Penske Racing Museum — Room for Checkered Flags

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 07/2012
  • posted in: Great Garages

Put The Penske Racing Museum in north Scottsdale on your automotive itinerary. But watch your speed getting there — especially this 10th-anniversary year.

Just off the Loop 101 in Phoenix, the two-level 10,000-square-foot museum is at 7125 E. Chauncey Lane, adjacent to the Penske Automotive Group Aston Martin dealership. This is one of more than 150 locations nationally and 325 worldwide for the Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based company.

Before he became one of the world’s most influential racing team owners and automobile-industry giants, Roger Penske was a highly regarded race driver from 1958–65, winning more than 50 races and claiming Sports Illustrated’s Driver of the Year in 1961. 

He retired from racing in 1965 to pursue business interests, which included owning his first car dealership. In 1966, he formed Penske Racing; since then, his race team has won 350-plus races including 15 Indy 500s, a Daytona 500 and 23 National Championships. The museum has a number of the cars from these outings.

The Penske Racing Museum opened in November 2002, culminating the completion of the Scottsdale 101 Auto Collection dealership complex, explains Patrick J. Hozza, motorsports specialist for the museum. On the second floor, visitors can enjoy the Turn 4 Café, Mondays to Fridays, serving breakfast and lunch by Michael’s Catering. The museum Boutique is also here.

“The museum is located here because the Scottsdale 101 Auto Collection is the crown jewel in the Penske Automotive Group for the size and brands that are represented here,” he says. “No wonder this is the place for the only Penske Racing Museum.”

Before the museum opened in Scottsdale, the collection was housed in a Michigan warehouse not open to the public. “So, it’s great for all the cars of Penske Racing’s history to once again be out in the public for the fans to see and relive memories of their past watching these cars on track,” he says.

About 20 cars are housed at the museum — about a third of the Penske Racing Collection. “From time to time, we rotate cars in and out of the museum,” Patrick says.

All the cars in the collection have a connection to Penske Racing: They were raced by the team or have an affiliation to it. “Most of the cars have been owned by Penske Racing since the cars were raced on track, and a few have had to be repurchased after they were sold back in the day,” he says.

On a recent visit, Patrick spoke about five cars of special significance to the Penske Racing Team:

•1963 NASCAR Pontiac Catalina — Roger Penske drove a 1963 Pontiac Catalina identical to this car to victory at the NASCAR Riverside 250 on May 16, 1963. Owned by Nichels Engineering, the #02 car had the famous Pontiac 421-cubic-inch Super Duty engine — the muscle before the muscle cars — with aluminum intake manifolds, cast iron exhaust manifolds, a Carter carburetor and a Borg Warner T-10.

•1973 IROC Porsche RSR — Driven by Mark Donohue, this car won the first International Race of Champions at Riverside. IROC placed drivers from different racing series in identically prepared cars; Donohue took three of the four races to win the title. The 3-litre air-cooled flat six outputted 316 horsepower at 8,000 rpm. The 2,000-pound vehicle has a metal and fiberglass body.

•1977 Penske PC-5 — Tom Sneva brought this car to the first single lap exceeding 200 mph. This also is the first time Penske Racing entered its own chassis at the Indy 500. The fiberglass-bodied car weighs only 1,550 pounds with a monococque chassis using aluminum double-curvature side panels. It’s powered by a Cosworth Ford DFX DOHC V8, which generates 800 horses at 9,000 rpm. A Hewland LG 500 four-speed puts the power to the wheels.

•1979 Indianapolis 500 Winner — Rick Mears won the pole and the race with this car, also driven by Mario Andretti for Penske Racing in 1978. In this 1500-pound Penske PC-6, Mears qualified at 193.736 mph. Powered by a Cosworth Ford DFX, it produces 800 horsepower at 9,000 rpm, again with a Hewland LG 500 4-speed. The chassis is monocoque aluminum panels and magnesium bulkheads.

•1985 Indianapolis 500 Winner — Danny Sullivan qualified in this Penske March 85C at 210.298. The carbon-fiber-bodied “Spin and Win” car features a Cosworth Ford DFX DOHC V8 developing 700 horsepower at 10,000 rpm and a March 4-speed. The chassis is aluminum honeycomb and carbon fiber with an aluminum bulkhead. This was Penske Racing’s fifth Indy 500 win. The museum also has the 2006 Dallara, driven by Sam Hornish Jr. — another Indy win in 2006 by the spectacular Penske team.

The museum is open Monday to Saturday, 8.a.m.–4 p.m. and Sunday, 12–5 p.m. For other information, call Patrick, 480.538.4444 or see, www.penskeracingmuseum.com. If you or someone you know has a GreatGarage and would like it to be considered for an upcoming issue, e-mail us at [email protected].