CONCORD, N.C. — More than 400 members of the motorsports industry gathered Tuesday night to honor Roger Penske during the 11th annual North Carolina Motorsports Industry Awards Ceremony at the Embassy Suites Hotel.
With his wife, Kathy, and current team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden among those in attendance, Penske was this year’s recipient of the Achievement in Motorsports Tribute Award, which has been presented annually since 2007 by the membership of the North Carolina Motorsports Ass’n.
The 79-year-old businessman and team owner accepted the award from Dave Morton, who represented award sponsor, Fifth Third Bank, after the full room watched a video recapping Team Penske’s 50 years in motorsports.
“It is really humbling when you see that video and this award is very special to me and my wife of 40 years,” Penske said. “But as was referred to earlier it is a team effort. And all of the wins and championships would not be possible without the people. You do it with people, or what I call human capital.”
Previous winners of the Achievement in Motorsports Tribute Award are Bill France Jr., Benny Parsons, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Childress, Junior Johnson, O. Bruton Smith, H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, the Ned Jarrett family, Mike Helton and Jeff Gordon.
“It’s something to think I joined a group of people — Bill France Jr., Junior Johnson, Humpy Wheeler, Jeff Gordon — in earning this fine award,” said Penske.
Among the others in the room to honor Penske on this night were NASCAR Hall of Famers Rick Hendrick and Bobby Allison, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears, NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton and Team Penske President Tim Cindric.
Penske, who started as a driver and retired to focus on business before later becoming a team owner, talked some of the differences in motorsports during his more than 50 years in the sport.
“My first sponsor, Zerex, was $250,” he said. “Now a NASCAR sponsorship can cost as much as $500,000 for s single race.”
Penske, Mears, Cindric and Helton participated in a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Jerry Punch recapping Penske’s career. Mears said the biggest thing he learned from Penske through the years was “just taking care of people. He’s the best.”
Earlier in the program, longtime racing announcer Ken Squier, who was unable to attend, was presented with the Jim Hunter Memorial Media Award.
Motorsports Industry Awards went to the Cabarrus Convention & Visitors Bureau, Bojangles, SRI Performance, B.R.A.K.E.S. and Max Papis Innovations.