|The 1969 Penske-Sunoco Camaro Z/28 History On The Track
By: Randy Erdman
Patrick Hogan of Littleton Colorado knows quite a bit of the motorsport history around Roger Penske and Mark Donohue. Patrick’s racing stable includes a few vintage cars that Penske owned and Donohue drove. He is the proud owner of a 1967 Lola T70 Spyder and a 1969 Camaro Z/28. During the 2011 Kohler International Challenge at Road America, Patrick brought the Sunoco Camaro back to Elkhart Lake to race on the historical 4-mile track.
This particular Camaro has a very rich in history. It’s easy to spot on the track thanks to the Sunoco logos on the quarter panels and Penske Chevrolet logo on the fenders. In 1969 the car achieved first place finishes at Michigan International, Bridgehampton, Bryar Motorsports Park, Mont-Tremblant, Watkins Glen, Laguna Seca, Sears Point, and Riverside. With Donohue winning six of the twelve races that year, the car easily captured the manufacturer’s championship.
Many important modifications went into developing this Trans Am championship car. This car was acid dipped after it was delivered to Roger Penske. Acid dipping is a technique used by many teams to lighten the overall mass of the car while retaining the rigidity and strength of the metals.
The 1969 car was very different compared to the 1968 model. Following the acid dipping, Penske continued with several other modifications including the addition of air channels within the door, which allowed improved air flow to the rear brakes. Further brake enhancements included quick releases brake pads.
Next, Penske designed a system in which oil could be added to the engine after it was up to racing temperature. These modifications may not sound like major innovations, but at the time other teams were not implementing them. This allowed Penske’s team to be more competitive and win races at a faster pace.
It should also be noted that the car retained its factory red interior, Donohue’s favorite color. Penske worked to keep red in the interior of all Donohue’s cars. This adds to the history as well.
After the 1969 season this car was sent to Jim Hall at Chaparral. He used it as a template for the development of the Camaro that would be raced in the 1970 Trans Am series. Penske later sold the car to Roy Woods who had Milt Minter drive it in the 1970 series. That year Minter scored a victory at the Donnybrooke race.
Patrick Hogan’s Penske-Sunoco Camaro was a participant in the Historic Trans Am Group (HTAG) race at Road America. HTAG makes several stops at vintage race weekends in North America each summer. Its well worth your time and effort to catch this series in action. Stop by and ask the owners, drivers, and mechanics about these rolling pieces of the Trans Am past. You will be amazed at how much history each of these HTAG participants has.