Racing icon and automotive retail leader Roger Penske has received the nation's top civilian honor -- the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- from President Donald Trump.
Trump awarded the medal to Penske, Team Penske owner and CEO of Penske Automotive Group, the nation's second-largest auto retailer, during a ceremony Thursday in the Oval Office at the White House. Penske was joined by many in his family, including his wife, Kathy, and children, according to a White House pool report.
Penske's transportation services company, Penske Corp., includes a portfolio of auto retail, racing, truck leasing, truck rental, logistics and fleet services businesses that collectively employ more than 64,000 people.
Penske received the medal at 5:05 p.m. EDT on Thursday after brief remarks by Trump, who lauded Penske for his number of wins on the racetrack and for his company accomplishments, according to a White House pool report on the events.
“No matter what you do it turns to gold,” Trump said, according to the pool report.m
Penske thanked Trump for the award and said it meant more than his motorsports trophies and business success, according to the pool report.
Penske, 82, was not immediately available for comment. In a June statement following Trump's remarks that he would be giving Penske the esteemed award, Penske said it was an honor to be recognized by Trump and to be awarded the Medal of Freedom.
"I am 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," Penske said in the statement. "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."
Penske joins a dozen others who have received the honor from Trump. The president may award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to people who have made "meritorious contributions" to U.S. security or national interests, world peace or to cultural or other "significant public or private endeavors," according to the White House.
"Roger S. Penske is a well-known American success story," the White House said in a statement this week. "Guided by his father's favorite phrase, 'effort equals results,' Mr. Penske built his one-car dealership into Penske Corporation, a leader in global transportation services. On the track, Mr. Penske built and led Team Penske into the most successful motorsports team in history. Mr. Penske's passion and unrelenting drive have established him as a business and motorsports icon."
In addition to his business empire, Penske, nicknamed the Captain, was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2015 and NASCAR Hall of Fame this year. A winning racer in the 1950s and 1960s, Penske retired from driving in 1965 to focus on his first business, a Chevrolet dealership in Philadelphia. He then assembled his own racing teams, where he has shined. Penske has more than 500 wins and has won the most Indianapolis 500 races, taking home 18 checkered flags.
Penske also serves on the board of Universal Technical Institute and is a director of the Downtown Detroit Partnership and Business Leaders for Michigan. He is a former board director of General Electric Co. and Internet Brands Inc.
Penske Automotive Group, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., ranks No. 2 on the Automotive News list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., retailing 236,000 new vehicles in 2018. It retailed 282,500 used vehicles for the same period, ranking No. 2 on Automotive News' list of the top 100 retailers in used-vehicle sales.