Novelists are naturally more confident of the decisive moments in their characters' lives than biographers, but it is not too great a hazard to relate that the turning point in the life of Roger Penske, who has become one of the world's most accomplished racing drivers while devotedly working five days a week as an aluminum salesman, came when he was 10. That year—it was 1947—Roger was growing up in Shaker Heights, the fashionable Cleveland suburb. One day, momentous only in retrospect, like the footprint in the flower bed, he asked his father for anew bike. Instead of buying it for him, which he could easily have afforded, J.H. Penske (it is German and pronounced Pen-ski) told his son he would have to get one on his own hook. At the time Roger was a carrier for the ClevelandNews. The News was offering a bicycle to any boy who could get 20 new subscribers on his route. "I got 40," Roger recalled the other day."I could have had two bikes. Then I thought it was easy, but it gave me confidence. Anything you want you can get if you work at it."
Although Roger's feat was not enough to save the News—it was sold in 1960—it taught him some firm precepts that are no less valid for being the catch phrases of a peculiarly American approach to success. "I have always felt, believe me, that nothing is impossible," Roger says, rather grimly. "I mean nothing. If they say it's impossible it only turns me on. The guy who puts the most work in gets the most results. You never get anywhere unless you do something. The guy who's sitting back will get passed while he's waiting.Everything I've said we're going to do, I've done. If it has to be done, I'll get it done somehow."
Due in large part to an unrelenting allegiance to these slogans, Roger Penske has made phenomenal progress in the four years he has gone to the races. In 1961 he won his class—D modified—in Sports Car Club of America competition and was selected as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Sports Car Driver of the Year. In the final months of 1962 Roger won the Riverside (Calif.) Grand Prix and the Pacific Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, Calif., two of the richest and most prestigious sports car races in the world, and wound up the year by winning twice more: in the Grand Prix of PuertoRico and in the Bahamas Tourist Trophy Race in Nassau. All told, in 1962 he won$34,350 racing sports cars—a record sum. He was North American champion and was chosen by both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times as Sports CarDriver of the Year. This unparalleled succession of triumphs established Roger without question as the finest road-racing driver competing exclusively inAmerica. Since he has confined himself chiefly to sports cars and has not participated in the Grandes Épreuves abroad, which are contested in Formula I cars, he cannot be compared with ranking American drivers: Dan Gurney, considered by many, including Roger, to be the best in the world, and PhilHill, world champion in 1961. As Stirling Moss forthrightly put it when asked to evaluate Penske and Gurney: "Bloody silly!"
This is not to say that Moss intended to slight Penske. After Roger finished ninth in the U.S.Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, N.Y. last year, Moss sent him a postcard. It read:"It's none of my business, but I wanted to tell you that I thought you drove a damn good race. Intelligence is a rare ability.... P.S. My first fan letter for years."
Gurney thinks highly of his young rival, too. "Considering the time he's been able to spend at it," Dan said at Daytona Beach last month, "he's done extremely well. He's got a real good idea of things equipment wise, preparation wise. And he gets the best men to help him. If I were running on a team, I'd want him on it. He can sum up a situation. He realizes it's not worth taking a chance until he has eliminated a number of the variables, safety wise. His attitude and his approach from all angles is the best. Chances are he has what it takes to achieve whatever goal he has set out to achieve in racing." As Penske sauntered within earshot, Gurney added, "He's got the money in the bank and everybody hates him."
"My ideas in everything are so much bigger than anyone else's" is another of RogerPenske's tenets. His boldest and most profitable idea is the controversial Zerex-Duralite Special, in which he won the Riverside, Laguna and Puerto RicoGrands Prix. It is a hybrid: a sports car body on the restored frame of aFormula I Cooper wreck.
Still another tenet of Roger's is: "There are some things I can't do, but I know people who can do them for me." Roger's mechanic, Roy (Axle) Gane; Bob Webb, a body man from Indianapolis; and Harry Tidmarsh, a local body man, built theSpecial in 11 weeks. "A guy that can take good people, put them together, gets results," Roger says.
"I had to do something to beat those other guys," Roger says, referring to the Special."After I did it a lot of people came up to me and said, 'Gee, I thought about doing that.' If it was so easy it should have been done long ago, but Iwas the one who did it and I won the races."
