Newgarden Provides IndyCar A Fresh Face With Longtime Drivers Shuffling Teams
The Verizon IndyCar Series has a "shot to really push new champion Josef Newgarden to its audience" with a "stronger infrastructure and the power" of the Penske Racing brand, according to Jenna Fryer of the AP. Newgarden is only the third U.S. series champion in the "last 11 years," and at just 26, he is the "youngest champion" since Sam Hornish Jr. in '02. With almost six months to go before the '18 season begins, IndyCar should have Newgarden "carry them through the offseason." However, IndyCar has a "lot of work ahead." The series will introduce a "new car next season, and the driver lineups could look considerably different." Helio Castroneves appears "headed to sports cars in a Team Penske shuffle, and the move will cost the series one of its most popular drivers." Additionally, Tony Kanaan is ending his tenure with Chip Ganassi Racing that "produced only one victory in four seasons." Kanaan at least "appears to be staying in the series, albeit with a smaller team in A.J. Foyt Racing." The entire CGR organization "could go from four cars to just two." Penske Racing President Tim Cindric said, "It's all of our responsibility to continue to promote the next level because it's not just on the racetrack. These personalities are the ones that everybody needs to see and understand" (AP, 9/18). USA TODAY's Brant James writes Penske officials "knew what Newgarden would bring to the series’ power organization." But none of them "could be sure it would happen so soon" (USA TODAY, 9/19).
HELIO SAYING GOODBYE FOR NOW: RACER.com's Robin Miller notes Sunday's race represented a "passing of the IndyCar torch" at Penske Racing, with Newgarden in a way taking Castroneves' place. Castroneves has been the "most recognizable face of IndyCar for the past two decades." In addition to being a "great ambassador" for the racing circuit, Castroneves was one of the "most popular and successful drivers" (RACER.com, 9/19). In Indianapolis, Jim Ayello writes Castroneves "should and will walk away from the sport he loves so much with his trademark ear-to-ear smile." The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion "has been a fantastic ambassador for the sport and will always be one of the most beloved drivers of his era" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/19).
SAVE THE DATES: IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said that a finalized '18 schedule is coming and that he is "'optimistic' it will include the widely discusses race in Mexico City." Miles said IndyCar is planning to announce the schedule either Sept. 25, 26 or 27. In Indianapolis, Jim Ayello noted all 17 events from '17 "will be back on the calendar" in '18 (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/17).