IndyCar: Surprise driver linked to Team Penske for 2025

Will Power, Team Penske, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Will Power, Team Penske, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Team Penske don’t plan on making any waves in IndyCar silly season this year. But things could get rather interesting for the 19-time Indy 500 winners next year at this time.

Team Penske are probably the only one of 10 full-time teams in the paddock that know they have absolutely nothing to worry about in what promises to be a chaotic IndyCar silly season, with Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, and Will Power all under contract to continue driving their current Chevrolets next year.

Newgarden, who is already a 29-time race winner, a two-time series champion, and an Indy 500 winner at just 32 years old, plans to be with Roger Penske’s team for the rest of his career, and Penske has no reason to hinder those plans.

While not quite a serious championship contender yet, McLaughlin continues to get up to speed and build upon a significant improvement in consistency following his switch from the Australian V8 Supercars Championship in 2021. At 30 years old, he figures to be a key part of the team’s future.

As for Will Power, the No. 12 entry driven by the two-time and reigning IndyCar champion and 2018 Indy 500 winner is where things could get interesting after 2024.

Power is set to be 44 years old by the time the 2025 season begins, and considering the fact that he is responsible for just one of the team’s last 15 wins and just two total wins dating back to October 2020, there is a chance that he could decide not to seek a new contract and hang up his helmet and fire suit.

According to RACER’s Marshall Pruett, Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood “continues to be mentioned as a perfect fit for Team Penske when Will Power retires.”

Team Penske have added a fourth car before on a number of occasions, most recently in 2021 when McLaughlin made the transition from Supercars. They dropped Simon Pagenaud’s entry after the 2021 season, and he left to join fellow former Team Penske driver and Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves at Meyer Shank Racing.

So expanding to four cars with the intention of dropping back down to three when Power retires would make sense, though with Kirkwood tied to Andretti Autosport through 2024, that scenario isn’t going to unfold this year. However, that doesn’t mean Team Penske can’t sign him for 2025 if the 2024 season is indeed Power’s last — or even if it’s not, for that matter.

Many have viewed Kirkwood as a long-term option for Michael Andretti’s team alongside fellow young driver Colton Herta. But while Herta’s contract runs through 2027, the team’s lone race winner of 2023 has a deal that is reportedly up after 2024.

The smart move for Andretti Autosport would be to extend Kirkwood’s contract early, much like they did with Herta’s in 2022. The fact that he just won his second race of the year on Sunday on the streets of Nashville should hopefully help to expedite that process.

The 24-year-old Jupiter, Florida native could certainly opt to remain loyal to the team with which he won the 2021 Indy Lights championship, and it’s not far-fetched to say that he could see the potential this team has with an improvement in execution, especially after Sunday’s win.

On the other hand, knowing what he brings to the table, he could opt to wait it out and see if Team Penske come calling.

Such an approach would be completely justified amid continued questions about whether or not Andretti Autosport can truly turn things around from an execution standpoint and start to capitalize on their pace on a more consistent basis, an issue that has plagued them for the better part of the last decade and has prevented them from truly operating as a top-tier team.

Kirkwood currently sits in ninth place in the championship standings in his first season behind the wheel of the No. 27 Honda, making him the highest-ranking Andretti Autosport driver through 13 of 17 races on the schedule.

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It’s an interesting possibility to consider, especially since it is sure to fly relatively under the radar amid a silly season that is crazy enough already for 2024. But unless Kirkwood announces a contract extension with Andretti Autosport later this season or over the offseason, it might turn into the key storyline of next year’s IndyCar free agency period.