1968 Penske Trans Am Camaro. Photo courtesy of Simeone Foundation Museum.
In 1965, Roger Penske was a newly minted Chevrolet dealer with a showroom in West Philadelphia. That meant he had to walk away from a stellar driving career in both amateur and professional racing, one that would have likely put him in the lineup of that year’s Indianapolis 500.
We all know what’s happened since then. The Captain made racing a foundation of his business empire, an enterprise of competition that marked its first half-century earlier this year. Roger Penske’s been amply feted throughout the years, and finally got to lead the race his team has won 16 times by driving the pace car at the 2016 Indianapolis 500. Last weekend, Penske Racing also won its 100th NASCAR race. Early next month, the Simeone Foundation Museum in South Philadelphia will host a special insiders’ panel on Penske Racing’s history, featuring some of the most influential behind-the-scenes individuals that made the operation the dynasty it is today.
“The Penske Racing Team and the People Who Helped Build It in the Glory Days” is the title for the panel discussion that will take place at the museum on Saturday, August 6 beginning at noon. It’s going to be led by Karl Kainhofer, the first man Penske hired when he started his race team outside Philadelphia in 1966, and who went on to run Penske Racing’s engine shop for more than 20 years. He is the subject of the new book Penske’s Maestro, co-written with Gordon Kirby, who will also take part in the discussion. A New Hampshire resident, Kirby is the United States editor for Motor Sport magazine and is a staff writer at Racemaker Press in Boston, which produced the book.
Others on the panel will include George Wintersteen, Penske Racing’s first driver; Don Cox, an engineer on the dominating Porsche Can-Am effort with Mark Donohue; Woody Woodard, a mechanic who worked closely with Donohue in several series; Leroy Gane, who build the infamous Zerex Special sports car that Penske drove to stardom; Chuck Cantwell, who designed the G.T.350 for Carroll Shelby and then went on to develop Trans-Am Camaros, and Jay Signore, who ran the Penske-created IROC team.
They and others will discuss their experiences, after which a book and commemorative poster signing is scheduled. To learn more, visit SimeoneMuseum.org.