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Pennzoil Motorsports History

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Motorsports Pennzoil Has a Long History in Motor Sports

It is truly said that Pennzoil lubricated the covered wagons that traverse the West to consolidate and unite the nation long before there was an automobile industry. But when automotive pioneers like Henry Ford sought the lubricating quality of Pennzoil to keep the industry’s products rolling, they also found a company that shared their concern with promotion of the transportation revolution that motor vehicles brought with them.

Pennzoil’s early corporate history is laced with examples of the role that automotive and aircraft performance played in selling motor oil. Pennzoil took off racing from the start.

Transcontinental airmen John Macready and Oakley Kelly relied on Pennzoil. So did Sir Hubert Wilkens on his polar exploration. When the first air mail flight linked Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, Pennzoil was lubricating the airplane engine.

Pennzoil was an essential ingredient for such early automotive stunts as Chrysler’s San Francisco-to-New York run, Studebaker’s performance tests at Atlantic City and Ford’s 33,000-mile nonstop run in a ‘33 Ford.

Ab Jenkins, the man who made the Bonneville Salt Flats famous with his Land Speed records and his boosterism, carried Pennzoil signs on both sides of his record-breaking "Mormon Meteor."

Russ Snowberger dazzled the Indianapolis 500 establishment when he showed off the properties of Pennzoil, the first petroleum-based lubricant in the 500-Mile Race, in 1930. From 1930 to 1934 Snowberger finished in the top 10 all five years. Like a Pied Piper he broke ground for 27 others daring to make the switch from mineral-based oil during those years. By 1935, Wilbur Shaw finished 2nd, leading three other drivers who relied on Pennzoil and finished in the top 10.

In the 1960s, Pennzoil branched out into drag racing, unlimited hydroplane and air racing, while it slalomed from road courses to the rocky desert trails of Baja off-road racing. Meanwhile, daredevil Art Scholl thrilled millions at air shows and millions more on the screen with his Pennzoil Chipmunk stunt plane.

Nothing Pennzoil had done previously in motorsports equalled the flair it displayed in 1979, when Jim Hall first introduced "ground effects" aerodynamics to Indy car racing with the Pennzoil Chaparral.

Since then Pennzoil drivers have won the Indianapolis 500 five times, and the bright yellow Pennzoil Special has come to symbolize excellence in the sport.

The Indy tradition that began with Russ Snowberger in 1930 continued with Wilbur Shaw in 1935 and Mauri Rose in 1951. It has since been marked by victories scored by Johnny Rutherford in 1980, Rick Mears in 1984 and 1988, Danny Sullivan in 1985 and Al Unser in 1987.

In NHRA drag racing, Pennzoil enjoys an association with one of the most popular drivers of all time, Eddie Hill, the 1993 NHRA top fuel champion, and pro stock driver Jerry Eckman. Hill tied the NHRA top fuel record by winning six national championship races in the same year. That brought his all-time victory total to 15, including 11 NHRA, one AHRA and three IHRA wins. Eckman has 11 all-time NHRA victories, including three Winston Invitationals.

Beginning in the 1960s, Pennzoil was one of the first companies to find success in NHRA contingency and associate sponsorships. In his earliest drag racing career, when there were no corporate sponsorships, Eddie Hill was known as a Pennzoil user who profited from contingency prizes, because he won so often.

Hill left drag racing in 1966 but continued to rely on Pennzoil when he rewrote the record book as a boat racer. He returned to the asphalt in 1985 and became the first driver ever to break 5 seconds in a quarter-mile in 1988, the year he first began driving an all-yellow Pennzoil-sponsored top fuel dragster.

This will be Pennzoils seventh year in the NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Grand National series with 1995 Busch Grand National champ Johnny Benson driving the Pennzoil Pontiac fielded by the Bahari’ Racing team in an effort to win Winston Cup "rookie of the year" honors.

Now there is a fleet of 10 bright yellow cars, including the Pennzoil Reynard Honda driven by IndyCar "rookie of the year" Gil de Ferran on the IndyCar circuit, Hill’s dragster and Eckman’s Pennzoil Pontiac in NHRA, the Bahari’ team cars in NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Grand National series driven by Benson, plus the "World of Outlaws" sprint car driven by Jac Haudenschild, Dick Valentine’s SCCA Trans-Am Camaro and cars driven in the NHRA sportsman racing campaigns of Dave Ferderer and Bill and Terri Kent.