American IndyCar Series driver Josef Newgarden landed the ride of his life last week when he was signed by Team Penske.
Newgarden, 25, replaces the great Colombian racer and two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, 41, on Roger Penske’s four-car open-wheel mega team.
“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 in a release. “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 will team in 2017 with this year’s series champion Simon Pagenaud of France, veteran Penske driver Helio Castroneves of Brazil and Australian-born Will Power.
Montoya, who campaigned formerly in Formula One and NASCAR, will likely look to sign with another IndyCar Series team following Penske’s decision not to rehire him full time next season, though the door may still be open to run the Indy 500 for the team should Montoya wish.
“We were very up front with him about the whole situation,” said Team Penske president Tim Cindric in regards to notifying Montoya at the race in Toronto earlier in the year about his future with the team. “All along, we said we’d like him to be part of our team in the future. That doesn’t necessarily mean driving our No. 2 car full time. We’ve talked to him about, you know, we’ve got a seat for him at Indy if he wants one, and if we do the sports car program, we’d like him to be in involved in it.”
Newgarden, who hails from Tennessee, will run the No. 2 Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet for his new team next season.
He placed fourth for Ed Carpenter Racing in the series in 2016, winning at Iowa Speedway after a sickening crash at Texas in which he destroyed the car and broke his right clavicle and hand.
Newgarden is regarded widely as the future of the Verizon IndyCar Series and had been tipped since the end of the season at Sonoma last month to be coming to Penske.
“It’s been a whirlwind for me,” said Newgarden at a Penske news conference last week to announce him joining The Captain. “It’s all happened a bit fast, which is great. It’s just like racing. Everything goes quickly.”
Newgarden knew he was the target of Penske for much of the season. But he was still having trouble Wednesday believing it had happened.
“Well, it’s amazing,” said Newgarden, who has three career IndyCar Series wins. “It’s an amazing opportunity. It’s an amazing honor … I just want to be able to integrate into the team and be part of the whole system that obviously works really well together already.”
Newgarden said he felt comfortable joining such a powerful team as Penske, even though his team-mates are from different backgrounds and each has a strong personality and great track record.