There is no slowing down 78-year-old Roger Penske


If anyone were ever to create a mold of what would be a perfect motorsports team owner, Roger Penske would have to be the model.

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Penske is to car racing what Hartland Molson was to hockey or Red Auerbach was to basketball — each of them imprinted their own way of attaining near perfection on the teams they controlled.

When Penske climbed up to the stage in Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway Sunday evening to accept the Harley J. Earl Trophy after his driver Joey Logano had won the 57th edition of the Daytona 500, it was more than just to collect another bauble for his mantelpiece — it was affirmation of his team’s motto ‘Effort Equals Results.’

Penske, who turned 78 years old last week, has the twice the energy of someone half his age and still sets goals for himself.

There are those who see him as mostly an IndyCar guy, with his record of 15 Indianapolis 500 wins and a list of open-wheel drivers that reads like a hall-of-fame induction ceremony — Mark Donohue, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Bobby Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi and Canada’s own Paul Tracy, among others.

Penske, however, has had a long history in NASCAR starting in 1972.

In fact Penske credits the current team success — both in the Verizon IndyCar Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series — to moving the whole operation down to the NASCAR-centric Charlotte, N.C., area several years ago.

That move led to bringing Brad Keselowski on board to drive the No. 2 Ford and it has been a ride to the top since them — all engineered by Penske.

“(Keselowski) came to see us when he was still with JR Motorsports and said, ‘Look, at the end of the year I’d like to talk to you and I’ll help you build a team,’ ” Penske said.

It was Penske’s keen eye for both talent and character that put Keselowski in the driver’s seat and it also paved the way for Logano to join him.

Keselowski had convinced Penske that Logano still had the raw talent that had landed him a Sprint Cup ride at just 17 over at Joe Gibbs Racing.

It was Penske, however, who signed Logano when no other team owner was willing to take the chance.

Penske has always looked to youth as a key to continued success — and he found that in Logano.

“You need youth on the race track,” Penske said. “The people that we hire are ones we want to stay with us and we support them.

“We’re gonna have ups and we’re gonna have downs and we talk about Effort Equals Results — I think that’s what you’ve seen.

“Personally, for me, I like seeing these people compete and elevate themselves within the company. That’s what I look for every day.”

Don’t let Penske’s amiable personality fool you, underneath the starched-white-shirt, creased-black-slacks exterior lies a ferociously competitive animal.

“I’ve won a lot of races, but I love to compete with Rick (Hendrick) and (Richard) Childress and (Joe) Gibbs because the camaraderie off the race track is amazing, but boy when you get to the race track you have to have your game on,” he said.

To be able to win at the top level of racing is why Penske says he looks to young drivers like the 24-year-old Logano for his team.

“To me, seeing these young guys step up, it’s like a young golfer like (Rory) McIlroy,” he said. “That’s the great thing about sports — it brings the best out of people and I think it brings the best out in our team and that, to me, gives me my satisfaction.”

Penske said he knew from their first meeting that Logano was going to be a great fit in the organization.

“I knew that he was gonna be a team player and that’s really what’s paid off,” he said.

“When he joined the team he won races. You saw what he did last year and this is just the start of, I think, a career that he’s gonna be a guy at the top for a long time.”

As for his own goals, Penske has two on his bucket list — winning the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 in the same season and winning the Brickyard 400 in NASCAR.

“Obviously I would love to win both of the races in the same year,” he said.

And winning the Brickyard 400 would be like icing on the cake.

“That would be something special,” he said.

“That has gotten away from us. We were close a couple of times and I am going to have a good talk with these guys (on the team) about how we can get that.

“Jeff Gordon seems to have the combination there. Maybe when he retires we will have a chance. That would be real special.

“You set those kind of goals for yourself.”


Daytona 500 victories:

2008Ryan Newman

2015Joey Logano

Indianapolis 500 victories:

1972Mark Donohue

1979Rick Mears

1981Bobby Unser

1984Rick Mears

1985Danny Sullivan

1987Al Unser

1988Rick Mears

1991Rick Mears

1993Emerson Fittipaldi

1994Al Unser, Jr.

2001Hélio Castroneves

2002Hélio Castroneves

2003Gil de Ferran

2006Sam Hornish, Jr.

2009Hélio Castroneves

NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships:

2013Brad Keselowski

IndyCar Championships:

1979Rick Mears

1981Rick Mears

1982Rick Mears

1983Al Unser

1985Al Unser

1988Danny Sullivan

1994Al Unser Jr.

2000Gil de Ferran

2001Gil de Ferran

2006Sam Hornish Jr

2014Will Power

NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions:

2012Brad Keselowski


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