Presidential Medal of Freedom ‘very humbling’ for Roger Penske

The Detroit News

Bloomfield Hills – Talk about a grand opening.

Wednesday’s opening of the new Menards Mega Store at 1901 South Telegraph Road featured a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, an Indy 500 winner and the man whose name is on the building.

John Menard, Simon Pagenaud and Roger Penske at the Bloomfield Hills Menards grand opening on Wednesday.

And that Medal of Freedom winner – Roger Penske – just happens to be a neighbor of the area's newest home improvement store.

“I needed a Menards close to my home so my wife can shop here,” said Penske, whose office is just down the road from the new store. “I hope she gets a credit card.”

Penske, Team Penske driver and Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, and Menards founder and owner John Menard all made the trek to the Detroit area for the opening.

For Pagenaud, stumping for Menards – one of his sponsors – is more than just part of the job. It’s a little trip down memory lane.

“I’m an ambassador for the brands,” said Pagenaud, who edged Alexander Rossi for Penske’s latest Indianapolis 500 triumph. “I’ve had a great relationship with John Menard, and this year being able to win the Indy 500 for him after his 40 years of trying was phenomenal.

“Opening a superstore here with Roger and John is special. My family is actually from this kind of business in France. For me, I always have great conversations with John because I can relate to his business, and I can see things that most people won’t see. I’ve very comfortable in this environment, and the biggest thing is that this store is employing people, it’s a huge store bringing in a lot of business and a lot of activity for the area.”

Team Penske even brought along Pagenaud’s winning car from the 500.

It’s been a great year for Penske. Along with the Indianapolis 500 victory, Penske drivers lead the season standings in the NTT IndyCar Series, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Penske, however, was beaming more about his recent off-track honor than any on-track accomplishment so far in 2019.

“What an honor it was to get a call from the President,” Penske said. “It was very humbling to understand that I would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I responded to the President, and we’ll be setting up a date for me to go to the White House, probably in the next month or so.

“It’s very exciting for me, for my family, and certainly for our whole team and the people that have been around me to help me get to where I have been in life. This is more than about a sport. This is about your country. This is about you as an individual.”

Much like his racing and business success, Penske was quick to share the honor.

“Being able to build a team of people – we have some 66,000 people that work for our company – I would have never had the successes and been able to give back without their support and commitment,” he said. “It’s something I would have never thought I would be selected for this type of honor.

“When you think about other Freedom Medal winners you’ve got people who have been to the moon, you’ve got great ambassadors, Tiger Woods. From an overall standpoint. It was a medal that was really started back in 1945 by President Truman, and it was a Freedom Medal of Honor. In 1965, President Kennedy said let’s make it a Presidential honor so that he could honor people outside the military. The history of the medal, all the things around it are just amazing. And for me as an individual, it’s something I would have never dreamed of.”

And as for where he put the letter from the President notifying him about the award, Penske just smiled.

“I have it in a very, very safe place,” he said. “I sure do.”