President Donald Trump announced Thursday his plans to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to automotive mogul and motor sports king Roger Penske.
“We’re going to be presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Roger Penske,” Trump told reporters at the White House during an Oval Office meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“He is a great gentleman who has won 18 Indianapolis 500s. He has won, just won Daytona,” said Trump. “He won probably more than anyone in the history of racing. I can’t imagine anybody being close.”
Trump also called Penske “one of the truly great people of this world — not only our country; I really mean that — one of the truly great people of our world.”
Trump added: “He’s very thrilled to be getting it, and that will be announced over the next little while but I guess actually I am announcing it pretty much now.”
Penske is the billionaire owner of Team Penske and founder of Penske Corp., headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, MI. Known by his nickname, “The Captain,” the 82-year-old was an accomplished racing driver himself for several years, but went on to run car dealerships and a commercial vehicle leasing company that bears his name.
Penske was also instrumental in bringing the 2006 Super Bowl to Detroit and in helping to bring IndyCar racing back to Detroit’s Belle Isle.
Penske is a regular at the White House and was just there last week with this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud. He was also in Washington in April when Trump welcomed 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Joey Logano to the White House.
“I’ve known him a long time. A very brilliant guy. When you think of all the countries that win Indianapolis and Daytona, and they fight and they spend — even Canada,” Trump said.
Penske said in a social media statement that he was “humbled by the President’s acknowledgment of our achievements in business, in motorsports and in our community.”
“Thank you to President Trump for this special recognition. On behalf of my wife Kathy (Penske), our family and our nearly 65,000 team members worldwide, it will be my privilege to accept this prestigious award,” the statement said.
The Presidential Medal of Honor is presented to people who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” NASCAR driver Richard Petty received the award in 1992.
Trump has awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom 6 times previously, including the most recent award on Wednesday, given to economist Arthur Laffer. Previous recipients have been golfer Tiger Woods, Elvis Presley, Babe Ruth, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and retired Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.