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Skipping White House visit never an option for Roger Penske, IndyCar's Simon Pagenaud

Greg Levinsky, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Auto Racing

DETROIT -- Of all the honors Roger Penske has received in his more than half a century as motor sports' most famous team owner, they pale in comparison to what is coming next for the metro Detroit business leader.

President Donald Trump will award Penske with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the country.

Penske, 82, owns one of the most successful auto racing teams of all time in both NASCAR and IndyCar. His drivers have won more than 530 races and 34 championships in its 53-year history, including 18 Indianapolis 500s and two Daytona 500s.

He is also founder and chairman of Penske Corp., with subsidiaries in auto sales, truck leasing and transportation logistics.

"What an honor it was to get a call from the President," Penske said at the grand opening of a Menard's in Bloomfield Hills on Wednesday. "It was very humbling."

Penske got the official letter of invitation from the White House this past week, and is working on nailing down a date for his visit. He assumes he'll go to Washington within the next month.

 

Simon Pagenaud, who won this year's Indianapolis 500 in May, visited the White House with Penske in June and also appeared at the Menard's opening.

While some athletes and teams have decided not to visit the White House after major victories or championships, Pagenaud described his team's decision to go as a no-brainer.

"The question of not to go was never a question to me," said Pagenaud, a native of France. "It was an honor for an incredible sporting event, the biggest sporting event in the USA and one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Being the winner of that event, you kind of have the duty to represent and be an ambassador.

"From a sporting standpoint, and not a political standpoint, I had no reason not to go."

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