SEMA News - February 2010
By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Source Interlink Media Archives
Roger Penske gave up a successful racing career to open his first car dealership in 1965, but that didn’t keep him away from the track. He began Penske Racing that same year, and one of his earliest acquisitions was this ’66 Corvette coupe. The car had been used by Chevrolet to develop the L88 engine program, and Penske struck a deal with Zora Arkus-Duntov—who quietly worked around GM’s ban on factory racing support—to buy the car for competition. Penske sent a young West Coast racer named Dick Guldstrand to Detroit to drive the Corvette back to Penske’s operation in Pennsylvania.
Penske hired Guldstrand, George Wintersteen and Ben Moore to drive the Corvette at the Daytona 24-hour endurance race in February 1966 (then called the Daytona Continental). This pre-race publicity photo, distributed by Firestone, shows Penske examining the Firestone Indy tires used in the race.
Penske’s Vette won the Grand Touring class and finished 12th overall with an average speed of 91.68 mph, despite a nighttime crash that destroyed the car’s nose. The team soldiered on by taping flashlights to the remains of the front fenders to meet the race organizer’s lighting rules.
After the victory at Daytona, Penske had the Corvette painted blue with yellow stripes—the colors of his sponsor Sunoco. The car earned another endurance race win at Sebring in that livery, but Penske wouldn’t race sports cars for much longer. He was soon to meet another young driver, Mark Donohue, who would help take Penske Racing to the top tier of American motorsports.