WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he’s awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Roger Penske, the most powerful man in American motorsports.
“He’s very deserving. He’s a great gentleman,” Trump said as he made the announcement Thursday at the White House. “I’ve known him a long time, and a very brilliant guy.”
Trump said he spoke with Penske on Thursday to inform him and that Penske is “very thrilled” to be receiving the nation’s highest commendation for a civilian.
Penske celebrated his record 18th victory as a car owner at the Indianapolis 500 in May with driver Simon Pagenaud, a feat that earned Penske his second trip to the White House this year. Penske had visited in April as Trump celebrated Joey Lagano’s NASCAR championship. Penske, 82, is a fixture in the Detroit automotive scene and is one of America’s most successful businessmen.
Trump made the announcement the day after he presented the medal to economist Arthur Laffer, whose disputed theories on tax cuts have guided Republican policy since the 1980s.
Trump did not say when Penske’s ceremony will be held.
Penske had no immediate comment.
When Pagenaud won the Indy 500 on May 26, Trump called Penske in the victory lane from Japan, where the president was in the midst of a four-day state visit. Trump also tweeted congratulations to Penske and said he had watched the race despite the early morning hour in Tokyo.
The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.
With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.
Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.
With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.
“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!
“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”
Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.
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