There is one absolute from the 2017 season, that Team Penske was unstoppable. Roger Penske’s four drivers were four out of the top five at the end of the season. Josef Newgarden, in his first year with Penske, won the championship. Simon Pagenaud, who won the 2016 season, came in second. Helio Castroneves and Will Power rounded out the top five by getting positions four and five respectively. Between the four drivers, Penske racked up ten First Place finishes, eight Second Place finishes, and twenty-three top Five finishes. The team itself was one lively storyline to watch: Josef’s gutsy pass at Bommarito, Helio climbing the fence in Iowa, Will winning at the Indy GP, and Simon battling to the end at Sonoma to try and make it a repeat championship (not to mention Simon’s reaction after Josef passed him at Bommarito) Also kudos to their social media team, the Penske Games destroyed the internet and really brought out a side of some of the drivers fans don’t always get to see*.
In the offseason, Roger Penske made a decision that had been hinted at for months during the season: Helio Castroneves, Spiderman, 3-time Indy 500 winner, was moved from IndyCar to sports car. Roger wanted to slim down his IndyCar operation. The loyalty between the two men has been described at length, and when Roger asked Helio to switch – Helio said yes. Besides Castroneves move, there has been little change to the Penske line up. The team was among a handful of teams involved in the manufacturing testing of the new aero kit, starting the new season off earlier than others.
I believe 2018 Team Penske again is going to have three drivers in championship contention. Josef will want to defend his title, and both Simon and Will are hungry for their second champion title. It’s a team sure, but in the end, drivers are out there for themselves. I’d be lying though if I wasn’t worried about the relationship between Pagenaud and Newgarden, that podium ceremony at St. Louis was frosty. Finally, in 2018 everyone needs to want Helio to get that 4th Indy 500 win. It’s been over twenty years since we had a 4-time winner, and everyone’s ready for that excitement.
*I still sing “Hula hoop on a regular day” at random points during my workday