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Josef Newgarden is so honored, excited and inspired to be one of Team Penske's drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series, he proudly wears his team apparel every day at the race shop. Team Penske team manager Jon Bouslog pulled him aside and said it wasn't necessary for the team's drivers to wear team apparel at the shop but got a chuckle out of Newgarden's response.
“He is in awe of what we do here and the amount of effort that we go to make sure he is taken care of,” Bouslog said. “The first three days he was here, he wore his team gear all three days to the point where I told him, ‘Look, you don't really have to do that.'
“Josef looked at me and said, ‘Bro, this is what I want to do all day. I'm going to wear this every day.'
“It's neat to see the excitement of people when they come here and are on the inside and they see a whole new world.”
For the last three Verizon IndyCar Series seasons, Bouslog worked on the pit box calling race strategy for Juan Pablo Montoya and the No. 2 Chevrolet. After leading the points from the first race of the season in 2015 until the very last race of that campaign before losing the championship to Scott Dixon, there were high hopes for Montoya’s team in 2016.
Montoya won the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the second year in a row and appeared to be another championship contender before the season turned sour. That was his only victory of the season and he finished eighth in the championship.
Montoya was replaced by Newgarden in the No. 2 Chevrolet for 2017, but will drive a Team Penske car in the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May.
Montoya was told at Toronto in July that the team would make a run at signing Newgarden once his contract was up at Ed Carpenter Racing at the end of the season. Montoya's options were to find a fulltime ride in 2017 or drive a fifth car for Team Penske at the Indy 500.
Montoya told the team in October – after Newgarden’s signing was official – that he would accept Team Penske's offer as he tries to win the Indy 500 for the third time in his career. That would go a long way to make up for the disappointing 2016 season.
“In my mind, Juan is a racing hero and will go down in history as that,” Bouslog admitted. “For him to run the biggest race in the world with us does not surprise me.
“This past season, we struggled with some things. We had a lot of things go our way in 2015. Overall, we struggled from time to time (in 2016) and there were some mistakes on my part. Overall, we had a decent season. The competition was fairly tight. It was hard to take your eyes off (teammate and 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion) Simon Pagenaud. He made everybody look bad this year.
“We didn't have that bad of a season, but when you put it against the 2015 season, it makes it look awful, awful bad.”
As the team manager at Team Penske, Bouslog will have to oversee a five-car effort at the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in team history with Montoya returning to join the four fulltime Penske drivers in 2017, including Pagenaud, 2014 series champ Will Power, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and newcomer Newgarden.
According to Kyle Moyer, Team Penske’s competition director, it hasn't been determined which individual team Bouslog will oversee in 2017, but in his overall role as team manager he has to manage the logistics of the entire group. That means increasing the number of garages in Gasoline Alley at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that Team Penske will use next May.
“It will be a challenge but it won't be that big of a deal,” Bouslog said. “We have a great support system with Snap-On, who helps do our garages, along with our facilities department that goes to the speedway a week ahead of time to build our garages.
“The people at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway know we need more garages and what we need to have to operate.
“It's a great problem to have because we're going to have five great drivers at Indianapolis.”