By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
With the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season rapidly approaching, Motorsports Tribune is previewing each of the teams competing on the tour. The site’s IndyCar staff will break each team down, laying out their results from the previous season while previewing the year to come for the organization and their driver(s).
Team: Team Penske (@Team_Penske)
What Happened Last Year: Josef Newgarden was the new guy for Roger Penske’s IndyCar squad. But the Hendersonville, Tennessee native immediately showed everybody why he was hired to drive for The Captain, winning in his third race for the team at Barber Motorsports Park with an aggressive move on Scott Dixon.
Once Newgarden found his rhythm with the team, he was nearly unstoppable. In the last ten races of the season he had seven finishes of either first or second en-route to his first IndyCar series title.
Simon Pagenaud earned his first oval win in 2017 at what is now ISM Raceway after winning the 2016 title for Team Penske. Pagenaud won the season finale at Sonoma going on a four stop strategy while his rivals went for three stops. The likable Frenchman had an interesting moment with Newgarden at Gateway when Newgarden forced his way past Pagenaud in a late race pass that had a small amount of contact that dropped Pagenaud to third.
Will Power won his lone IndyCar title for Team Penske in 2014 and was looking to rebound from a 2016 season where he finished second in the championship despite missing a race. Power won three races, but seven finishes of 13th or below decimated his championship chances.
Helio Castroneves drove his final full season for Team Penske in 2017 and ended an 1,100-plus-day winless streak with Penske’s first win at Iowa. Castroneves would end the season with eight-consecutive top 10 finishes before being shifted to the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car program with Juan Montoya who only drove at Indianapolis for Team Penske in 2017.
2018 Breakdown: With Newgarden, Pagenaud and Power finishing in the top five in last year’s IndyCar points, it’s not a bad decision to pick any of those three to win the championship in 2018.
Newgarden has settled in properly in the team and will be looking to repeat his championship form while Pagenaud is trying to get his No. 1 back from Newgarden. Power, on the other hand, has been consistently racking up race wins year after year and sits ninth on the all time wins list with 32 victories. Al Unser Jr. is next on the list with 34 wins.
Lost in the shuffle has been Castroneves. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner no longer has a full time seat despite 20 years in the sport. His main blemish? Despite finishing fourth in the championship for his 14th top five points finish in 20 seasons, Castroneves did not win a championship, finishing as the series runner-up four times.
However, the Brazilian will be trying to win his fourth Indianapolis 500, bringing him into a tie with A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser Sr. as four time winners of the ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’