The disputed design feature of the Special was that Roger's seat was in the middle of the car, as in Formula I's; the passenger's seat required by sports car specifications was outside the frame.
The Special passed inspection and no one protested it in any of its three races, but the critics began to complain. "Some of the gloss was taken off his wins,"wrote one critic, "by his non-sporting Zerex-Duralite F-1 disguised as a sports car." But as another pointed out, "Roger made two mistakes: he won and he was from the East."
"The guy on top," Roger says bitterly, "no matter who he is, there's always something wrong with him. If they can't find anything else to complain about, they'll say he's cheating with another guy's wife. The biggest thing in this racing—everyone's got an excuse. I'll be honest with you. I won races beforeCalifornia. The car just didn't go on the road and run around by itself."
Since the Special doesn't comply with FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile)regulations—which were not binding in the three Grands Prix—Roger has recently modified it. He has moved his seat over four inches and now sits on the right, with the passenger's seat alongside him, within the frame, as in conventional sports cars. But by now the Special may be obsolete; Roger has high hopes for anew car, a factory Cooper powered by an all-aluminum Chevrolet engine."I've got to keep one step ahead of the next guy," Roger says.
"Ingemar Johansson got into boxing because he liked it," Penske said recently while dining in a restaurant near his home in Gladwyne, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb,"not because he thought he would be champion of the world. And I got into racing because I like cars, I understand cars, I know what has to be done to acar to make it a good one. My success has not been because I'm the best driver.It's been because I outthink, out-prepare, out-strategy the next guy.
"The two most important things in racing are preparing a car right and not taking a hell of a lot of chances. Sure, I like to go fast. Speed doesn't scare me at all. Nothing gives me more fun than to get in a real good dice at top speed with a real goodd river, but I've got too much at stake to break my neck. I don't want to get hurt. There's so much I want to do, and I want to be around to do it. I try to keep in mind: you can get hurt in motor racing. It lurks in my mind: use your head and not your foot.
"The main thing is to win the race at the lowest possible speed. If someone's smoking, why bust your hump? You got to finish to win. The thing I worry about most is the unexpected, coming over a hill and seeing three cars stacked up and there's nothing you can do. I know I can prepare myself for the expected." Roger has had only one accident, in a Formula Junior in Nassau last December when his throttle stuck. He went off the road and banged up his left arm and ribs.
"I could see a person in front of me get killed and it wouldn't faze me," he said."If I'm killed the guys will keep racing. I know what I do. When the road gets wet, I go slow. No one will ever say Roger Penske drove over his head. I swear to God they won't. I'm not going to go flat out to give the people a show. I don't get paid for the show. I get paid to win.
"This is my own challenge, do you understand that? No one forced me to go racing. I realize the danger. I've been asked to run at Indianapolis. I turned it down. It's too dangerous. That's my opinion. Not yours, not my wife's, not anyone else's. The plain facts are that if something happens at 160 mph you're in real tough trouble and you better whistle out loud.
"But I feel that nothing's going to happen. I feel that I'm too smart. Ninety percent of the fatalities are a result of driver error. I've driven with guys and let them pass me. Dan [Gurney] passed me at Riverside. The track was oily, we were sliding around the corners. I said to myself, 'Why should I be dicing with him?' I let him pass. Later he dropped out. He had problems [a broken throttle linkage]. I know guys say that Dan really blew me off at Riverside, but he andI know he couldn't have passed me if it wasn't oily. He and I know who won the race. Listen, if this radiator right here"—Roger indicated the radiator alongside the table—"is death, I want to be as far away from it as possible. Arnold Palmer can try harder if he's behind, and if he fails he won't get hurt, but if I try harder, drive faster....
"You're dealing with a team sport here, not just an athlete. You're dealing with something mechanical and something human. A boxer may be big, strong and healthy, but he's got the same gloves on his opponent has. Auto racing is a team sport like horse racing and sailboat racing. The team is the individual and the thing—in this case, the mechanical object. You must be able to get in time with that object.
"A good jockey isn't a good jockey unless he's got a good horse. We're pretty particular. We don't assume anything. We don't have time for this drama a lot of others go through. I try to be a perfectionist—in how I live, too, my personal appearance. I feel bad when I have to do something a little sloppy.I've always been very conscious of my appearance.
