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The recent move to Penske was not an especially brave one by the up and coming Tennessean.
It’s hard to blame a guy like Newkid for going with a super team, even a villainous one like the Cap’n’s. But we’re willing to try.
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Cavin’s typical puff piece on Josef jumping ship to Penske was humorous, with several coats of everything’s wonderful, great for everyone, blah blah blah. But is it really? As you may well imagine dear reader, we have a different take. One that stands in stark contrast to all that.
In an IRR interview exclusive, long time Newgarden fans – from Tennessee, no less – expressed dismay upon hearing the news. One wistfully said of Penske’s new hire, “I’ll have to root against him now.” Evidently everyone isn’t unanimously behind Cavin’s rose colored visor view of the matter.
One thing Cavin did stumble upon rings true however, and that’s the comparison to Sam Hornish, Jr. Sam went from success with underdog Panther Racing to Penske in 2004. He won the 500 and championship in 2006, but also lost fans in the process. Sam made an ill-fated, fruitless foray into NA$CAR and now at 37 is a substitute teacher at his kids’ school in North Carolina.
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It could be argued Newgarden‘s taking the easy route, the inside lane if you will. There’s no denying Penske’s spend-and win-at-all-costs approach has been effective in IndyCar throughout the decades. There’s also no denying the inanity – and insanity – of his other jockeys.
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Just because someone drives for Penske doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll win the Indy 500. Just ask Will Power. And Pags. If that’s the highest item on a driver’s list, then he should probably consider going with Andretti, despite the team’s erratic results at all tracks outside Indy and Iowa.
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It’s not as though Josef didn’t have options. He could have stuck with Ed and remained an underdog, which would have been admirable. His success with ECR/CFHR/SFHR – including third in the 100th Indy 500, three wins and seventeen top fives – demonstrate that it’s doable.
Heck, he even could have gone with Ganassi and taken TK’s seat. Or made SPM a tough, three car team. Or even Foyt or KV, just for laughs. Anybody but Team Penske, the New England Patriots of IndyCar.
It was an exceptionally unbrave choice indeed. One that lessens the excitement level for fans and viewers going forward by removing a likable underdog from the race.