80-year-old Roger Penske runs laps around field at Rolex 24 at Daytona
Famed auto racing team owner Roger Penske became a bit of a folk hero when the 80-year-old achieved “Ironman” status by staying on the timing stand without sleep for the full Rolex 24 at Daytona last weekend.
But according to one of his drivers in that race, Graham Rahal, it didn’t end once the checkered flag dropped a little past 2:30 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday.
Penske immediately jetted off for a breakfast meeting in Ireland followed by a lunch meeting in Germany.
That stamina is quite impressive to the physically fit, 28-year-old Rahal, who drove his stints in shifts during the 24-hour race.
“As I said to my Dad, I thought the more impressive thing is I got an email the next morning apologizing he didn’t see me after the race because he had a breakfast meeting in Ireland and a lunch meeting in Germany,” Rahal said. “That was more impressive than anything else.
“The guy is a machine. He doesn’t stop. It was an honor to race with Roger and that organization. I’m excited to race at Sebring and hopefully more in the future. It doesn’t surprise me about Roger. He is so passionate about racing. I know Bud Denker and Tim Cindric were also awake the whole time and that was impressive, but Roger is a machine that doesn’t seem to stop.”
Rahal compared Penske to one of his Verizon IndyCar Series team owners at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Chicago industrialist Michael Lanigan.
“Mike is cut from the same cloth — never, never stop and never quit,” Rahal said. “That’s very impressive. For young people, there is a lot to learned from that work ethic.”
Rahal’s father and Verizon IndyCar Series team owner, Bobby, also has an IMSA team. The 65-year-old is also in tremendous shape, but he admits went back to the motor home and slept for about 1.5 hours during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“It’s so loud there, it’s impossible to sleep,” Bobby Rahal said. “At some point there, you get up, take a shower and put the clothes back on and go back out. If anything, fall asleep on the timing stand.
“I didn’t make all 24 like Roger, but I gave it a good try.”