NASCAR Hall of Fame member and championship winning driver Rusty Wallace, along with Walter Czarnecki, the Executive Vice President, Penske Corporation and Vice Chairman of Team Penske, were announced as the latest members of the Team Penske Hall of Fame in a special ceremony on Sunday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway.
Of all the drivers who’ve raced for Team Penske throughout the team’s 52-year existence, none followed the path to prominence like Wallace. A little-known fact to most, Wallace made his first two starts for Roger Penske in 1980, finishing second in his debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The short-track ace from Missouri wouldn’t return to the Captain’s team until 1991, piloting the iconic yellow and black Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac. Wallace accumulated the final 37 of his 55 career premier series victories for Team Penske, ranking him third on the all-time wins list for Penske. Wallace was the 1989 Winston Cup Champion and a 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee.
“This is a great award and a great honor,” said Wallace. “I didn’t expect this was going to happen at all. I’m really honored to be in the Team Penske Hall of Fame, but even more honored to have driven for Roger. I always wanted to be a Penske driver. Even when I had other offers, I wanted to drive for Penske. To be in a club with the likes of Roger, Rick Mears, Mark Donohue, Walter (Czarnecki) and Karl Kainhofer is a real honor.”
Czarnecki began his relationship with Roger Penske and Penske Corporation in 1970 through his duties with American Motors, a few years later, he operated one of the nation’s leading Chevrolet dealerships for volume sales and customer service located in Southfield, Mich. During that same time, Penske purchased Michigan International Speedway out of bankruptcy, with Czarnecki serving as the track president. During his tenure, the speedway grew from 25,000 seats to over 125,000, hosting races for NASCAR, IndyCar, IROC, ARCA and many other top-tier sanctioning bodies.
Czarnecki later served as Vice Chairman of Penske Speedways, which owned and operated Michigan International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Nazareth Speedway, North Carolina Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 1999, Penske Speedways merged with International Speedway Corporation. Czarnecki remained Vice Chairman of Team Penske, a role in-which he continues to serve. With nearly 50 years of service, Czarnecki has left an immeasurable impact on Penske Corporation, Team Penske and motorsports.
“I’m honored and very, very grateful and humbled by this,” said Czarnecki. “Roger and I have been together for 48 years and this is certainly one of the highlights of my career. I remember when Roger and I first met – at a Trans Am race in 1969 in California. We bumped into each other because we were staying at the same hotel. That was the beginning of it all and I’ve never looked back from there.”
Inductions into the Team Penske Hall of Fame occur annually. Each year, two inductees are chosen from current and former drivers, employees and partners that have made a significant impact on the team and its history. The Hall of Famers will be honored both at an event and within the walls of the Team Penske facility located in Mooresville, NC.
The first four inductees to the Team Penske Hall of Fame were: Roger Penske (2016), Mark Donohue (2016), Rick Mears (2017) and Karl Kainhofer (2017).
Team Penske PR