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uploaded 5/15/99

Visit to Penske Shocks

Penske Racing Shocks building

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 computer system.

Jim Arentz and Jeff Ryan

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.

Display case in reception area

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.

Prototype room

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.

Tim Godshall assembles shocks for motorcycles

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.

Assembly room

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.


 The contents of this web site are copyrighted by Paul Haney. No reproduction other than for your own personal use unless full source attribution is quoted. All Rights reserved by Paul Haney, 1999.