The Josef Newgarden to Team Penske rumors started many months ago. Today, the young American driver was confirmed to Roger Penske’s team for the upcoming 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Newgarden will be driving the No. 2 car, which has been occupied by Juan Montoya for the past three seasons.
Newgarden has really burst onto the scene over the last two years. In those two seasons, he has 3 race wins, 8 podium finishes, 1 pole, and has led 658 laps. In 2015 he finished 7th in the championship, and this year with Ed Carpenter Racing he had a career-best 4th place finish in the standings, just behind his three new teammates.
“When you look at the top talent in the series, both from a driving and commercial perspective, Josef is near the top of the list,” said Roger Penske. “We are always looking to build toward the future and when we had the opportunity to talk with Josef, we knew that he would be a great fit with our program. He is a fantastic driver on the track and will be great with our partners off the track. He is hungry to win more races and win championships and we hope to give him that opportunity as part of our team.”
“For any open-wheel racer – or any racecar driver in general – Team Penske is a dream job,” said Newgarden. “Roger Penske is a legend in the motorsports community and his team has done just about everything they’ve ever set out to do. I look forward to working with all of Team Penske’s great partners. To get an opportunity to work with Simon (Pagenaud), Will (Power) and Helio (Castroneves), along with the rest of the team, will just help make me a better driver.”
The biggest domino has now officially fallen, and the IndyCar Silly Season is about to get even more interesting. While Montoya is in search of a full-time IndyCar ride next season (ECR, Foyt, KVSH, Ganassi), he does have a couple of standing offers from Roger Penske, including a fifth car in next year’s Indianapolis 500.
In a media teleconference today, Team Penske President Tim Cindric said “We’d like him to be part of the team, it just doesn’t mean the 2 car full-time. We have a seat for Indy if he wants one. If we do a sports car program, we want him to be involved.”
As the saying goes, when Roger Penske calls, you answer the phone. While it would have been great to see Josef stay at ECR and build on their success together, it is the opportunity of a lifetime when it comes to a driver’s career. Josef now goes from having a rotating door of teammates, to three legendary drivers to work and exchange information with.
This move actually sounds eerily similar to the one the team made a couple years ago, grabbing Simon Pagenaud from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. It took Simon a year to get acclimated, but he completely dominated the field this year on his way to a championship. Josef has the talent, the time, and the resources to do the same.
Roger Penske’s four-car lineup next season will include two IndyCar champions, a three-time Indy 500 winner, and the hottest young driver in the series. He is The Captain, and he always gets his man.