By: Spencer Neff
February 13, 2023
2022 ended with a familiar sight at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Team Penske celebrating as their driver earned the Astor Cup. On the strength of five poles and 13 Top 10s to go along with his win at the final race on Belle Isle in Detroit, Will Power earned his second INDYCAR Championship.
A day after eclipsing Mario Andretti with his 68th career pole, Power finished third at the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. It was enough to win the championship by 16 points over teammate Josef Newgarden. As a team, Penske finished the year with nine race victories as well as nine pole positions between its three drivers.
Despite another dominant season by his three-car outfit, Roger Penske’s season was missing the 19th Indianapolis 500 pole and race win he has sought since 2019. That year, Simon Pagenaud won the INDYCAR Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500 By Gainbridge in May (the latter from the pole).
Less than six months later, Penske Entertainment acquired the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR.
Since then, Penske’s drivers have not started better than 11th (Power-2022) or finished better than fourth (Newgarden-2020). This year, as many others, Penske will be looking to continue their dominance at IMS in addition to another championship at season’s end.
In a remarkably consistent season, Power became the third driver in forty years to win at least a share of the championship without multiple victories. The driver of the No. 12 also scored a series-leading five pole positions.
Among his now-record 68 starts from the front of the field, Power has none at the Indianapolis 500. In his 15 starts, the 2018 race winner has started on the middle of the front row (2nd) twice (2010 and 2015).
He is the only driver of the current Penske group to have won the race. Power will chase not only a third Championship and chances to add to his 41 victories but that so far elusive Indianapolis 500 pole in 2023.
In contrast to his teammate, Newgarden earned a series-best five victories. In June, his second career win at Road America earned him a $1 million bonus in the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge.
By winning on the natural terrain road course, combined with his wins at Texas and Long Beach (oval and street course), he became the first to win on each track variety the series raced on during the season.
Two victories (Iowa Race 1 and WorldWide Technology Raceway Gateway) to extend his short oval dominance and a charge from last to second at the season finale left Newgarden second in points.
Despite the five wins and similar numbers to his teammate, Newgarden was left short of another title (2017 and 2019). Newgarden and Power are competing for the chance to join Rick Mears as Team Penske’s only three-time champions.
McLaughlin put the paddock on notice with a dominant win from the pole at St. Petersburg (both the first of his career) to start 2022. The sophomore driver later added victories at Mid-Ohio and Portland as well as poles at Nashville and Portland.
A last-lap pass by Newgarden at Texas and a third-place finish at WWTR has McLaughlin still in search of his first oval win.
2023 marks a third season following his switch from the V8 Supercars of Australia and New Zealand. McLaughlin will look to follow up a breakout season where he remained in championship contention all season.
Author’s note: This is the first in our team-by-team preview for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, All full-time teams will be covered, including partial season entries. Any partial-season teams (e.g.-Dreyer and Reinbold/Cusick Motorsport) will be previewed at a later date.
The series will be done in order of highest finisher in entrant points on each team. In-depth profiles of all four rookies in the 2022 class will also be given prior to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Header Image: McLaughlin leads Newgarden and Power during practice for the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge (John Cote/INDYCAR)