A stunning win at Iowa Speedway this past weekend confirmed Josef Newgarden is still on course to be the next championship contender in IndyCar. Out of contract with Ed Carpenter Racing at the end of 2016, where Newgarden drives next season is a mouth-watering prospect.
Here’s a run-down of the options for the 3-time IndyCar race winner.
Ed Carpenter Racing
Ed Carpenter’s eponymous team has been great for Newgarden and conversely, Newgarden has been great for the team. The chances of the American staying put for 2017 are extremely slim. This is not the team to deliver Newgarden a car capable of regularly competing for his maiden championship.
Penske has never been a team to miss out on capturing young talent just as it blossoms in to race winning form. Penske’s current line-up is on the mature side but despite a difficult season for Juan Montoya and with Simon Pagenaud in the groove after a rough debut season, opportunities are limited. It is not impossible that Roger Penske might field a fifth car in order to avoid losing Newgarden. Montoya and Castroneves probably have another couple of seasons in them but that could be too late to secure Newgarden.
Juan Montoya and Helio Castroneves are there or thereabouts in terms of retirement. Helio is determined to score that fourth Indy 500 win and is likely to stick around for a couple of seasons. Montoya has unfinished business in IndyCar after the title decider disaster at the end of 2015. Despite a difficult 2016 season so far, the Colombian is unlikely to be up for retiring and certainly would not entertain driving for a lesser team in IndyCar.
The all-American dream team?
This is the outsider but chatter in the paddock suggests there is some mileage in it. Honda has been smarter in getting their brand aligned with potential American winners. The Rossi/Honda combination win at Indianapolis was great for the brand but wholly unexpected. Despite his impressive rookie season so far, Rossi is not the finished product and still has one eye on F1. So bringing Newgarden in to the fold alongside the current Honda standard-bearer – Graham Rahal – could be a marketing man’s dream.
But in reality RLL are not a big team in IndyCar despite Rahal’s performances in 2015 and on occasion in 2016. As a two-car outfit they perennially underperformed which will be taken into consideration by Newgarden and his management. The likely nail in this particular coffin is the fact Newgarden will not wish to run in a team owned by his team-mate’s father.
From a Honda perspective, Andretti Autosport would be the more realistic option to secure Newgarden. Aside from Ryan Hunter-Reay, performances this season so far mean every other seat could be up for grabs. Most intriguing is the possibility of Newgarden replacing Marco Andretti.
Andretti without Andretti
Yet another season passed in 2015 with no real sign that the third generation Andretti will ever deliver on his rookie promise. 2016 is proving to be even worse for Marco and the Andretti Autosport combination. I have long said that Marco needs to move on and get out of the coziness of the family team. Whether he makes way for Newgarden remains to be seen but in many respects it could be the best move for both drivers.
The favorites to sign Newgarden
The favorites to sign Newgarden are of course Chip Ganassi Racing. Newgarden is likely to be the replacement for Tony Kanaan as Dixon is at Ganassi until he retires and Charlie Kimball is secure thanks to his unique sponsor backing.
TK was asked about his future during the Iowa race weekend and remarked that he will be racing IndyCar in 2017. Which team he will be driving for was not discussed. It is unlikely to be with Chip Ganassi Racing but it is pleasing that one of the series’ most popular drivers is confident of being on the grid next season.
From Newgarden’s perspective why would he decide to race anywhere else? Ganassi have the title winning pedigree, they are the team that does not flinch under pressure and when it comes to the last lap of the last race, they deliver when others crumble. For a proven race winner needing to step up to become a regular championship contender, there is no better place than Ganassi Racing.