A longtime member of the Penske Racing/Team Penske family, Dan Luginbuhl (DOB: April 24, 1945) has been credited with practically inventing Auto Racing Public Relations in the United States. And he is universally recognized for his dedication to those responsibilities and for the manner in which he deals with people.
Known as “DRL” throughout the motorsports community, Luginbuhl is a native of Bluffton, Ohio, who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1968 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. And not long after college he began representing Charlie Glotzbach and the purple and white No. 99 Dow Chemicals 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona that raced in NASCAR out of Ray Nichels Engineering in Griffith, Indiana.
While in that employ Luginbuhl also worked with Nichels – one of the preeminent race-car mechanics and race-car builders of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s – and his partner Paul Goldsmith, an AMA Hall of Fame Motorcycle racer, the 1961-1962 USAC Stock Car Champion, a nine-time NASCAR Cup Series winner and an Indy 500 specialist (1958-1963). But his job requirements and the look of Motorsports Media and Sponsor Relations changed forever in 1969 when the former Formula Vee racer in the Northeast Ohio Region of the Sports Car Club of America signed-on with the SCCA Sports Car and USAC Indy Car team that was started in 1966 by fellow EMPA Hall of Fame member Roger Penske.
Originally hired to handle promotions for Penske sponsor Sunoco and driver Mark Donohue (who is also an EMPA Hall of Famer), Luginbuhl wore multiple hats for what was then Penske Racing. And all of his ground-breaking efforts for what eventually became a world-class motorsports dynasty initially took place in a small race shop with just nine employees in what had been a four-bay truck garage on Winding Way in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.
Early in his tenure with Penske Racing the bespectacled Luginbuhl – who was often seen in race track and speedway Press Rooms wearing a tie and jacket – cultivated the relationship with key team sponsor Sunoco before he helped foster the team’s innovative and successful partnership model with some of the other top brands in motorsports, such as: Pennzoil, Marlboro, Miller, Goodyear, Mobil, Mercedes-Benz and many additional Fortune 500 companies.
This face-to-face, behind-the-scenes, on- and off-site work included such innovations as Luginbuhl being at each race to handle media, sponsor and public relations matters as well as his providing the first Press Kits at motorsports events; handy Penske Racing packages that contained race-specific information about the drivers, team and sponsors along with ready-to-use black-and-white glossy photographs of the cars and drivers.
Under Luginbuhl’s guiding hand Penske Racing became the industry leader in American motorsports media relations, sponsorship and hospitality – a standard that continues today with Team Penske. And his extensive résumé shows that he undertook these varied tasks in Indy Car Racing, the SCCA’s Can-Am and Trans-Am Road Racing Series, Formula 1 and NASCAR.
Yet while Luginbuhl’s efforts in major motorsports facilities brought him to the attention of countless drivers, crewmembers, team owners and media members he also bolstered esprit de corps among Penske Racing sponsors and within the Penske organization. In this regard he would write a race report every Monday morning that told how the Penske cars did during the preceding weekend and then he sent these accounts to all of the Penske offices and other interested parties. And similar stories were regularly featured in the bimonthly Penske Corporation house organ, The Inside Track.
In addition to his motorsports activities, Luginbuhl worked internally with Penske Corporation – an international business enterprise headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, that founder and chairman Penske established in 1969 – as that retail automotive, truck leasing, transportation logistics and professional motorsports concern “built its brand” and grew to its present state of employing nearly 65,000 people and managing businesses with consolidated revenues of more than $32 billion operating in over 3,660 worldwide locations. And in this position he created and implemented communication strategies for decades in business and motorsports for Penske; a situation which found the well-liked and respected Luginbuhl to be a pioneer in modern Motorsports Public Relations and Marketing.
While operating in the highly-charged atmosphere of professional motorsports and international business, Luginbuhl – who always undertook his duties without seeking any personal recognition – found his job to be a 24-hour/7-day-a-week commitment. In fact, to be ready for those demands he always kept a packed suitcase in the trunk of his car so he could dash to the airport to meet Penske when those inevitable late-night calls came and an urgent circumstance had to be addressed or something special needed to be done.
It was evident, though, by what he did that Luginbuhl greatly prized his cutting-edge role and what he accomplished often saw him identified as “Roger Penske’s right-hand man.” Nevertheless, he clearly understood and endorsed the Penske mission – work together, get the job done and keep building the Penske brand worldwide; an assignment that easily relates to the Penske Corporation motto: “Effort Equals Results.”
In retrospect, it is easy to see that what the unassuming Luginbuhl brought to motorsports through Penske Racing was quickly adopted by other teams and those methods of doing things were of benefit to the drivers, the teams, the sponsors, the media and the fans, then and now. And this multi-tasker showed that even though there are different disciplines in motorsports, the needs when it comes to media and sponsor relations are basically the same. Simply, it is necessary to build solid relationships with all involved and to be able to provide the required and desired information in a timely manner.
Although Luginbuhl’s tenure with Penske Racing ended in 2003 when he retired from the day-to-day duties as Communications Director/Vice President of Communications, the resident of St. Simons Island, Georgia, took on other responsibilities within the parent organization and that important task continues today.
Now Vice President – Emeritus with Penske Corporation, Luginbuhl is frequently called upon to work on special projects in a variety of areas for Penske Corporation, Team Penske and Roger Penske.