Roger Penske

Photo courtesy IMSA

How octogenarian Roger Penske taught Graham, Bobby Rahal valuable lesson at Rolex 24

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Graham Rahal has learned almost everything he knows about IndyCar racing from his father, team owner and former three-time open-wheel champ Bobby Rahal.

But the younger Rahal – and the elder Rahal to an extent, as well – learned some very valuable lessons at this past weekend’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

And the person they learned them from was none other than the winningest team owner in IndyCar history, Roger Penske.

But the lessons weren’t necessarily about what was on the racetrack, but how Penske was able to remain awake – and more importantly – alert during the entire 24 hours of the Rolex.

With just a couple of breaks for the call of nature, Penske didn’t sleep or nod off or even try to catch a quick 10-minute cat nap. He was on top of the pit box, constantly discussing strategy for his two sports car teams, which were making their debut in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition.

Somehow, Penske remained pretty much bright-eyed and bushy-tailed from the start of the race at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday until the checkered flag 24 hours later on Sunday.

After the race was over, Penske continued to be like the Energizer Bunny, promptly leaving Daytona for a business trip to Europe. He’s someone we all could learn from on how to pace ourselves.

And also don’t forget that Penske is 80 years old (turns 81 on Feb. 20).

“As I said to my dad, I thought the more impressive thing was I got an email (from Penske) the next morning, apologizing that he didn’t see me after the race because he had to get to Ireland for a breakfast meeting, and then he was in Germany for a lunch meeting,” Graham Rahal said.

“That’s what’s more impressive than anything else. The guy (Penske), he’s a machine. He doesn’t stop. … For a young guy, there’s a lot (to learn from someone like Penske), for anybody.

“But for young people, there’s a lot to be learned from that mindset and that work ethic.”

Bobby Rahal tried to make it to 24 hours, but eventually had to give in and grab about 90 minutes of sleep in the middle of the night.

“No, I didn’t make it all 24 like Roger, but I gave it a good try,” Rahal said with a chuckle.