Keith Crain: You didn't come from a racing family, did you?
Roger Penske: No, not at all.
KC: But your dad took you to an Indy 500 once.
RP: I think it was 1951. I caught a cold.
KC: That's not all you caught.
RP: When I was in high school, I worked for Jaguar Cleveland -- I was 15 -- just so I could drive the cars around the lot. In those days, I think I was the mechanic, but all we did was wipe them down and deliver them. So things have sure changed in 2017. I was struck with a bug about automobiles and certainly racing has been a common thread.
KC: How did you personally get involved in racing? Your dad, who I was lucky enough to meet, wasn't involved in any of that stuff. He was a businessman.
RP: Well, I ...
KC: Did you steal the Jaguars off the lot?
RP: No, I didn't steal them. I remember I took my grandmother's car and got caught by the cops. That happens to all of us at one point, but no, it was really my love of the automobile.
I started buying and selling the cars when I was in high school and had a driver's license. When I went to Lehigh [University in Pennsylvania] I had a little garage off campus and I think I spent more time in that garage than I did in the classroom. But I think it's paid off.
KC: What was the first car you raced?
RP: It was an MG and then a Jaguar 120.
KC: Where were you racing those while at Lehigh?
RP: I was racing them in the Reading hill climb and then I remember I bought a Corvette, a '57 Corvette. Some of you might have known the fuel-injected Corvette. It was a competition model and I had to get it on a GMAC plan. What do you think about a race car on a GMAC plan?
I was racing it in Marlboro, Md., and blew it up. And I said, "How am I going to get it back to school?" And then I had to make my payment at the end of the month.
KC: So did you take the car into your local Chevy dealer to try to get it fixed under warranty?
RP: No I didn't, but fortunately I knew the Chevy dealer and he helped me. I had to get a tow truck down to Marlboro, pick it up, and drive it up myself. So those are some early times that you never forget.
KC: You jumped in pretty heavy, if you started with a Chevy fuel-injected '57.
RP: A '57 Corvette. It was a competition model, and they had B production.
KC: From a dealer?
RP: From a dealer, and B production. Today, many of the cars that we're selling have models with which people can go into IMSA and the other forms of racing and have quite a career. So we started that, really, back in the '50s.
KC: Where did Nassau Speed Week fit in?
RP: Nassau, of course, they used to have at the end of the season and we'd go there and race. That was always fun. Unfortunately that race is over now. We race in Daytona instead.
Sports Illustrated named you the sport car driver of the year in 1961. Was that before you got involved with the dealership, or after?
RP: I have to step back. I wanted to be a dealer and one of the things that General Motors came to me and said was that they had restrictions on certain things. They said if you're going to be a dealer, you can't be a race driver.
RP: I had to make a decision -- to be a race driver or be a car dealer.
KC: So you picked race driving?
RP: No, I picked car dealing. I think I did the right thing.
KC: Didn't you have a chance to race at Indianapolis?
RP: I had a chance to take my driver's test at Indianapolis [in 1965] and had to turn it down because of my job, and guess what, Mario Andretti took his test. He went in one direction and obviously I went in another.
KC: We don't know what happened to him.
RP: He turned out all right, didn't he? Indy 500 winner.
KC: Through racing you got to be friends with [former GM President] Ed Cole, and [legendary GM design chief] Bill Mitchell, and eventually got an opportunity to open your own dealership.
RP: And leave Philadelphia. Well, that was absolutely true. I was doing work for Chevy and racing and had the chance to become a dealer. Those partnerships and those racing relationships opened up doors for me, not only with the U.S. manufacturers but in Europe, the manufacturers that we do business with today through our dealership group.