The invitation came from our daughter, Kelly, about a week before the big event. Kelly works for Penske Racing in Mooresville and mentioned the company was sponsoring a family-oriented supper the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. She very innocently asked if I thought her dad would like to go.
“Of course, he would like to go,” I laughingly answered.
Michael lives and breathes racing as much as he does football. On Sundays, the remote heats up from switching back and forth between channels to see the latest touchdown or who’s winning the race. For Michael, when both seasons are over, it’s almost like losing a friend. That is, until February, when it’s time for the first race of the season at Daytona. With the starting of the engines, his spirits lift and his energy soars right before my eyes. I can’t help but think, “Here we go again.”
Even though I already knew Michael’s answer, I asked anyway just to see his reaction. Much as he tried to hide his enthusiasm, I could tell he was excited about the opportunity to visit the Penske shops and possibly meet some of the drivers, especially Brad Keselowski. Brad had just won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, adding even more excitement and anticipation for family night.
On the night of the event, Michael and I stopped first at the gift shop so he could buy a Penske cap. Calling Kelly on her cell phone, I let her know we had arrived. It didn’t take but a few minutes until she came out to meet us. Kelly is a receptionist for the administrative offices and was excited about showing us around. Walking down a long hallway, we turned the corner into a main entrance, where I noticed Kelly’s name on a nameplate at a desk. Behind the desk up on the wall was a big shiny sign that said Penske. How cool was that?
As Kelly made introductions, everyone went out of their way to welcome us. Before long, it was time to walk back up the hall to the shops where the meal would be served. Kelly’s boyfriend, Ben Key, who also works at Penske caught up with us, giving us a quick guided tour before it was time to eat.
Not only was I impressed with the friendly atmosphere, but I was also impressed with how clean the shops were. I thought whoever cleans the shops should make a trip to my house. There wasn’t one speck of dirt, dust or grease to be seen anywhere. I couldn’t understand how that was possible in a race car shop.
Ben said everyone who works at Penske knows it’s their responsibility to self-check. If someone leaves their area less than spotless, they know someone will call them on it. To give you some insight into what the shops look like, even the floor shines.
After the tour, it was time to eat the delicious catered meal prepared by HoneyBaked Ham. As families sat together with friends and co-workers, the rise and fall of laughter and conversation could be heard throughout the room. When everyone was settled, the resident of the company, Tim Cindric, came to the microphone to give a greeting and congratulations to everyone on a job well-done.
Tim explained that Brad wasn’t at the family event because he was in New York, taping a David Letterman show. Managing to get a call through to Brad, Tim then put him on speaker phone. It was pretty cool hearing how excited he was about everything.
I’m glad to have been a part of such a special night, but what made it even more special was sharing it with my daughter. Learning a little more about Kelly’s life from the perspective of her workplace, I can understand why she enjoys working at Penske Racing. What a blessing to work in a family-oriented atmosphere, where even the president takes time to say, “Hello.”