"When a car's in good shape and looks good, automatically you're in good shape. When you bring a car on the grid that's beautiful you got a psychological edge. When I brought my car out to Riverside the people were flabbergasted. Everyone expected a backyard special. I mean, the car was beautiful.
"Cars and clothes are the two things I spend money on," Roger says. He has, at last count, 25 suits and sports jackets. He has had, since he was 15, 32automobiles. The first was a used MG that he bought with the proceeds from the sale of a motorcycle and the insurance he collected when his motorboat was wrecked. His second car was a 1950 Oldsmobile convertible. "That was the neatest car I ever had," Roger says, almost reverently. Then came another1950 Olds. "I fixed it up in a week and sold it for $600 profit," he says.
There followed:another 1950 Olds convertible ("I made it a mint"); an MG-TC; a 1950Jaguar XK-120 roadster; a 1954 Jaguar XK-120M roadster ("I ran my first races in that Jag at Can-field, Ohio. I got a third"); a wrecked Chevrolet; another wrecked Chevy ("I fixed them up and sold both"); a 1956 Ford: a1955 Jaguar MC-140 roadster; a Corvette ("That was the first real race carI had. I won a couple of hill climbs with it"); a 1948 Chevrolet; a 300 SLMercedes ("That was my ultimate. It had only 4,000 miles on it. Just a cream puff!"); a Chevy station wagon; a 1950 Chevy; a Porsche RS Spyder("That was my first all-out racing car"); a Porsche RSK Spyder("That had been wrecked at Marlboro, Md. I started winning with it in 1959.I was third in my class. My wife Lissa and I worked on that one. She'd get down and hold something for me. You know, in the beginning, love is blind"); aPorsche RS-60: a Chevy wagon; a Birdcage Maserati; a Cooper; another Cooper;the Cooper that became the Zerex Special: a Corvair; two more Corvairs; a Fordwagon; an E-type Jag; another Corvair; and a Pontiac Grand Prix.
Ever since he won the bicycle from the Cleveland News Roger Penske has been determined to make his own way. "What we're going to do," he has said, including his wife,"we're going to do, but on our own. We're going to make our own name."There was no real need for Roger to work, as he did each summer and during school holidays from the time he was 9 until he graduated from Lehigh. J. H.Penske is a vice-president of Williams & Co., a prosperous metalware housing concern. Even as recently as his senior year at Lehigh, however,Roger worked a whole day of his Christmas holiday delivering flowers before taking Lissa to a fancy ball. "I think the greatest legacy you can leave a boy is a desire to work," J.H. says.
When Roger was 14his newspaper route became too big for him to cover by bicycle, so he bought a motorbike. The bike and frequent visits to Sportsman's Park, an Akron speedway, helped kindle his interest in racing. But a motorcycle he purchased at 16nearly ended any thoughts of a racing career; his right ankle was badly crushed in an accident. At first the doctors thought they would have to amputate, but after 12 weeks in the hospital Roger pulled through, and when football practice began at Shaker Heights High the following year he reported, limping. He had lost his speed and couldn't cut, but he found he could manage at defensive end.In a game against Euclid, Roger blocked two punts in the end zone for touchdowns, recovering one himself.
Despite his weak ankle, Roger has now taken up skiing. "I'm not satisfied if I'm sitting still," he says. "I like to do everything. But if I'm doing this with my right hand I know I'm going to be able to do this with my left. My wife saysI'm going to be dead before I'm 40. But I don't do anything I don't do with both feet, carry through. If I go skiing I have to have the best of equipment, of everything. We're going skiing, we're not just going over to a golf course and run down the hill. I have a 10 handicap in golf, but I don't want to be a hacker. I know I'm going to get down to five or six this summer. And I'm a 160,170 bowler. My wife and I are in a mixed bowling league."
Roger has always fared better in sports than in schoolwork. "I never studied," he admits. "I'd get behind in a course, forget about it." He did, however, scrape through Lehigh and got his B.S. in industrial management in 1959. What he most fondly remembers about college was being elected to Arcadia, the student government, with the second highest number of votes. "I've always liked politics," he says. "My first and biggest defeat was when I lost an election for president of my class in elementary school. I wasn't put off.They always pick a typical president-type guy. I was also head of the concession committee at Lehigh. That was right down my alley. School scarves!We made a mint on that! We sold 300 scarves in two nights at a $3 profit per scarf."
