2019 Team Penske IndyCar Season Review

December 16, 2019

The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season proved to be one of the best in the team’s rich 53-year history with nine wins – including the team’s 18th Indianapolis 500 victory – eight poles, 27 top-five finishes, 40 top-10 results and the 16th series championship among the three full-season teams.  Josef Newgarden and the No. 2 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet team claimed the 2019 series title, to go along with the championship won by the driver and the team in 2017.

This marked the second season for all IndyCar Series teams competing with the Dallara IC-12 chassis and the universal aero kits. After working with the new car for a season, Team Penske hit the ground running with a strong first test of the season at Circuit of the Americas in February 2019. Once again featuring  three series champion drivers, Team Penske roared into the new season with Josef Newgarden (2017 series champion) at the helm of the No. 2 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet, Will Power (2014 series champion) racing the No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Chevrolet and Simon Pagenaud (2016 series champion) behind the wheel of the No. 22 Menards/DXC Technology Dallara/Chevrolet.

Wasting no time asserting themselves in the new season, Newgarden and the No. 2 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet team began their championship campaign with a victory in the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg in March. It marked the ninth time in 15 races that a Team Penske driver won the season-opening race in St. Pete.

While Newgarden earned top-four finishes in the first three races of the season – at St. Pete, the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) road course – new to the IndyCar Series schedule in 2019 – and at Barber Motorsports Park, both Power and Pagenaud did not see the same early-season success. Power won the pole at both St. Pete and COTA but his top finish early on came in the opener when he claimed third. Pagenaud also didn’t get off to the start he wanted but the team collectively began to gain momentum in the fourth race of the season at Long Beach. Newgarden scored a second-place finish on the historic street circuit to maintain his lead in the series standings while both Power and Pagenaud also earned top-10 finishes as Team Penske prepared for a strong month of May.

Pagenaud enjoyed a dream month and perhaps the most successful May ever for an INDYCAR driver.  Pagenaud and the No. 22 Menards Dallara/Chevrolet team won the IndyCar Grand Prix in spectacular fashion through a thrilling last-lap battle with Scott Dixon on the wet Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The Frenchman’s Indy success continued when the Menards team captured the pole for the biggest race of the year, the Indianapolis 500. Pagenaud’s ultimate career dream came true on May 26 when he won the Indianapolis 500 in convincing fashion as he led 116 of the 200 laps to become the first French driver to win the historic race in 99 years.

Newgarden and Power also had top-five finishes in the Indy 500 with Newgarden coming home fourth and Power fifth.

Helio Castroneves made the most of the break in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship schedule with Acura Team Penske as he once again raced a fourth entry for the team in both the IndyCar Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. While Castroneves wasn’t able to earn his fourth victory at the 500 in the No. 3 Pennzoil Dallara/Chevrolet, he will get another opportunity as he will join Team Penske for the 2020 Indianapolis 500-mile race.

With the team riding high from Pagenaud’s landmark victory at Indy, Newgarden and the Hitachi Chevy team kept the good times rolling with their second win of the season in the opening race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit at the Belle Isle street circuit. He followed that up by winning the pole for Dual II on Sunday in Detroit, but an early spin prevented a Newgarden sweep of the weekend. While Pagenaud wasn’t able to build off his Indy 500 win with a strong finish in the Motor City, Power claimed a podium result for the team as he finished third in Dual II.

Newgarden scored a satisfying third win of the season driving the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Chevy to his first career victory at Texas Motor Speedway – the track where suffered a broken collarbone and hand in an accident during the 2016 race.

Transitioning from the high-speed oval at Texas to the long Road America road course, Team Penske produced a pair of podium results as Power finished second and Newgarden claimed third while the 2019 season moved past its halfway point.

Pagenaud scored his third and final win of the season when he outlasted his competitors in Toronto for his first career victory at the popular street race.

