INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Roger Penske is forever linked with the late Mark Donohue, who in 1972 delivered the first of team owner Penske’s now-record 16 Indianapolis 500 wins.
It was a natural for fellow Verizon IndyCar Series team owner Bobby Rahal to ask Penske to serve as honorary chairman of the newly formed Mark Donohue Foundation, a nonprofit formed by the Road Racing Drivers Club of which Rahal is president. When formally named to the position today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Penske took a more active than honorary role, committing to a $100,000 donation to the foundation that will initially support the RRDC’s SAFEisFast initiative of producing free tutorial videos for aspiring young racers.
Donohue, a three-time Trans-Am champion and 1973 Can-Am champ, was an early RRDC president whose engineering mind was ahead of its time in terms of driver safety. He died from injuries sustained in a Formula One crash at the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix.
“Mark was a partner of mine and someone who was dedicated to the sport,” said Penske. “When we talk about technology, I think he's looking down today and saying, ‘I told you guys.’
“So when you think about all the things we're doing with telemetry, the Internet and things that make our sport at the upper level of competition and certainly technology and the ability to have SAFEisFast and have the opportunity for us to continue this foundation under a 501(c)(3), … it's amazing. We'd like to leave an imprint ourselves and we do that with our arms around Mark in this particular situation. It's very important to me and our team.”
Rahal added that the foundation will carry on the legacy of Donohue, whose son, David, also attended the announcement.
"The engineering concepts for which (Mark Donohue) was famous have become the basis of much of today's technology,” Rahal said. “We need to help secure the future for this program. The foundation was formed to raise money to honor Mark's legacy of driver education and safety, and to help make sure that the lessons, technology and skills learned by the best and brightest in racing are available to everyone."
Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay take part in a pair of book unveilings
For once, James Hinchcliffe wasn’t the star of the show. That spotlight belonged instead to his brother, Christopher, who recently released his fictional young adult novel, “Chasing Checkers.”
Drawing inspiration from his brother, Chris saw a chance to tell the journey in a unique way. The book is available on amazon.com.
“Growing up watching James going through the whole go-karting thing and all the years spent training to get to this level, I had a really unique perspective,” the author Hinchcliffe said today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I got to see the challenges that he went through off the track as well as on the track. It occurred to me that there’s really a lot of great stories there that fans don’t necessarily get to see.
“I thought it’d be really great to bring that side of the racing world to a style that could be accessible for the fans, so they can see the drama off the track as well. But I wasn’t going to write a biography, at least not yet. Maybe one day, but I will say that James is still writing his biography on the track.”
From a five-time race-winning driver to runner-up in ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and now a novel, the Hinchcliffes are becoming a modern-day renaissance family.
“We’re an interesting clan,” James said. “Dinner table conversation, I guess, is always pretty exciting in the Hinchcliffe household growing up. Chris is the educated one in the family. He’s got three of his own degrees, which makes up for the negative one that I have, which is nice.”
Meanwhile, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay wrote the foreword for “The Spectacle – Celebrating the History of the Indianapolis 500,” the newest children’s book by Chris Workman. The book puts the grand history of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” into terms kids can more easily understand.
“For ‘The Spectacle,’ I saw an opportunity to dive really deep into the history of the race,” said Workman, whose previous book, “Josef, the Indy Car Driver,” is about driver Josef Newgarden. “Of course, it’s a challenge to figure out how to package 100 runnings’ worth of events in essentially 64 pages with not a lot of words and pictures. The goal was really to paint that picture of how the race began in 1911, all the way through to last year. You see how the track has evolved over time; the cars have evolved over time.”
The 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion and, most importantly, a father, Hunter-Reay said the book makes for great bedtime reading material.
“My (oldest) son, Ryden, is obsessed with the book,” Hunter-Reay said. “Because of the history of the race, 100 years, it is a pretty long book. So I have to grab pages at a time as I’m reading it so I can skip decades and get my kids to bed. It is a great book.”
“The Spectacle” is also available at amazon.com and through Apex Legends.