Motorsport icon Roger Penske believes American categories could learn plenty from the Virgin Australia Championship Series and the way it connects with and focuses on fans.
Penske is visiting the Perth SuperSprint this weekend, at the race track for the first time since his Supercars outfit has expanded to two cars.
The DJR Team Penske group has shown promise early this season, with pole positions and podium finishes, and Penske has a long-term plan for improvement.
Celebrating 50 years in motorsport this year, Penske knows a thing or two about racing – and he likes what he sees in our Australian Championship.
“We tell people in the US, look at how the V8 Supercars series connects with the fans and promotes the teams and the sponsors,” Penske said.
“We could learn a lot in the states from what you guys do. We’re glad to be here and we’re paying our dues.”
Expanding to two cars already seems to be paying off, and the team has recruited – along with race-winning driver Fabian Coulthard – expert engineers Phil Keed and Adam De Borre, and crew chief Ben Croke.
The closeness of the Championship continues to surprise Penske, with seven different winners in eight races this season.
“We probably didn’t understand the competitive level and where it was when we came in last year running one car, people told us that,” he said.
“This year as we’ve launched into two cars we’ve added some more people into the organisation I think technically we understand the cars.
“We’ve had some good runs, I think pole positions and from the standpoint of getting on the podium earlier has been, I think, very positive. But we need to be running up with the big boys every weekend so we have some work to do.”
Penske again asserted his long-term vision for his team, and wants to see his drivers and team grow together to be the names regularly associated with the sport.
“We have a long term commitment to the series, we’re not here just as a flash.
“We want to build a team, help the drivers grow better.
“These aren’t the guys at the top maybe that people talk about, but I think we’ve got a great opportunity for them to grow with us and to me that’s the most important thing.”
One of the things Penske is most proud of in his five decades is the environment he has been able to foster in his business.
“Well, I hate to think it’s that long!” he said.
“When we go back and think of some of the things we’ve been able to accomplish – to me it’s the people, the human capital, very low turnover. We attract so many good people to the company.”
It was a tough day for DJR Team Penske drivers yesterday with Coulthard hit with a pit lane penalty for an unsafe pit release and Scott Pye receiving a 40 second penalty after short-cutting the circuit at the end of the race.