News & Media

Penske prepares for first big night in long career

November 30, 2012, Holly Cain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

LAS VEGAS -- Even with all of Roger Penske's racing accolades and achievements -- his legendary status as a team owner, the Hall of Fame honors, the Daytona 500 victory and 15 Indianapolis 500 wins -- he insists it was a simple gesture in a single moment last week that brought it all home for him.

"I walked in my office on Monday morning [after the season finale], and there was a big banner they'd made up already about being the [NASCAR] champion," Penske said the day before Friday night's NASCAR Awards Banquet at the Wynn Las Vegas, where he and driver Brad Keselowski will be celebrated as the 2012 Sprint Cup champions. "To walk in your own place and see that is pretty special. That banner will hang in every one of our 1,500 [Penske Corporation] locations around the U.S., now that we're champions, and that's something not everyone can say.

"It was a galvanizing night for us, bringing everyone together, and the culmination of a lot of people's hard work."


"It was a galvanizing night for us, bringing everyone together, and the culmination of a lot of people's hard work. My name happens to be on the building, but someone has to help build that building."

And Penske, who is as loyal to his employees as they are to him, is rewarding those who remained committed all these years to adding this elusive NASCAR title to his long list of open-wheel and sports car accomplishments.

"We chartered a 737 to bring as many people as we could," said Penske, who also threw a party Thursday evening at his Las Vegas Ferrari dealership to mark the occasion.

"It's hard when you've been in the business as long as we have, figuring out who comes and who doesn't. But we've got a big crew coming in, I know that."

After all the bold-type, open-wheel wins that have lengthened Penske's racing resume and defined his status for five decades, it's apparent how much this long-sought-after stock-car title means to him.

Buttoned-down and serious as you would expect someone recognized by Forbes Magazine for his vast business success, it is racing -- and winning -- that puts a smile on the 75-year-old's face and a warm feeling in his heart.

When he is honored Friday night, Penske will look out into the ballroom, see other NASCAR champions and relish his place among them after more than two decades of oh-so-close pursuit.

An obviously pleased Penske talked about all the phone calls he's received from friends and business associates around the world and still is humbled by the congratulatory back slaps from past NASCAR champions Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

He half-jokingly refers to the hat 10-time Cup champion team owner Rick Hendrick gave him after Penske's 2008 Daytona 500 win as his "good luck charm."

"I never realized the power and impact of this sport,'' Penske said. "I've been involved with running the Super Bowl in 2006 in Detroit and saw the noise and all those goes on with the champion there, but this is special.

"This is an individual, it's not stick-and-ball. This is really about how someone gets to the top. You race 38 weekends, you can't run in the locker room when you have a bad day. You can't hide on the bench. You're right there."

At long last, Penske is right here.