"He was one of the most enterprising guys at Lehigh," recalls Bruce Crichton, who roomed with Roger at the Phi Gamma Delta house and is now a partner in a brokerage house. "He had a fantastic business sense. He was always doing something, and he certainly didn't need the dough. The guy was a fireball!Always out, always looking for more. And he usually got what he wanted. I admired this kind of guy. Still do. 'There goes Roger Penske,' he wanted people to say. 'He's done thus and so." The guy wanted to be tops. He liked to be in the center of things. 'Let's do this, let's do that,' he was always saying.He was never a sit-down-and-have-a-long-chat-type guy.
"He takes them pretty much to the limit in business," Bruce says. "He knows the line and goes right to the edge, but if he let everyone take the inside corner every time he'd just be another guy on the track. He can sell anything to anybody.
"He enjoys a crowd and 'What's new, Roger?' and he enjoys telling them. He always wants to make sure you know what he's done. He gets carried away at times. He wants to be Roger Penske. He wants to be up there. I've named my daughter Lissa—after his wife."
For the last four years Roger has been working for Alcoa as a sales engineer. "It's a glorified name for peddler," he said the other day. "I sell aluminum. I like Alcoa. I like the big leagues. Your future in Alcoa today is terrific, if you want to work. Guys can go up this way"—Roger drew a rapid, ascending line through the air with his forefinger—"rather than go slowly up the tree. In 15 years I want to be very, very successful in business, because I think I will have wasted my life if I haven't been. I won't stay with Alcoa unless I can be at the top in four or five years. I want to be able to do exactly what I want to do. Right now I've got a lot of pressure on me. The pressure has given me forward momentum. I've taken a lot of gambles. I'm not afraid to take a gamble—except on my life. I've been lucky, but I think you make your luck. I've never had any real setbacks, real disappointments. I'm trying to maintain an image as a businessman, a responsible person. Racing, in this sense, is hurting me. I don't want to be known as a race driver. I'll be selling aluminum long after I'm through racing. I could just say I'll go on racing, but you become a has-been, you turn into a jerk. But racing's enabled me to meet people you got to know, to have contacts.
"You got to capitalize on this thing while you can. One day you eat the bear, one day the bear eats you. I'll get out of racing when it becomes too great a liability to the company, when I'm worth something. Down deep I'm trying to exploit this thing as much as I can. Why shouldn't I? I can get as vicious as the next guy.I've been giving away too much until this past year. I want to make as much money as I can. I'll do anything for a buck."
"We don't want to ruin Roger Penske," said an Alcoa executive one day last month."He's only 26. His progress has been almost spectacular, and it points to an outstanding future. He's not brilliant, but he shows a very unusual poise, a savvy about business matters, a meticulous attention to detail not generally associated with a topflight salesman.
"We've endorsed his racing activities with a proviso—if it hurts business he has to make the choice. I had a talk with him a year ago. He asked me to tell him when his racing began to interfere. I think he hopes it will. It will show he is making progress. He has maintained admirable balance in view of his success. He doesn't do any of the little things that spring from conceit, arrogance, an inflated self-opinion."
Some of our people in Pittsburgh look askance at his racing activities. 'Ah. no,' we tell them, 'keep your shirt on. He knows the score.' It's hard for me to believe he's completely immune to the applause. I wonder at times. He tries to do so much. I worry. One thing not yet determined is how much patience he has. There is a reasonable progression in a conservative firm like Alcoa when you're surrounded by senior, capable men. Roger will get his in time if he'll wait for it. I've got people willing to bet he won't be with Alcoa when he's 30. One year more I'll take that bet.
"Roger's a normal American boy who grew up, got interested in something and had success with it. I hope he'll grow up further and realize it's not for him. His intelligence tells him it's not for the long pull. His ambition to rise inAlcoa will be the alternative to his racing. At the moment the two are in balance. We're trying to feed this drive for greater responsibility, keep his incentive alive, but only as he earns it. He's a handsome young scamp and we wish him well."
