Roger Penske expects to have four-car team for 2022 IndyCar season

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit — Roger Penske expects to have a four-car team again in the 2022 season.

Prior to this season, Team Penske last showcased four cars in 2017 when it brought in Josef Newgarden, who went on to reward Penske with a series championship. That was the final year with Helio Castroneves as a full-time driver with the team despite a win and fourth-place finish in the standings.

Newgarden, who also won the series title in 2019, is joined by 40-year-old Will Power, 37-year-old Simon Pagenaud and 26-year-old Scott McLaughlin, who Penske brought in this season after he won three straight Australian Supercars championships for Penske (2018-20).

Indy Lights driver Kyle Kirkwood, who led qualifying with a top speed of 101.612 mph, takes Turn 2 during Indy Lights qualifying.

Power, who is in his 12th season with Penske, the 30-year-old Newgarden and McLaughlin all have multi-year contracts with Team Penske. Pagenaud is signed through this year.

Pagenaud won the Indianapolis 500 in 2019 for Team Penske, finishing second in points. He has won 11 races in his seven years with the team, five in 2016 when he won the series title.

“We’ve run four cars in IndyCar and we can run more or we can run less. But I think the four-car program is fair,” Penske said.

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Penske said Pagenaud was not signed for next year, adding he hopes Pagenaud will continue with Team Penske.

Penske, who also owns the IndyCar series, is thrilled with the youth movement in the series. The group includes 21-year-old American Colton Herta, 22-year-old Mexican Pato O'Ward, 24-year-old Spaniard Alex Palou and 21-year-old Rinus VeeKay. All have won races.

Palou, who is teammates with six-time series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing, heads into the doubleheader on Belle Isle as the points leader.

"We've seen them come up," said Penske who is still looking for his team's first victory this season. "(Michael) Andretti has done a great job bringing up some of these drivers. You have a chance to test them in another series. I think that's one of the reasons that we looked at bringing Indy Lights back and I think they've responded well."

Cindric joining Team Penske in NASCAR

Austin Cindric, the 22-year-old son of Team Penske IndyCar team president Tim Cindric, will be joining the team’s NASCAR Cup squad in 2022.

Cindric won the Xfinity series title last season

“We’ve announced that he’s going to Cup,” said Penske of Cindric. “The season isn’t even over yet, so at the moment we haven’t made any permanent decisions on drivers.”

What does the future look like for Rochester Hills native Brad Keselowski, who won Penske his first NASCAR Cup title back in 2012?

Keselowski signed a one-year deal with Penske last season and has been rumored to be moving on to Roush Fenway Racing next season as part-owner. He would take over the No. 6 seat, now driven by Ryan Newman.

“We have a contract with (Keselowski) through the rest of the season, and anything he’s going to do we’re going to make the announcement at the right time,” Penske said.

Joey Logano has a long-term deal with Team Penske in NASCAR and is in his ninth year with the team, winning the Cup championship in 2018 and finishing third in points last season.

Ryan Blaney is in his fourth year with Team Penske.

Robb taking next step

Sting Ray Robb has a dream of competing in the IndyCar series.

Robb made his debut on Belle Isle in the Indy Lights series — which is like Triple A to MLB — after winning the Indy Pro 2000 championship last season.

The 19-year-old native of Idaho earned a $609,000 scholarship which he used to get the ride with the Juncos Racing team.

He has competed in six races heading into Belle Isle, having doubleheader weekends at Alabama, St. Petersburg and Indianapolis with a season-best finish of sixth at Alabama.

He compared the Indy Lights car to the Indy Pro 2000.

“They are completely different,” Robb said. “The driving styles between Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights is pretty substantial. The speed isn’t a whole lot more, so it’s not dealing with the comfort level there, it’s more the way you drive the car has to be different.

“The Indy Pro 2000 car seemed to have a little bit of an under-horsepower setup compared to how much grip there was and it was super fun to drive. The thing with the Indy Pro car is it had a short wheel base, high downforce, normal amount of power and it’s easy to roll the speed through the corners. Indy Lights, it’s a bit heavier, more horsepower, but not quite the same amount of grip. So you have to drive off the rear of the car a little more and trying to make it a little uglier to say the least.”

Robb didn’t have as much testing time prior to the season as some of his competitors.

“Just a couple of days and that was the main issue, those other teams that had 10-to-15 days of preseason testing, plus the 2019 season. So for me it’s just about getting comfortable and adapting to what the car wants for me as a driver," Robb said.

Robb qualified ninth Friday in the 13-car field for Saturday’s race with a speed of 100.281 mph around the 13-turn, 2.3-mile street course. Rookie Kyle Kirkwood took the pole at 101.612.