Jerry West

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President Donald Trump awards Medal of Freedom to Roger Penske


President Donald Trump awarded car owner Roger Penske the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, Thursday in a ceremony at the White House.

“A legend in so many ways,” President Trump said of Penske.

The Medal of Freedom was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and is awarded to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

“Receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom is really something special,” Penske said during the White House ceremony, “and to me it means more than any business success or motorsports trophy.”

Others who have been awarded the Medal of Freedom since 2018 by President Trump include Tiger Woods, Elvis Presley, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, former NFL great Roger Staubach and former NBA greats Bob Cousy and Jerry West.

Team Penske has recorded 545 major race wins, 621 pole positions and 36 championships. His teams have won the Indianapolis 500 a record 18 times. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January. His IndyCar team won the championship this year with Josef Newgarden. Team Penske has two drivers, reigning series champion Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, in the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup playoffs.

Penske is the founder and chairman of Penske Corp., which manages businesses with consolidated revenues of more than $32 billion and employs more than 64,000 people worldwide.



NBA great Jerry West an uneasy rider in NASCAR

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JOLIET, Ill. – If this whole basketball and tennis thing doesn’t work out, NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West and tennis great Billie Jean King might want to put together a comedy act and take it on the road.

The two sports legends are serving as co-grand marshals for Sunday’s opening race of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, the 400.

West was asked by NASCAR Talk if he went through with a pace car ride for a few hot laps that was scheduled Saturday.

“I was so apprehensive that I went back to the hotel and locked myself in so no one would make me come out and ride anything,” West said with a laugh.

To that, King responded, “Are you kidding me? You should have heard him this morning. ‘I want to drive that car, let’s go.’ I was like, ‘Really?’”

West’s retort: “I drive very slow, Billie Jean.”

As he was leaving the media center, West once again laughed when he told NASCAR Talk there was no doubt that he would indeed go through with the pace car ride this time: “I’m going to do it today. I’m going to drive it.”

West then slightly paused and then forewarned those who might watch his venture behind the wheel, “If you’re out there or anywhere near, get away from the track.”

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NBA great Jerry West gets his NASCAR vibe on

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JOLIET, Ill. – He may be 77 years old now, but NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West still looks like he could pop in a 20-footer or drive the lane for two.

But instead of the Staples Center or United Center, West found himself on Friday in the middle of NASCAR land at Chicagoland Speedway.

West and fellow sports legend, tennis great Billie Jean King, will serve as co-grand marshals for Sunday’s 400, the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

West and King both know about AFib, short for atrial fibrillation, an irregular and often rapid heartbeat that can lead to strokes, heart attacks and even deaths.

“I lost three friends just in the last year to strokes,” West said.

As for his own battle with AFib, he added, “I’m sure I had it when I was an athlete. Doctors would always say I had an extra beat in my heart and I had real low blood pressure.

“I was a Type A personality, and particularly when I got into my (playing) career and there’s so much pressure on you every night, and my desire to excel and win and that’s what drove me.

“They had me doing crazy things. I was hyperventilating, they had me breathing in a paper bag, so I knew something wasn’t normal.

“It didn’t really manifest itself until I became an (NBA team) executive. There’s so much more pressure there because we had a lot of success in Los Angeles, and the expectations of people – there’s a lot of pressure on people to produce and win there.

“Los Angeles, I think because of my desire to win and the Lakers’ success, you put so much pressure on yourself, you just get out of kilter, you feel horrible. I had to be hospitalized twice, I was just exhausted. And at the end of the day, I found out why I was exhausted: your heart never shuts off.”

West grew up in West Virginia during the moonshine era that preceded NASCAR, but this weekend will be his closest exposure to the sport.

“They’re fascinating athletes with the reflexes these guys have, driving at their speeds and so close together,” he said of NASCAR drivers. “If all athletes had those kind of reflexes – and some of them do – but the risk for these people out there, going those speeds, is enormous.

“And to me, I’m amazed that there’s not more accidents than they have, but they’re remarkable athletes.”

West will get real up-close with the track and drivers on Saturday when he takes some hot laps in the pace car.

“I’m hopeful that the person driving is a real good driver,” West quipped.

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