"He's handsome and he knows it," says Al Bochroch, a partner in Gray &Rogers, the advertising agency that handles the DuPont Zerex racing exploitation program. "He's unusually clean-cut. He's a prototype. He's cagey, but in a good, clean-cut American way. He's apple pie. People, older people, take a liking to him for his clean-cutness. Roger knows it. He's my young friend, but I'm not blind to his faults. He's like a fighter who sells over 100% of himself. He's got 87 balls in the air: racing, Alcoa, Zerex. Hesays Duralite just means durable and light, but I wouldn't be surprised if some friend of his in Texas comes out with a product called Duralite. He owns 100U-Haul trailers; he's done an ad endorsing Champion spark plugs; he's gone out to the Mojave Desert to do a commercial for Rapid-Shave. He's like a MonteCarlo croupier. Everything Roger does is expedient. He's going to die from a nervous breakdown."
"Roger always wanted to do well," Lissa Stouffer Penske said one afternoon last week."We used to talk about the time he would do so." Lissa's father, now deceased, was one of the two Stouffer brothers who founded the restaurant chain that bears their name. ("You should have seen Roger and Lissa's wedding," says Bruce Crichton. "Meyer Davis himself! They ended up leaving in a helicopter for their honeymoon. The damn thing dropped down on the front lawn.")
Lissa was sitting in the living room of their pleasant, modern home. The boys, Kip, 3½, and Greg,9 months, were supposed to be taking naps. Greg was; distant, faint commotion indicated Kip wasn't. "Sure, Roger's grown up," Lissa said. "He's no longer the guy who got drunk at every college party. But so has everyone else grown up. He's matured, he's not so carefree, but so has everyone. I met him when he was 20, I was about 18. It was a blind date. I was the May Queen at school—Hathaway Brown—so he had seen my picture. I had never seen him, but I had seen this little girl he was going with who always wore his letter sweater.It came down to her knees. I mean, she was petite. I pictured him as being pinstripe-thin, but he turned out to be just normal size. I was told he was a fast person with a lot of lines and not to take anything he said seriously. He had been told that I was very cold. That's what I was supposed to be. When he said good night to me he must have been standing 20 yards from the door.
"The first time we went out it was a double date. We went to a movie and he fell asleep.He was driving his Jaguar. I didn't know one car from another then. I couldn't have cared less. I learned later that he had spent five hours washing the car before taking me out. He had to impress me, show me what good brakes he had.When we were driving home he went 100 mph in a 35-mph zone and slammed on the brakes. I practically went through the windshield. 'Yes,' I said, 'you have good brakes.' We were pinned that fall, engaged at Christmas and married the next September—September 6, 1958.
"Before we went to a dance or a party we had to wash the car, whether or not it meant being three hours late. Every day, wash the car. He'd drop me off sometimes at4 a.m. and go home and wash the car. He wants the prettiest car. I never dated anyone like that—so neat and everything pressed and shining. He's still like that. He very rarely goes out of the house without shining his shoes. He'll wear khakis sometimes, but they're always starched. Many a time he'll go out and buy me a dress. They're always perfect. Many a time he'll look at my hair and go, 'Ugh,' and ask me if I had been sitting in the washing machine."
Kip charged into the living room, shoelaces flying, gulped a glass of milk and began building aplastic railroad on the carpet. "This one," Lissa said, "is worse than his father. 'He's an extremely independent child,' it said on his nursery-school report card. It's hard to get Roger to sit still for a meal.Roger doesn't relax. He doesn't want to. He gets bored. Sometimes he'll go to bed at 8 with big plans for watching television. Five minutes later he's asleep."
Lissa got up, went into the bedroom to get Greg. She put him in his playpen, where he began to play furiously with his Busy Box. "It's a joy to look back at the beginning," she said. "Roger idolized the guys at the track in Akron.We used to sneak in, sit on a fire truck. It's amazing how quickly it's come.It's so vivid in my mind when we were sneaking in. But he's been more than lucky. It's like he sort of dreamed it. I think he's still amazed. He was almost like a child that had seen I don't know what after Riverside."
He likes to do something well," Lissa said. "We went into a dance contest once. Just at the club. He really got keyed up for it. He doesn't like to lose. If he can't do something well he'll keep at it until he can do it. One thing he couldn't get at first was the twist. He stood for hours in front of that mirror with a towel. When challenged, he'll do it, and when he does something he's all for that thing at that moment.
