Friday, February 22, 2008

Penske, the brilliant career highlights

Here is a man who has prevailed in every form of racing in which he has participated:
Penske has won the Indianapolis 500 more times than any other owner.

His team was so dominant in the Can-Am Series that he destroyed it, because it was no longer competitive.
To this date, the Penske 917 Can-Am Porsche is considered the single most awesome racing car ever created.

Back when Penske was the team owner for the original Trans-Am, his Chevies dominated. Until he switched to, of all things, American Motors. Two years later, the Javelin won the championship. A couple of years after that, the series imploded, partly because it took too much money and too much commitment to compete with Penske.

However, Penske’s commitment to his drivers isn’t best illustrated by the races he’s won or the series he’s dominated. It’s best illustrated by a story told by Dr. Terry Trammell, at the time of the events the rising star of orthopedic surgery at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana.
It was during a race at a track in Canada called Sanair that Mears crashed in an open-wheel racer. In those days, drivers’ feet protruded beyond the front axle line and any frontal impact damaged the driver’s feet, usually crippling them for life. There was no crush zone. Other than the driver’s feet.
Mears’s feet were pulverized by the crash.
Mere hours after the crash, two men showed up at Methodist Hospital in Indiana.
They located Dr. Trammell, explained to him that they had been sent by Mr. Penske, and that they were not allowed to take ‘no’ for an answer. Dr. Trammell explained that he had surgeries scheduled. They explained that the jet was waiting.
Dr. Trammell got on that jet. The attending doctors had not believed that Rick Mears would walk again. Instead, he won two more Indy 500’s. Driving for Roger Penske.
What is less known is that Penske had dispatched the two men and the jet to Indianapolis before Mears had been taken from the track to go to the hospital.
But, you see, that’s always been Penske’s genius.
He’s a genius at recognizing who is, and who isn’t, just that good.
And then sticking with them, no matter what it takes, to make it happen.