain” has achieved since making his debut as an entrant in 1969.
On May 29th, 2016, Penske will add another moniker to his extensive resume, as he has been selected to drive the Chevrolet Camaro SS pace car for the start of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. The 2017 model year Camaro, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the Chevrolet mainstay, will be abalone white in color and under the hood will feature a 455 horsepower engine. This is the 27th time at Indy that a Chevrolet has paced the field for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, a duty that has also been held by the long time General Motors-based manufacturer every year since 2002. 2016 also marks the ninth time a Camaro has paced the field, with three-time Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti handling the pre-race driving duties the last time the popular marque was called upon two years ago.
“Chevrolet and the Indianapolis 500 have a long, storied history and it’s an honor to mark the respective milestones of the Indy 500 race and the Camaro simultaneously,” said Mark Reuss, executive vice president of Global Product Development and Global Purchasing and Supply Chain. “It’s also a privilege to have Roger Penske perform the driving duties, as his team has helped Chevrolet earn four consecutive IndyCar manufacturer titles since 2012.”
In addition to last year’s Indianapolis 500 win by Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske and Chevrolet have joined forces in six of the Captain’s record 16 victories on Memorial Day Weekend in Indiana’s state capital.
“I guess it’s not a trophy, it’s not a big check, it’s an opportunity to drive the pace car in what I think is the number one auto race in the world,” Penske said to USA Today’s Brant James on Monday. “So how do you get there? I guess you go back and think when your dad took you to your first (Indy 500) in 1951 (when Lee Wallard won the race). I guess it’s been a long circuitous journey, but it’s certainly one I’ll never forget.”
The late Mark Donohue earned the first Indy 500 win for Penske in 1972, three members of the Unser family (Bobby, Al Sr., Al Jr.) each won the race for Penske, while the “Rocket” Rick Mears won all four of his Indy 500s for the Captain. Helio Castroneves has three wins for Roger Penske at Indianapolis and will look to match Mears mark of four Indy wins with Penske next month. With all of the records posted in 46 years of Indy history, current Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles is equally excited for Penske and Chevrolet to lead the field to the green flag at this milestone event.
“Chevrolet and Roger Penske are inextricably linked to the heritage of the Indianapolis 500,” said Boles. “When he leads the pack on May 29th, behind the wheel of the Camaro SS, he will drive the race into its next 100 years and strengthen the bond Chevrolet and Indianapolis forged a century ago.”
Not only is Chevrolet leading the field on race day, its twin turbo V-6 engine could very well power the winner of this year’s event. Chevrolet has won two of the last four Indy 500s contested and entering this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, they are undefeated in the first three races of the 2016 season to date.
Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com for further news and updates on the Road to the Indianapolis 500.