For a very long time now, Team Penske have been the clear leaders of the Chevrolet-powered cars in the IndyCar field but the series’ newest challengers are shaking up the pecking order.
Penske thought they had the edge of the field after winning the opening three races of 2022 with Scott McLaughlin (St Petersburg) and Josef Newgarden (Texas and Long Beach) but the last three races has changed all of that.
Pato O’Ward picked up McLaren’s first win at Barber, before Colton Herta scored Honda’s inaugural win of the year at the Indy GP, and now Penske have suffered their worst race of the year.
And it came at the worst possible moment as the greatest spectacle in racing, the Indianapolis 500, saw no Penske cars finish higher than 12th with Newgarden the best in 13th, Will Power 15th and McLaughlin crashing out with just under 50 laps to go.
It won’t have pleased The Captain, who now owns the Brickyard and the entire NTT IndyCar series, as they seemed determined to throw away their perfect start to the year on the big day.
Power surged to seventh off the start but quickly fell through the pack and was never seen again on the broadcast and Newgarden, who did have the series lead prior to the Indy 500, was equally quiet all afternoon long.
Strong showing from McLaren
On the other hand, McLaren had an excellent day with O’Ward running right at the front all day long and narrowly missing out on drinking milk in victory lane as Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing held on in a two-lap shootout.
He may not have won but the Mexican took the fight to Ganassi and didn’t make the mistakes that Scott Dixon and Alex Palou made and showed why he is many people’s tip for the title come the end of the season.
Felix Rosenqvist also ran right at the front all the way through the race and much like his teammate was only beaten by a very strong Ganassi car as Tony Kanaan beat the Swede to third in the Indy 500.
The third car for McLaren for May was piloted by Juan Pablo Montoya and despite being rather out of practice at the wheel of an IndyCar, the Colombian managed to beat all of Penske’s cars with an 11th-place finish.
Mr Penske is right to be worried with the financial power behind McLaren and the global racing knowledge they have and with a third full-time car coming from 2023 onwards, the overpowering force of IndyCar is about to be usurped by the new kids on the block.