Trump said he felt compelled to award Penske the medal of honor due to his competitive nature, describing him as "relentless" in pursuit of Indianapolis 500 victories for his racing team.
"All of these exceptional racers were part of a team of professionals that never stopped working to achieve perfection, and it's really that," Trump said. "Every member of Team Penske would admit that they could not have done it without the man that they call very affectionately 'The Captain.'"
Penske won 18 Indianapolis 500 races, founded the Penske Corporation and helped bring the Super Bowl to Detroit in 2006. The Medal of Freedom is awarded to civilians who have made noteworthy contributions to society. It was first established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
"Roger S. Penske is a well-known American success story," the White House said in a statement. "Guided by his father's favorite phrase, 'effort equals results,' Penske built his one car dealership into Penske Corporation, a leader in global transportation services. On the track, Mr. Penske built and led Team Penske into the most successful motorsports team in history. Mr. Penske's passion and unrelenting drive have established him as a business and motorsports icon."
During his speech on Thursday, Penske thanked his team of racers and the rest of the people within his organization for allowing him to receive the recognition from the White House.
"If they hadn't done their work I wouldn't be here today," he said.
Penske received a call from Trump in June to inform him of the tribute.
"What an honor it was to get a call from the president," Penske said. "It was very humbling to understand that I would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It's very exciting for me, for my family and certainly for our whole team and the people that have been around me to help me get to where I have been in life."
Penske tweeted thanks to Trump for recognizing "our achievements in business, in motorsports and in our community."
Trump said he's known the fellow billionaire "a long time" and called him "very deserving."
"He won probably more than anyone in the history of racing. I can't imagine anybody being close," Trump later said.