"Roger doesn't change when he gets into a car. Others get on a track, they seem like they're not even with it. They become fearless, so cold. I don't think they should drive that hard, but apparently that's what it takes. As long as Roger doesn't lose his head and forget the dangers of racing, everything will be allright. I could make him stop, but it wouldn't do much good unless he wanted to.I am more afraid now because of the responsibility, the children, our friends getting hurt and killed. But we feel there's a reason for every one of our friends. Each one was driver error. As long as it's driver error he won't get into trouble. He won't take that extra step over the line to win. He doesn't have that drive. He always seems to do best in time trials. You can walk across a street and something happens. I believe that. It helps. Roger told me he plans to give it up next year.
"I never knew anything about it when I started," she said, "but I enjoy it now because I know about cars. I help Roger in the pits. I know and I like the people in racing. I don't see how people can enjoy a race without knowing anyone in it, just watching cars go round and round. We were driving home from a party the other night and we said, 'Isn't racing more fun?' We said it at the same time.
"Many a time he goes to bed at 4 a.m. after working on the car and is up at 7, but he's still pleasant, still awake. He wants to please everyone. They asked him to be treasurer of our local SCCA. He accepted. That's the biggest job I ever got.But, oh boy! Those women who have 8-to-5 husbands. Really great! For a few days it'd be just fine, but I don't want that kind of husband. I've got no complaints. I hear of those 8-to-5 husbands who have a drink after work, windup having seven, come home at 10, never call. At least I know where he is. In the shop with Roy. But he should spend more time with the kids. I have long talks with him about that. Kip gets so excited when Roger comes home. I tell him to please stay home until Kip goes to bed." Kip was building trestles, hitching up his train; Greg was breaststroking on the bottom of the playpen."If Roger stops racing at the end of this year," Lissa said, "Kip will never realize what it was. It'll just be a scrapbook."
A couple of weeks before Roger was to race in the Daytona Continental on February 17, he was fretting about three cars: the Zerex Special, which Roy Gane and Harry Tidmarsh were putting together in Roger's shop, Updraught Enterprises, in Bryn Mawr, Pa.; the new Cooper with the aluminum Chevrolet engine, which he was anxious to test-drive at Riverside; and the blue Ferrari GTO, which he would race atDaytona.
The Ferrari and the new Cooper belong to John W. Mecom Jr., a 23-year-old Texas oil millionaire. Roger is driving for the Mecom racing team this year. Mecom pays the bills and splits the prize and appearance money with Roger.
One Saturday morning Roger drove to Luigi Chinetti's Ferrari shop in New York, where NeilRobson, Mecom's Australian mechanic, and his assistant, Chris Rackcliss, were working on the Ferrari. "Will it be ready?" Roger asked one of theItalian mechanics. "The car will be ready," he replied softly."Will you?" "Do you think I'll be ready?" Roger asked, pointedly. "I think so," said the Italian. Roger left after lunch; he had to get back to Philadelphia for a bowling tournament. He didn't make it.
"I'll tell you how Roger does all the things he does," Roy said the following day."He doesn't. Our lord was mad when he came in last night. He's lucky anyone's still around."
"He'll windup finishing it [the Special] himself," said Harry.
"Well, we'll soon find out whether he's going to race or play games," Roy said. "Our lord is coming," he said, hearing Roger's Corvair on the drive. "Stand at attention."
The Continental was on a Sunday. Roger arrived in Daytona on Thursday night. He takes his three weeks' vacation a day or two at a time, tagged onto weekends, and often arrives at the track with barely enough time to get in his practice laps. He learned that Marvin Panch had been badly hurt that morning when the experimentalFord-powered Maserati he was driving crashed and burned. "I'd never have driven that thing," Roger said. "I'd never have gotten within six feet of it.
"I'm not hereto wear out my good clothes," Roger said in his motel room that night."I want to start the season ahead. When I go racing I race to win. I used to not feel that way. I used to feel that if, say, Dan was in a race with me he's got to beat me, he's so good. It was a mental block. I'd relax my driving and let him go by. I felt it didn't hurt me to come in second behind him. I still have a tendency when someone passes me to give up the fight, and that's wrong. I run at a certain pace, the way I feel. Sometimes people think I'm not very fast. 'He's just lucky,' they say. It worries me sometimes what other people think. And that may be wrong, too. I don't know. When you go racing you got to race. You can't do it halfway. You got to key yourself up. They don't pay for second place. You got to be enthusiastic and you have to want to win."
