Team Penske kicks off 50th anniversary celebration in 2016

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It seems like just yesterday that Roger Penske began building what would become one of the greatest racing empires ever.

Now, 50 years later and following an evolution that began as Roger Penske Racing, transitioned to Penske Racing and eventually to simply Team Penske, the IndyCar and NASCAR legend is throwing a year-long celebration of his organization’s 50-year history.

“We are very proud of all Team Penske has accomplished over the last 50 years,” team owner Roger Penske said in a team media release. “The celebration of our 50th Anniversary is truly a credit to the hard work, preparation and execution of our teams over the years.

“The 2016 season will be a special one in our history as we have the opportunity to reflect back on our heritage while continuing to produce and win at a high level each week on the race track.”

Originally formed in 1966 to compete in sports car and endurance events – it won the 24 Hours of Daytona in its first career start – the organization quickly added IndyCar competition and eventually NASCAR racing.

Along the way over those five decades, Team Penske has amassed a combined 424 wins (including 16 Indianapolis 500 wins and two Daytona 500 victories), 487 poles and 28 national championships. It also has had more than 80 different drivers behind the wheel of a Penske race vehicle.

And something for Gene Haas to shoot for as he debuts his Formula One team in 2016: Team Penske was also the last American team to win a Formula One race (1976, with driver John Watson).

The Penske legacy will be celebrated in several ways, most notably at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

First, the NASCAR Hall of Fame will debut a new display – “Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Team Penske” – starting on Jan. 20, during the annual NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“The special exhibit will not only focus on Team Penske’s successful NASCAR program, but will showcase cars spanning multiple racing disciplines from 1966 to the present and will include never before seen artifacts and trophies from the Team Penske archives,” according to a Team Penske media release.

Then in February, another display will debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. It will open 100 days before the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May.

The display will be more open-wheel centric, including cars that will reflect each Team Penske driver’s first win at IMS, along with other vehicles, artifacts and trophies from Penske’s 50 years of racing.

Other highlights of the year-long celebration include:

* Formation and inaugural introductions into the Team Penske Hall of Fame, which will honor current and former drivers and employees who have made significant contributions to the team and its history.

* The Jan. 18 issue of Sports Business Journal will have a special pullout section celebrating Team Penske. In addition, team patriarch Roger Penske will be featured as one of the magazine’s six annual Sports Business Champions.

* There will be a number of media placements featuring historic races, drivers, team members and key moments in Team Penske history. Those placements will include more than 70 interviews with former drivers, employees, sponsors and other influential individuals in the organization’s history to be used in print, online and broadcast media.

* Social media will play a key role in spreading the 50th anniversary message, keying on the hashtag #Penske50. As the year goes by, the team will post a variety of things such as driver biographies, photos, videos and key moments in the organization’s history.

* An extensive line of merchandise commemorating the organization’s 50th anniversary will debut in the next few months and will feature Puma apparel, collectables, novelties and diecasts.

For more information visit www.teampenske.com.

Follow @JerryBonkowski