The first time I met Roger Penske, it was 2 A.M. in the morning and he was waving his arms directing traffic coming into the parking lot of his brand new California Speedway in Fontana.
When I shouted out from the window of our motor home to ask him if he might have more important duties to attend to in the middle of the night, he replied with a certain directness, “Someone has to do this!”
I doubt Roger will remember the exchange, but it taught me a pocket lesson on what it takes to be successful, and the perfection in execution that drives a legend like Roger Penske.
The following is from TMS Media Relations on his induction into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame:
“No owner in the history of open-wheel racing has displayed such dominance over the sport than Roger Penske. Penske, the owner of Team Penske, has established himself as one of the premier owners in all of motorsports and his proficiency for finding Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway has earned him another accolade as he will become the 16th member inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Penske will be honored Thursday, April 3, at the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Gala benefitting Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter held in the Speedway Club’s Grand Ballroom at Texas Motor Speedway during the Duck Commander 500 NASCAR weekend. His induction is all part of an evening that recognizes some of the most outstanding individuals in motorsports. Along with Penske, other honorees include four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti; 2014 Daytona 500 champion and NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.; defending Duck Commander 500 and O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 winner Kyle Busch; and 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher from Plano, Texas.
A winner of a combined 12 races at Texas Motor Speedway as a team owner – including a record seven in the Verizon IndyCar Series – Penske remains the only owner with victories in both NASCAR and INDYCAR at “The Great American Speedway!” His success at Texas Motor Speedway is all part of his illustrious 48-year career as team owner of Team Penske that has produced 23 motorsports national championships, including 12 in Indy-car racing.
Penske joins a mix of accomplished drivers and innovative motorsports leaders to be inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame since its inception in 2003. He joins previous inductees A.J. Foyt (2003), Johnny Rutherford (‘03), Terry Labonte (‘04), Lee Shepherd (‘04), Kenny Bernstein (‘05), Jim Hall (‘05), Eddie Hill (‘06), Mark Martin (‘07), Jim McElreath (‘07), Bobby Labonte (‘08), Bruton Smith (‘08), Joe Gibbs (‘09), John Force (’10), Lanny Edwards (‘11) and Jack Roush (‘12).
Franchitti, who announced this offseason his retirement from open-wheel racing after an illustrious 16-year career in open-wheel racing that spans time in both CART and the Verizon IndyCar Series, will be honored with the Bruton Smith Legend Award. Franchitti remains one of the all-time great Indy car drivers, tallying 31 victories during his career including three wins in the Indianapolis 500. With his third victory in the Indianapolis 500 in 2012, he became just the 10th driver with three or more wins in open-wheel racing’s most prestigious event.
Earnhardt Jr. has continued his outpouring of support for Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter and his efforts to help children in North Texas have earned him the Maj. General Thomas Sadler Award. With his help, Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter delivered its most successful event of the year during the “BBQ Pit Stop with Dale Jr.” The event incorporated Earnhardt Jr.’s passion for barbeque into a fan friendly event that allowed members of “Junior Nation” to enjoy an evening with the superstar driver at Hard Eight BBQ in Roanoke, Texas, and afford the opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind Earnhardt Jr. memorabilia. The evening helped raise more than $38,000 for the organization.
Busch, who once again etched his name into the Texas Motor Speedway record books, will be awarded the Texas Motor Speedway Racer of the Year. The 2013 season at Texas Motor Speedway was one to remember as he became the first driver to sweep both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races in the same weekend with his victories in the NRA 500 and O’Reilly Auto Parts 300, respectively. His victory in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 was the sixth Nationwide Series win of his career at Texas Motor Speedway, moving him past Kevin Harvick for the most in that series at “The Great American Speedway!” His week also included establishing a new Sprint Cup Series qualifying track record, setting the mark with a speed of 196.299 miles per hour.
Buescher, a native of nearby Plano, will return to his hometown track to accept the Texas Motor Speedway Sportsmanship Award. Buescher’s efforts to help in the cleanup process following the tornadoes that devastated Moore, Okla., epitomized the ideals of sportsmanship. Taking full advantage of his off week, Buescher and his wife, Kris, visited the town and helped move mountains of debris and cleared off foundation slabs. The destruction hit close to home for Buescher, whose brother lives in nearby Oklahoma City.
The Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame, located in the outdoor atrium adjacent to The Speedway Club, is free to the public and remains open year round. The Hall of Fame atrium features pedestals of the inductees with a portrait painting and career highlights.
The Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Gala is one of the many fundraisers held by Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter throughout the year. Its mission is to care for children in educational, financial, social and medical need in order to help them lead productive lives. Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter has awarded more than $9.4 million in grants and has touched the lives of more than three million children since it began in 1997.”
The Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Gala will begin with dinner at 8:15 p.m. followed by the start of the ceremonies at approximately 8:45 p.m.
Table sponsorships, beginning at $1,200, and individual tickets for $150 are available by calling the Speedway Children’s Charities office at (817) 215-8421.