Team Penske’s trio of title winning drivers of Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden are focused on returning to championship form in 2019.

After sweeping the championship from 2016-17, the team was beaten to the punch by Chip Ganassi Racing with Scott Dixon claiming his series-high fifth title.

Power carried the flag for Penske in 2018 with a memorable win in the Indianapolis 500 in May and two additional wins – IndyCar GP and Gateway on his way to finishing third in points. A handful of mechanical issues and four DNFs hindered his hopes for a second championship.

Heading into Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where Power has amassed six poles and two wins, the 38 -year-old Aussie is ready to turn the page.

“That's exactly what we need is more consistency,” said the 2014 NTT IndyCar Series champion.  Definitely was disappointed not to be a legitimate contender at the last race.  Obviously still a great year to win the Indy 500, top of everyone's list in IndyCar. 

“You want to be able to fight for that championship. I think the team has done a lot of development over the off-season.  I think we found some really good stuff. Chevrolet has done a really good job with the development, improving the engine, drivability and such.”

2017 series champion Josef Newgarden’s quest to defend his title in 2018 came up a tad short – finishing fifth in points. Three wins (Phoenix, Barber and Road America) highlighted the 28-year-old from Hendersonville, Tennessee’s season, but those were his only finishes on the podium.

He showed flashes of consistency and did completed all but 5 five laps of the season, but was unable to challenge for wins on a consistent basis.

While he fell short of claiming back-to-back championships, Newgarden feels that it was all in a year’s worth of racing and has the same mindset as he chases another title.

“It's a huge honor, good to look back at what you did the year before,” he said. “But the pressure always feels the same. Regardless if you've been 20th in the championship the year before, you know you have to come in and perform the next season. I think we all feel that.

“It's the same when you look at someone like Scott this year. We know Scott is going to be in the conversation. Just because he won the championship, he's not our only target. We know there's more people we have to target within the groups to be successful this year.”

Simon Pagenaud failed to score a win or a pole, his first time since 2015 - his first season with Penske.

The Frenchman only claimed two podiums but still managed to finish sixth in points aided by a strong last three races where he finished no worse than sixth.

The 2016 series champion feels that with the gains that the made at the end of the year as well as the offseason R&D, histeam can get back to form.

“When we go into the off-season, we sat down and tried to pinpoint exactly what we needed to be more competitive and consistent,” he said. “We had a priority list of how we needed to improve and how much we need to improve on street courses, road courses, speedways. Obviously on speedways, we had less margin for improvement because the cars were really good. We thought the street course was an area we really needed to work on.”

The team showed pace on the superspeedway and natural terrain road courses but endured a collective struggle on the street courses. Pagenaud noted that with the team's hard work and dedication, they will be in good shape this weekend and beyond.

“The team took on a project and it really worked really well,” he said. “We made good improvement already and we're at the beginning of the program still. There's still more to come, but we think it's a good first step going into the season. We should be in good position.”

While the drivers all have their agendas, Pagenaud also confessed that sharing data is more critical than ever given the extremely competitive nature of the series.

“I don't think there's any margin to hide anything at the moment,” he said. “Everybody is so competitive, the teams are so great.  We're at a very high level right now. It's something you really need to understand, we're fighting for 500th of a second.  Even the moment you shift, it's paddle shifting, we're very focused on where we shift, that kind of stuff.”

 

Comments

Loading Comments...