Della Penna grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the son of Italian immegrants. He grew up a fan of auto racing and idolized five-time world champion 'Juan Fangio'. He moved to the United States in 1969 to pursue a racing career, but after only modest success, retired in 1984 and concentrated on team ownership. Della Penna helped launch the careers of Willy T. Ribbs, Juan Fangio II and Jimmy Vasser. After his team won the Toyota-Atlantic championship, he progressed to the top North American open-wheel racing series, CART, where his teams were always competitive, but without a lot of luck. He left CART as an owner after the 2000 season, but occasionally works behind the camera as a commentator for Spanish television.