Trump heralded Penske, a veteran racer who has won hundreds of races, as a “champion and winner,” before awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday.
Penske, who was joined by his wife and children in the Oval Office, said that “to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom is something special and means more to me than any business success or motorsport trophy.”
The medal honors civilians 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.”
The 82-year-old has contributed millions of dollars to reforming homelessness in Detroit. He has also visited the White House several times this year with other racing champions to meet Trump.
Team Penske, Penske’s motorsports team, which Trump pointed out employs 64,000 workers around the world, has won more than 530 races and 35 championships across various series over the last 53 years. In NASCAR, Penske teams have won 120 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races.
“From racing to business to philanthropy, you have moved from one great victory to another,” Trump said. “No matter what you do it turns to gold. You are a legend on the speedway, you are a legend in business. Your name is revered everywhere, the checkered flag flies and beyond that.”
Penske is the second person in the motorsports industry to earn the prestigious honor. In 1992, NASCAR Hall of Famer and seven-time champion Richard Petty was awarded the medal by President George H.W. Bush.
Trump has awarded a total of 14 Presidential Medals of Freedom in his tenure in office, mostly to athletes and prominent conservatives, including professional golfer Tiger Woods and former President Ronald Reagan’s attorney general, Edwin Meese III.