Penske ups stakes for 2017 IndyCar season

As Simon Pagenaud collected a $US1 million champion’s cheque on Tuesday night, he was already contemplating what the 2017 IndyCar season might actually look like.

He’s already been involved in meetings about improving the No. 22 car.

He plans to test next week and wants to win the series’ marquee race, the Indianapolis 500. And soon, Pagenaud could be welcoming a new teammate to Team Penske’s stable in North Carolina.

Things couldn’t get much better for the 32-year-old French driver, who won a series-high five races and seven poles this season to attain his lifelong dream by winning the series title.

“I’m so proud of what happened, so happy because it really has been my dream and it hasn’t been easy to get here,” he said. “I really mean it, this has been my dream since I was a little kid.”

Pagenaud’s victory added another chapter to Roger Penske’s incredible resume as a team owner, this time in his milestone 50th season as a team owner.

Penske didn’t make it this far by sitting still, savoring victories or getting complacent.

So why start now after Pagenaud, Australia’s 2014 series champ Will Power and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves swept the top three points’ places in 2016?

Instead, Penske always keeps chasing more, which is why he wants to add the best young American driver in the series, Josef Newgarden, to his four-car garage.

And now it looks like the worst-kept secret in IndyCars is on the verge of being confirmed.

“We’re here tonight to celebrate 2016,” Penske said, brushing aside questions about the expected announcement. “I think we’ll decide what the future will be soon, I hope.”

Ed Carpenter Racing announced last week that Newgarden had decided not to return to that team next season.

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