McLaren decided to upgrade the basic design of the 1971 M16A Indy car for the new season. The M16B featured a range of modifications, including new wings, suspension geometry, and radiators. The nose was shorter, which meant that the rear wing could hang further back and keep the car within the maximum overall length. Roger Penske bought two of the new cars, for Donohue and Gary Bettenhausen. The team’s year started well when the latter won the second race of the season at Trenton in an older M16A. M16B finally appeared at Indy with Peter Revson and Gordon Johncock in the works entries, and Bobby Unser and Gary Bettenhausen driving for Roger Penske. By now everyone had big wings, and the McLarens were beaten to pole. But Donohue and Revson were again on the front row, in second and third. Gary Bettenhausen led 138 laps until his car suffered ignition trouble on lap 176, and he coasted to the pits. Donohue, running a conservative strategy which was easy on the engine, survived and led the final 13 laps to give both McLaren and the Penske team their first Indy 500 victories. There was disappointment for the works outfit when Revson and Gordon Johncock both retired.
|1972||USAC National Championship||Indianapolis 500|
|Mark Donohue||66||Roger Penske Enterprises|
|McLaren M16B||Offenhauser||Sunoco McLaren|