Editor’s Note: This is the third day of a four-day series of 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES team previews. Today’s rollout will feature Dale Coyne Racing at 10 a.m. (ET), Meyer Shank Racing at noon and Team Penske at 2 p.m. Visit INDYCAR.com often today through Thursday to get the lowdown on every team and driver! Click here for Monday’s previews and here for Tuesday’s previews.
Starting Lineup: Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet), Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Chevrolet), Will Power (No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet), Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 PPG Chevrolet).
2020 Lookback: Team Penske drivers won seven of the 14 races and eight poles, which suggests a successful season. But the goal of every Team Penske season is to win the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship, and neither of those were captured. Newgarden won four races (tied for the series lead), Power two and Pagenaud one, and the combination ended the season with a three-race winning streak. Newgarden made a terrific late charge for the series title, winning three of the final six races, only to come up 16 points short of Scott Dixon’s total to finish second. Power and Pagenaud finished fifth and eighth, respectively, in the standings.
What’s New for 2021: For the first season since 1999, Helio Castroneves will not drive for the team. His seat has been filled by Scott McLaughlin, the New Zealander who has won the past three Australian V8 Supercars Championships. McLaughlin made his INDYCAR debut in last year’s season-ending race in St. Petersburg, Florida, so he should know what to expect from the series when the green flag drops Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park. But his learning curve amid one of the series’ most talented trios should be fascinating to watch.
Keep An Eye On This: Power has averaged 4.9 poles per season since joining Team Penske as a full-time driver in 2010, and he won a series-leading five poles in 2020 to give him 62 for his career. Based on those extraordinary numbers, the odds are in Power’s favor that he can match Mario Andretti’s all-time pole record (67) this season.
Season Outlook: Team Penske should be squarely in the hunt for its third Indianapolis 500 victory in four years and its third NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship in the past five years. The question is, which driver will have the best chance of accomplishing those feats? Newgarden won season titles in 2017 and 2019, and he leads the team with 15 race wins over the past four seasons (Power has 10, Pagenaud six). However, Power and Pagenaud have “500” victories; Newgarden does not. McLaughlin has set a goal to finish in the top seven of the standings, but he is realistic and says a spot in top 10 would be a good first step in what is the most competitive series in the world.
Defying Speed Records: Power will go down as the fastest INDYCAR qualifier of his generation, scoring 62 career poles. Comparatively, other drivers competing full time this season have combined for 117 career poles, and 60 of those belong to Sebastien Bourdais (34) and Scott Dixon (26). The sum of the rest is five fewer than Power’s total.
MEYER SHANK RACING
Starting Lineup: Helio Castroneves (No. 06 MSR Honda for six races), Jack Harvey (No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda)
2020 Lookback: Harvey completed both his and Meyer Shank Racing’s first full season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, scoring six top 10 finishes and finishing 15th in the series standings. Harvey also landed two front row starts.
What’s New for 2021: The addition of three-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Castroneves for six races is a huge grab for the team as it looks to grow into two full-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams in the near future. Castroneves’ knowledge base in the form of 30 wins and 47 poles in INDYCAR SERIES competition will not only help MSR flourish as an organization but will help Harvey hone his craft.
Keep An Eye On This: After 21 years, Castroneves will not drive a Team Penske car in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. But the popular Brazilian is more on top than ever before coming off the first professional championship of his career by winning the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi title. The confidence of that success, combined with his drive to win a record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500, makes Castroneves one to watch.
Season Outlook: There’s a lot for this team to be optimistic about heading into the 2021 season. Harvey put together a solid first full-time season and has every reason to believe that year two will turn those several top-10 finishes into some top-five finishes. Plus, Castroneves’ desire to get back to INDYCAR means he’s hungrier than ever to get back to Victory Circle, which he hasn’t done in open-wheel racing since 2017.
Defying Slow Pace: Harvey proved to be quite the qualifier in 2020. In addition to his two front row starts, he qualified outside the top 10 only three times. That kind of qualifying performance is on par with Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta, who led the series by only qualifying outside the top 10 twice.
DALE COYNE RACING
Starting Lineup: Ed Jones (No. 18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan Honda), Romain Grosjean (No. 51 Nurtec ODT Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Honda for the road course and street circuit races), Pietro Fittipaldi (No. 51 Nurtec ODT Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Honda for the oval races).
2020 Lookback: The team’s highlight was the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, where Alex Palou, driving the Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh entry, earned a berth in the Fast Nine Shootout and started seventh while Santino Ferrucci finished fourth in the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan entry. Road America saw more strong performances, with Ferrucci finishing sixth in both races and Palou finishing third and seventh. Palou also finished fourth and ninth in the late-season INDYCAR Harvest GP on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
What’s New for 2021: Jones returns to the team with which he spent his rookie season in 2017. He finished third in the “500” and would have been named Rookie of the Year had it not been for Fernando Alonso’s strong, month-long performance. Jones also finished sixth at Long Beach and seventh at Road America that season before moving to Chip Ganassi Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing for one season each. Veteran Formula One driver Romain Grosjean will drive the team’s No. 51 car for the road courses and street circuits, and it should be an interesting watch. Pietro Fittipaldi will take Grosjean’s place on the ovals.
Keep An Eye On This: Grosjean might be new to INDYCAR, but he has competed at the elite level of global motorsports – Formula One – for nine seasons, with 179 Grand Prix starts and 10 podium finishes. While the differences between INDYCAR and F1 are many, Grosjean figures to adapt quickly, and don’t be surprised if he is contending sooner than expected.
Season Outlook: Expecting Grosjean to be a regular top-10 competitor might be asking a lot, but he figures to shine in some events. Jones could surprise by showing the talent exhibited in 2016 when he won the Indy Lights championship. Fittipaldi, the grandson of two-time “500” winner Emerson Fittipaldi, figures to draw significant interest at Indy. Rookie Cody Ware, son of team partner Rick Ware, tested for the team at the Open Test last week at IMS and seems almost a lock for a third entry in the “500.”
Defying Everything: Grosjean is best known for escaping a fiery F1 car in last November’s race in Bahrain. Even with burned hands, the veteran driver has shown well in preseason testing, and his excitement is clear for being in a competitive car in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.