The next morning he went out and took his practice laps. "Gee, isn't this fun," Rogers aid that night. He was wound up. "Fireball [Glenn (Fireball) Roberts, a stock-car driver] showed me how to run those banks. I was really enthused. Boy, that was fun. I passed old Fireball. I don't know if I was supposed to do that.I'm not kidding. That's fantastic."
The night before the race Roger's mood changed again. "The fun's gone," he said."I'll be honest with you, I won't enter a race unless I can make some money at it. It's cutthroat. It's a business for everyone that's in it. As soon as money entered into it, it was finished. I hate to see it come out this way. I feel sorry for anyone that doesn't have a competitive car.
"Sometimes you're very confident, but sometimes you get scared, too. Sometimes you want to have a good excuse not to drive. I'm going to go out and get with it. I know I want to go fastest. It's an advantage to go out and run a couple of fast laps, enhance your position. Psychologically you have an advantage. I'll lay awake now going over the race, how I'm going to come out. I've had thoughts in my mind that something might happen and I didn't know what to do. But I've gotten mentally to a point where I know I can win a race; before I wasn't sure. The nerves and the tension are like pitching the last three outs in a no-hit ballgame. You're really there! I want to go out, get a lead and then build it. WhenI'm leading the race I don't look in the mirror at all."
At 1:45 p.m.Sunday, Roger got into the blue Ferrari. He was wearing his white crash helmet, a baby-blue, fireproof suit, freshly cleaned and pressed, one pink glove and one red glove. He gave his final instructions to his pit crew, who crouched on the grid by the car. Miss Pure Oil, a saftig blonde, went by on a float, andRoger paused. "Hey, look at that," he said.
"Are you ready?" Tyler Alexander, another of Neil's assistants, asked. "Tell you when I get back," Roger replied. "Remember, I want to see one of you guys out there every lap whether I can see you or not." This drew a nervous laugh.
Roger shook each of their hands, spit into his gloves and slid the window shut. He began to gun his engine, as 41 other drivers were doing, and tested his horn. It had a high, almost ridiculous note, as though it belonged on a toy car. Just before the race began he beckoned to one of his crew, who ran back onto the grid. Roger slid open the window and told him to be sure they had something to cut the seal on the gas tank cap with when he came in for his fueling stop. Then he closed the window for the last time. He sat back in his seat, arms outstretched, and grasped the wheel. His face was totally devoid of expression. He looked neither grim nor tense nor reposeful. As much as anything else, he looked as though he were dead.
Roger had a bad starting position, there was a lot of traffic to get by and he never attained the early lead he had sought. He slowly worked his way up to second behindPedro Rodriguez, who was driving a slightly newer model of the same Ferrari.Once, Roger spun and went off the road when he hit an oil slick. He couldn't restart his engine immediately and lost 30 seconds. He finished the race in second place, 14 seconds behind Rodriguez, who was penalized 50 seconds for an improper pit stop. A protest involving another of Pedro's pit stops was disallowed. If it had been upheld Roger would have won. Pedro won $11,000; place money was $4,600.
"You see the way I drive," he said, elated again. "I didn't take a chance all day. Iwas so mad when I went off the road. I just hunched down like this and waited.There'll be other races. I'm not at the top by a long shot, but if I ever went over to win the world championship I think I'd have a chance. I'd have to spend three years over there. It'd take a year to learn the courses. People ask me,'Why are you racing?' Listen, with $30,000 in five races a guy might do something out of the ordinary.
"The thing that thrills me about racing," he said, as he got out of his fireproof suit, "is that you have a chance to prepare a mechanism and then put it through its paces. The only boundaries are the scientific limits. Each race you're trying to establish these limits. Each year they get faster and faster.It's a dance, isn't it?"
Penske checks newly installed shock absorber on the redesigned Zerex Special. In background are Mechanic Roy Gane (left) and Body Man Harry Tidmarsh.
Lissa Penske joyously plays with son Kip, 3½, while Greg, 9 months, looks on dubiously.