Roger Penske couldn’t be in Fort Worth to accept credit for his induction to the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Instead, he sent word that his place belongs to the employees of Team Penske, the racing operation that has won 23 national championships.
“I know what Roger would say,” said right-hand man Walt Czarneck, executive vice president of Penske Corporation. “He’d say, ‘I’m the face of our company, but it’s really the people of our organization who deserve this. They’re the ones who have the desire, who have the commitment, who are proud of the organization. That’s why we’ve been able to achieve what we have.’ ”
Penske became the 16th member of the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame and the third car owner inducted in the past five years, joining fellow NASCAR owners Jack Roush (2012) and Joe Gibbs (2009).
Also honored Thursday night was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was presented the Major Gen. Thomas Sadler Award for humanitarianism. His appearance in Roanoke last fall helped raise more than $30,000 for Speedway Children’s Charities, the charity arm of Texas Motor Speedway.
“I can just imagine there are thousands of people who deserve this award besides myself,” Earnhardt said. “You didn’t have to twist my arm too much when you told me we were going to have barbecue in Roanoke. That was a lot of fun. I’m glad we were able to raise some money.”
Others receiving awards were Kyle Busch, who was named the TMS racer of the year; three-time Indianapolis 500 champ Dario Franchitti, who received the O. Bruton Smith Legend Award to recognize a career cut short by injury; and James Buescher, who earned the Sportsmanship Award for his work in recovery efforts in Moore, Okla.
Busch swept the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series last year in April, setting a track qualifying record in the Sprint Cup race along the way.
The Sprint Cup victory was his first at TMS, but the Nationwide win was nothing new — his sixth. He also holds the record with five consecutive Nationwide wins at TMS.
Franchitti retired after a racing accident last fall in Houston left him with broken vertebrae, a broken ankle and a concussion. He was told he was medically unfit to race despite his recovery, forcing him to leave a career that included 31 victories, eighth on the all-time list.
Buescher, who grew up in Plano, said he didn’t set out for an award when he and his wife, Kris, traveled to Moore to help. A brother lives in Oklahoma near the site of the tornado.
“It was something my wife and I felt like we needed to do, to help out,” he said. “We did what we could to help. We played a very small part in a big rebuilding. It’s not something we did to earn anything like this, but we appreciate it.”