Visit to Penske Shocks
I flew from San Francisco to Newark the Wednesday before the
Nazareth CART race and drove to Reading, Penn. The next morning
Jeff Ryan met me in the lobby of the Sheraton and I followed
him across the Schuykill River to downtown Reading.
Penske Racing Shocks used to occupy a few small rooms in the
front of a huge warehouse for Competition Tire East, a Goodyear
racing tire distributor. They've expanded continually and, when
I was there construction workers were putting the finishing touches
on an area that will give the business almost 15,000 square feet
for office, parts storage, fabrication, machining, assembly,
and development. A new computer-controlled machining center is
on order and the company just started using a state-of-the art
We stopped in the lobby so I could take this photo of Jim
Arentz and Jeff Ryan. Glen Knabenshue who, along with Jim, supported
CART, Indy Lights, and Formula Atlantic during the Nazareth weekend,
had already left for the track.
This case in the reception area has some very neat stuff.
In the middle in the bottom section is a monoshock piston and
shaft assembly Jeff designed for Jordon some years ago. The standard
Penske Winston Cup shock is at the left in the middle row.
Anita Millican is in charge of the prototype room. The wife
of the late Howard Millican, Anita has been working with innovative
shocks for a long time. She was too shy to get in the photo.
In this room Tim Godshall builds all the motorcycle shocks.
In the dyno room off to the left Jeff and Jim showed me a damper
they have instrumented to study dynamic pressure variations inside
shocks. I'm hoping to talk them into giving a paper at the next
SAE Motorsports Conference in 2000. If I can get commitments
for enough papers I'll organize a shock session like as in '96.
Jeff, Andy Labbert, and Jim talk while I take photos. The
cart and table near the camera are filled with rows of parts
for dampers used in the '99 McLaren F1 car. Jeff didn't tell
me any of the details but they are using all kinds of exotic
materials to get weight out of every part on the car. As I've
reported from conversations with other people the F1 designers
seem to be concentrating on hydraulic control systems using very
sophisticated software, constant aero tweaks coming from team-owned
half-scale wind tunnels, and weight reduction that allows ballast
low in the car and probably forward to make up for the extra
groove in the front tires. When the track was narrowed that magnified
the effect of weight transfer in corners so a low C.G. is extremely
important. Like in CART, F1 rules are fairly mature and small
performance gains are all that's left.
Jeff Ryan has move up from Technical Director to VP and General
Manager. He's spending more of his time on conceptual projects
and managing product costs. He's hired some good people and they
are taking on damper design and development.
Since Team Penske has switched to using shocks from another
manufacturer, Penske Racing Shocks are released from that exclusive
agreement and free to develop shocks for CART and IRL teams.
They've come up some interesting products they'll introduce at
the end of the season.