Penske to receive Smokey Yunick award
Roger Penske, whose race teams have captured 20 national championships while setting the industry standard for professionalism, will receive the Smokey Yunick Award Saturday night, Oct. 13, during pre-race ceremonies for the Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Instituted in 1997 by legendary car owner and mechanic Smokey Yunick who passed away May 11, 2001, the award annually recognizes an individual whose lifelong efforts have had a major impact on the motorsports industry.
"Roger Penske has been racing since 1958 and his business-like approach to the sport established the template from which today's race teams operate," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway. "Roger's leadership has had a far reaching impact on the industry, and he's played a major role in elevating motorsports to the status it enjoys today.
"Smokey wanted this award to honor those who rose from humble beginnings and through hard work and dedication made a major impact on auto racing," continued Wheeler, who will present the award. "Because his teams are still winning races and contending for championships, we often overlook Roger's long list of accomplishments and the blue-ribbon panel that selects the Smokey Yunick Award recipient made an outstanding choice."
Penske was one of America's most successful young road racers before electing to retire from driving in 1965 to focus on his first business--a Chevrolet dealership in Philadelphia. However, racing remained a key element in Penske's overall business plan.
After fielding sedans and sports cars, Penske Racing and driver Mark Donohue made their Indy Car debut in 1968. The following year, the team appeared in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time with Donohue finishing seventh and earning the Rookie-of-the-Year title.
Since then, Penske Racing has become synonymous with Indy Car racing, claiming 134 victories, 170 poles and 12 national championships. Penske Racing, however, is probably best known for its 14 Indianapolis 500 victories.
In 1972, Penske ventured into NASCAR racing with Donohue wheeling an AMC Matador in the road course event at Riverside International Raceway. Penske Racing stock cars appeared in 95 NASCAR events between 1972 and 1980 with Donohue earning the team's first victory in 1973 and Bobby Allison winning four more times in 1974 and '75.
Penske took a hiatus from NASCAR racing in 1980, but returned in 1991 with a full-time effort for Rusty Wallace. The team enjoyed immediate success and has grown into one of the sport's premier multi-car operations. Penske's resume now includes 60 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victories, including two this season, and Kurt Busch is among the 12 drivers challenging for the NEXTEL Cup.
In addition to his racing success, Penske is recognized as one of the nation's premier business leaders. He is the founder and chairman of Penske Corp., a diversified transportation services company whose subsidiaries operate in a variety of segments, including retail automotive, truck leasing, transportation logistics, transportation component manufacturing and high-performance racing. Penske Corp. manages businesses with revenues in excess of $17 billion, operates in more than 1,700 locations and employees 38,000 people worldwide.
Penske was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1998 and became a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1995. He was also inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2002.
Previous winners of the Smokey Yunick Award include Junior Johnson, Ken Squier, Bill Simpson, Ralph Moody, Banjo Matthews, Bud Moore, Cotton Owens, Junie Donlavey, Jim Hunter and Glen and Leonard Wood.
Tickets for the Oct. 13 Bank of America 500, round five of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, start at $39 and are available online at www.lowesmotorspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-455-FANS. Lowe's Motor Speedway