Team Penske’s wet weekend at Iowa got off to a great start as Pagenaud captured the pole on the fast short oval. Extended rain delays during the race led to the event ending at almost 2 a.m. CT but it was worth the wait as Newgarden enjoyed a dominant performance leading 245 of 300 laps on the way to his fourth win of the season.

The next round at Mid-Ohio saw Power win his third pole of the season. The Australian racer posted Team Penske’s top race finish in fourth place while Pagenaud finished sixth. Newgarden was in position to fight for the win and add to his championship lead before an incident on the penultimate lap of the race halted his momentum. He spun trying to make a late pass and ended the race one lap down in the 14th position as Newgarden saw his lead in the points standings dwindle.

Newgarden and the No. 2 Chevrolet team looked for redemption at Pocono and found it by winning the pole position and securing a fifth-place finish. Rain slowed the action at the “Tricky Triangle” on race day and when officials ruled the event complete past the halfway point of the race, Power scored the victory to extend his streak of seasons with at least one win to 13 in a row. The victory allowed Power to claim seventh on the all-time INDYCAR wins list with 26 career triumphs, breaking a tie with Bobby Unser.

With the series championship chase heating up, series leader Newgarden and the No. 2 team won the pole at the Gateway Motorsports Park oval, before bringing home a seventh-place finish. Pagenaud stayed in the title hunt with a fifth-place finish to lead Team Penske at Gateway.

Power made more history with a victory in the second-to-last race of the season at the Grand Prix of Portland. Power’s 37th career triumph marked the team’s ninth IndyCar Series win of the season, and it allowed the 2014 series champ to move into a tie with Sebastien Bourdais for sixth on the all-time INDYCAR wins list. Newgarden and Pagenaud kept their championship hopes alive entering the final race at Laguna Seca as they finished fifth and seventh, respectively, at Portland.

A season’s worth of hopes and efforts all came down to the final race of the season at the Laguna Seca road course. While some drivers had experienced racing there before, it was the first IndyCar Series race at the track since 2004. Newgarden entered the weekend with a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi in the championship standings with Pagenaud just 42 points behind his teammate. With double points awarded in the season finale, however, any one of the top three drivers could have claimed the title.  

While Newgarden and the No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet didn’t win the race, they ran strong and produced an eighth-place finish to secure their second IndyCar Series championship, to go along with their 2017 title for Team Penske. Newgarden closed out the 2019 season with four race wins, two poles and 641 points to win the 2019 IndyCar Series crown for Team Penske’s 16th series championship.

“My team just did such a great job, this group all year long, and I didn't want to throw it away at the end and do something silly. But man, they called a great race and I tried to be as smart as I could today,” said Newgarden right after the finale as he reflected on 2019. “I am so proud of everybody and Team Chevy has done a great job. They won the Indy 500 with Simon (Pagenaud), which has been fantastic, and then to win the championship is as much as you can ask for in a year. I am just so thankful to the team and we just have such a great group.  Not just on the No. 2 car, but everybody on the team is just amazing in what they do.”

Pagenaud and the No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet finished fourth and claimed second in the championship race following a dream season. With three race victories (including the 2019 Indianapolis 500), three poles and a runner-up result in the season standings, the 2016 series champ took pride in a season full of achievement.

“Just an amazing year for Team Penske,” said Pagenaud. “Back at the 500 and for Josef to get the championship, it’s pretty much a perfect year. I gave it everything I had. That last race of the season felt amazing, the car was fantastic, and I tried to give everything I had...we had a great battle at the end."

Power produced the top result for Team Penske at the season finale with a second-place run in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. Behind two victories and three poles, it was another strong season for Power as he finished fifth in the season standings.

“We had a tough start to the season and some things just didn’t go our way but overall, it was a great year for Team Penske, winning the Indy 500 and the series championship,” said Power. “I was happy to get two wins on the season in the Verizon Chevy and we’ll be working hard in the offseason to make sure 2020 brings even better results for the team.”

With numerous victories, an historic Indianapolis 500 win and the series championship, the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season was a memorable one for Team Penske and the team is already looking forward to another strong season on the horizon in 2020.