IndyCar 2015 team preview: Team Penske

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MotorSportsTalk takes a look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field for 2015 heading into the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener on March 29. To kick things off, we examine the defending champions, Team Penske.

Team: Team Penske
Engine/aero kit: Chevrolet
Sponsors: Verizon (Nos. 1, 2), PPG (No. 2), Hitachi (No. 3), Penske Truck Rental (No. 22)

2014 STATS

Races: 18
Wins: 5 (Power 3, Castroneves 1, Montoya 1)
Podiums: 17 (Power 7, Castroneves 6, Montoya 4)
Pole Positions: 8 (Power 4, Castroneves 3, Montoya 1)
Fastest Laps: 6 (Power 2, Castroneves 2, Montoya 2)
Points: 1866 (Power 671, Castroneves 609, Montoya 586)
Laps Led: 1072 (Power 623, Castroneves 282, Montoya 167)
Championship Position: 1st (Power), 2nd (Castroneves), 4th (Montoya)

2015 LINEUP (Engineer in parentheses)

1 Will Power (David Faustino)
2 Juan Pablo Montoya (Brian Campe)
3 Helio Castroneves (Jonathan Diuguid)
22 Simon Pagenaud (Ben Bretzman)

2014 TEAM RECAP (Power, Castroneves, Montoya driver recaps)

Few things went wrong for Team Penske in 2014. OK, Helio Castroneves was just short of his fourth Indianapolis 500 win, Juan Pablo Montoya’s road and street race qualifying left a tiny bit to be desired and Will Power’s champion’s speech at the banquet went all kinds of goofy, crazy haywire. But when those were the worst things that occurred in a year when the team won five races and ended first, second and fourth in points, it was a pretty good year.

2015 OUTLOOK

Team Penske makes the bold step to add a fourth car for Simon Pagenaud alongside the established fearsome threesome of Power, Castroneves and Montoya. All four have reason to be optimistic this year. Power has the confidence of a title finally in hand; Castroneves is consistently a threat on ovals and road courses; Montoya will undoubtedly be better now that he’s had a year to reacclimatize back to open-wheel racing; Pagenaud has the opportunity with one of IndyCar’s best teams to showcase his talent on an even larger scale. Penske is a strong favorite to score its first Indianapolis 500 win since 2009, which would give them that and a Daytona 500 in the same year. Beyond that, a top four sweep of the points standings is not an impossible goal, although choosing between them is a difficult task!

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.