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Penske caps a banner season with NASCAR Hall induction.

Byline: Jenna Fryer AP Auto Racing Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. There was no need for Roger Penske to stay awake for Daytonas 24-hour sports car race. Penske has people to do that for him, and hanging out atop a pit stand watching telemetry for two trips around the clock is slightly below his paygrade.

When he did it last year, Team Penskes return season to sports cars racing, somebody had dared "The Captain" to hunker down for the entire Rolex 24 at Daytona. It was an impressive effort many who are far younger than Penske have failed to complete.

Once he had finished the first 24-hour race it seemed silly to do it again, particularly during the cold and blustery rainstorm that drowned Daytona International Speedway on Sunday.

But Penske had committed to be part of the team for the entire event and Team Penske, so organized and unflappable, had meticulously prepared for the conditions.

Penskes transporter was stacked with thermal underwear "Ive got my ski stuff here," he said heavy water resistant coats and black beanies branded with the Penske mark. The pit stand had been renovated to create additional space so Penske didnt have to sit all night, a lesson learned from last years race, and overhead heaters had been installed.

When the poor weather finally hit the speedway, the crew zipped clear flaps and enclosed the pit stand to escape the wind and torrential rain.

A month shy of his 82nd birthday, in the heaviest rain many racing veterans had ever seen, Penske pulled his beanie down low and hunkered down for an all-nighter.

"He doesnt even want to sit down, hes just standing there and its crazy," said Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of the 16th of Penskes record 17 Indianapolis 500 victories. "Thats why hes the big man and we are not."

His reasoning? Should he step away even briefly and one of his two cars had some sort of problem, Penske wanted to be present for problem-solving and strategic decisions.

"I could never do that, I could never stay up," said Penske driver Ricky Taylor, who noted after the final practice session before the Rolex that Penske had noticed an irregularity on the track and found Taylor to show him where to avoid.

Helio Castroneves, winner of three Indy 500s for Penske, wasnt at all surprised to see his boss there for the long haul.

"When you are passionate about racing like Roger, he has no reason not to be here for all of it," Castroneves said. "And three-four hours is all he needs to charge his battery. He has a very quick charger."

Penske had a sensible rebuttal for Castroneves claim that the boss rarely sleeps.

"Guess it all depends on if it is something worth staying awake for," he said.

Next up is Penskes Friday night induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fames 10th class, which was one of the most competitive elections in years. Jeff Gordon is the headliner, along with Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki, drivers both killed in aviation accidents at the prime of their careers. Team owners Penske and Jack Roush, a pair of Detroit fixtures who intertwined their many business interests with the automotive industry and motorsports, were elected together.

"Listen Im just glad they let guys in from the North," Penske joked about his induction with Roush. Both team owners had been on the ballot several years before they were voted in last May, shortly before Will Power won Penske another Indy 500 title.

"For us going in with Jack, a Michigan guy like we are, a business owner like we are, its a big honor for the family, all the people before us who helped us open the doors, and I was surprised when I was picked. You never know when is the right time to go in is it because of your age? Whats the right time?"

Penske was elected based on his entire body of work, even though this Hall of Fame is specific to NASCAR. The voting was done five days before the biggest Sunday in racing of the year. Penske started his day with four Chevrolets racing at Indianapolis, where Power won, then the action resumed in North Carolina at the Coca-Cola 600 with three Penske Fords and a fourth affiliated car in the field.

Across all his platforms, it was the most consistent season for Penske, who in NASCAR now has two Cup titles and two Daytona 500 victories.
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Title Annotation:Sports_
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Jan 31, 2019
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