IndyCar 2016 team preview: Team Penske

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NBC Sports takes a look through the teams competing in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series. Team Penske enjoyed a typically excellent 2015 season, including Roger Penske’s 16th Indianapolis 500 win, but came up just shy of the title. It’s a marquee year for Penske as the team celebrates its 50th anniversary, and looks for more continued success.

Team: Team Penske
Engine/aero kits: Chevrolet
Sponsors: Verizon (No. 2, No. 12), Hitachi/Shell Pennzoil (No. 3), Hewlett Packard Enterprise (No. 22)

2015 STATS

Races: 16
Wins: 3 (Montoya 2, Power 1)
Podiums: 15 (Montoya 5, Castroneves 5, Power 3, Pagenaud 2)
Pole Positions: 13 (Power 6, Castroneves 4, Montoya 2*, Pagenaud 1)
Fastest Laps: 4 (Castroneves 4, Power 2, Montoya 1)
Points: 1886 (Montoya 556, Power 493, Castroneves 453, Pagenaud 384)
Laps Led: 773 (Power 298, Castroneves 198, Montoya 145, Pagenaud 132)
Championship Position: 2nd (Montoya), 3rd (Power), 5th (Castroneves), 11th (Pagenaud)

*Montoya’s 2 poles were when qualifying was rained out and set by entry points

2016 LINEUP (Engineer in parentheses)

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

2015 TEAM RECAP (Montoya, Power, Castroneves, Pagenaud driver recaps)

Most teams would be happy with the output achieved last year, including the Indianapolis 500 win. Most teams, however, are not Team Penske, and thus operate to the highest level of goals and targeted success. So in that regard even though Juan Pablo Montoya started strong with a well-judged win at St. Petersburg, then denied Will Power at Indy and cost the Australian a shot at a month of May two-race sweep, in truth the team was never as dominant in the second half of the year as it was in the first half.

Qualifying was staggering across the board – 13 poles, four of the best five starting averages, and 26 Firestone Fast Six appearances combined out of 48 possible attempts in the series – but there were no further wins after May, and Montoya’s consistent run lacked a truly otherworldly drive from June on. “JPM” still would have captured the title if not for Scott Dixon’s Sonoma heroics, and his own and Power’s contact during the race. Elsewhere in the team Helio Castroneves enjoyed another solid year, while the big surprise was how Simon Pagenaud’s qualifying pace generally failed to translate to results on Sundays.

2016 OUTLOOK

Unlike a year ago, there are no major changes within the team, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary as a team. Now that Pagenaud and his crew have had a full year and chance to acclimatize and embed themselves within the Penske culture, they should be better positioned for success and their first win. Power, too, should rebound after a rare one-win season with multiple wins.

The story will likely remain the same, where all four should be race winners and at least three of the four could contend for the championship. Highest priority though must be securing the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, a race so near and dear to Roger Penske’s heart, with the championship the second target provided a 500 win is achieved.