SONOMA, Calif. -- Roger Penske is a firm believer in the strength of the team, and as owner of the most prolific organization in Indy car history, he should know. That’s why, while being inducted to the Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame, Penske was compelled to have a recently departed favorite member of the Verizon IndyCar Series team share the honor.
So as the plaque bearing his name and likeness was unveiled in Victory Lane, Penske asked Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway’s president and general manager, to have Justin Wilson’s name inscribed on it, too, before the plaque is posted with those of other wall of fame members behind the track’s main grandstand.
“I wouldn’t let this day go by without having his name on that plaque with me,” Penske said of Wilson, who died Aug. 24 at the age of 37 from a head injury sustained the day before in a race, “because he’s one of the great guys. We lose a great friend and a competitor, and we need to honor him also.”
Penske was inducted by Sonoma Raceway for his lifelong contributions to motorsports, in many ways. The Verizon IndyCar Series championship-deciding GroPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 30 will be Team Penske's 701st Indy car start.
“I can’t think of anybody who is more deserving,” Page said, “either for their record here at Sonoma or for the body of work that you look at in the motor racing industry. From someone who competed and raced here – and Roger just reminded me he won the Trans Am championship here in ’69 – who built cars, who built engines, who built racetracks. Who has brought corporate America to a sport that is very dependent on sponsorship, and has really elevated this industry in ways that I don’t think any other individual can lay claim to.”
Penske owned the Chevrolet Camaro that Mark Donohue drove to the 1969 Trans Am title at Sonoma, two years before Donohue delivered the first of what is now a record 178 Indy car race wins for the team – including 16 in the Indianapolis 500.
“Everything you do, you kind of look back and say, ‘Wow!’ ” Penske said. “There’s no question, if you add it all up, it’s been a terrific run for us. I remember when we won the Trans Am championship back in the ‘60s, it was one of the biggest days of our career. It’s ironic that we’re here to try to win the Indy car championship again.”
There will be video streaming of the INDYCAR Championship Celebration at 9 p.m. ET Aug. 31 from the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco. ... The No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb BHA with Curb-Agajanian crew of Gabby Chaves claimed the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award at the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 23 with a total pit-lane time of 2 minutes, 31.30 seconds. The crew will donate its $10,000 award to the Wilson Children's Fund.