IndyCar 2021 Preview: Team Penske
Last but not least: we wrap up our preseason previews of all full-time IndyCar teams
Josef Newgarden is in search of his third career IndyCar championship this season. Photo: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar
By Michael Eubanks
This is the tenth and final part of a 10-part weekly series of previews of each full-time team slated to compete in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series. Each preview will give an overview of all drivers currently signed to drive for the team, recap the team’s 2020 results, describe what’s new for the team in 2021 and provide an outlook for the team’s performance this season.
Today’s preview features Team Penske - the most successful team in IndyCar history. The season-opening Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama takes place on April 18.
2021 Drivers (name, car number, all Chevy-powered): Josef Newgarden - No. 2, Scott McLaughlin - No. 3, Will Power - No. 12, Simon Pagenaud - No. 22
2020 recap: Once again, Penske dominated the series, winning half of the races contested in a Covid-shortened season. Josef Newgarden won four events and finished second overall in the final point standings. Will Power and Simon Pagenaud finished fifth and eighth overall, respectively, with Power collecting victories at Mid-Ohio and the IMS road course and Pagenaud winning at Iowa. Scott McLaughlin made his IndyCar debut in the season finale at St. Petersburg, though he finished 22nd after crashing out roughly halfway through the race.
What's new for 2021: After a successful career in Australia’s Supercars Championship, McLaughlin moves stateside to pursue a full-time career in IndyCar. He'll drive the team's iconic No. 3 entry that was previously piloted by Helio Castroneves.
Season Outlook: As usual, Team Penske will be a force to be reckoned with in 2021. All four drivers could easily find their way into victory lane, and the team will be a legitimate contender for the series title. Also, don’t be surprised if the team wins its 19th Indy 500 come May.
Simon Pagenaud looks for a strong season in 2021. Photo: Chris Owens/IndyCar
Driver Quotes: “It's been a very interesting winter. I've worked on more details than I've ever worked before, which is great. And with more and more data, technology, you can really dig deep and just perfect your craft even better than in the past.
“Obviously Team Penske has been able to provide me all the information I needed to get ready for the season, so personally I feel like I've really worked really well. I feel very ready for the season and very excited. I'm a grinder. I've been working hard, and I'm ready for the challenge.
“Obviously number one priority for me is the 500, trying to get a second ring. Obviously like I did in '19, we got so close to winning the championship, as well. Well, we're going to try to do it this year.
“The team, on their side, they've been working really hard. Gaining speed for the Speedway mostly was number one for them as well. Lately, there's been a huge push on the road course and street course, and I feel like we're gelling really well as a team with my teammates and everybody on the team. It's a pretty exciting time.” - Simon Pagenaud
Scott McLaughlin brings his immense talent — including championships each of the last three seasons — from Australian Supercars to IndyCar in 2021. Photo: Chris Owens/IndyCar.
"Look, it's going to be an exciting year. Absolutely had a great test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Nice to also do some laps around there. I've got three great teammates to lean on, not only in terms of driving style but setup-wise, trusting what the car is going to be like at qualifying trim, race trim, understanding that. That was really nice to lean on all three of the guys. All three of them were fantastic with me, helping me build up, get acquainted.
"For me, I don't really know what to expect. I think we've done some really good work as a team in the off-season. From what I understand the team's in a positive spot, but you don't know with testing right now sort of where everyone's at. I don't think we'll know until qualifying at Barber.
"For me right now, it's about doing as many laps as I can, getting as much understanding under my belt, leaning on my three great teammates as much as I can." - Scott McLaughlin
"I think we've got a good opportunity to come out pretty strong this year. I think we've done a lot of good work this off-season. I'm very encouraged about everywhere we're going, to be honest. Barber included.
"I can't wait to get going this weekend. It's been a while since we got to do our normal jobs. I'm excited to get back with the boys and get working.
"(I'm) excited we've got four cars. I think we've got some of the best people as always. We've been bolstered this year with adding Scott, his engineer J.D., and a couple others. Very, very excited to get going." - Josef Newgarden
Will Power looks for a rebound year in 2021. Photo: James Black/IndyCar
“(This year) does feel a little bit that way (like a rebound year), considering we've started the last four seasons in a really bad way. It certainly isn't speed that's the issue. It's our bad days are just too bad. Our bad days are DNFs and multiple laps down. They're not like a 10th place or a seventh place, and that's our problem. The speed is certainly not. Winning is certainly not. Consistently, whether it's mistakes on pit lane or mistakes by me, you just -- we have to have a solid beginning to the season -- I mean, you've just got to have a solid season, and that obviously includes the beginning.
I said it last year, it's a huge focus, and that did not happen for us. This year, again, if we can just have a solid first few races, I think it gives the team confidence and myself confidence.
“I feel like we'll be much better than we were last year. So yeah, looking forward to really everything coming up.” — Will Power