Team Penske President Tim Cindric says there’s a “long list” of drivers they’re sorting through to finalize the remainder of the lineup for its Acura DPi program, following confirmation of its first two drivers this week.
Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron were announced on Tuesday as co-drivers for one of the team’s Acura ARX-05 entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will debut in January’s season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
While no timeline has been established in finalizing the final two full-season seats, plus endurance drivers, Cindric said they have plenty of leading candidates to work with in the process.
“I think as we look at things, from our end, understanding that the next car and the endurance drivers, there’s a long list of drivers on both of those fronts that we’re sorting through,” Cindric said.
“We wanted to be able to put out a lineup to start with as far as once we knew what one of our lineups was, instead of waiting to have everything put in place.
“We wanted to get these guys out there and make sure that they’re focused on the next steps.”
Speculation has run rampant that three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves could make the switch to full-time sports car racing next year.
However, questions have arisen whether the Brazilian, who is currently in a championship fight, could turn his back on a full-season IndyCar return should he win the title.
Cindric, meanwhile, wouldn’t indicate whether Castroneves would be part of the team’s Acura lineup, even in an endurance driver capacity.
“Obviously we’re trying to keep him focused on the last four races of that championship,” he said. “That’s kind of where his head is right now.
“For us to speculate, it’s probably a little too early for that.”
While Pipo Derani, who has re-signed with Tequila Patron ESM for 2018, had been another name associated with Penske and Acura, it’s understood Ricky Taylor is a likely candidate for one of the remaining seats.
It would result in the second-generation driver, who currently leads the Prototype championship alongside brother Jordan, leaving his family’s operation, in what would be a second vacancy in a Cadillac DPi-V.R for next year.
Taylor tested Penske’s Dallara DW12 IndyCar at Homestead earlier this year, having received high praise from both Cindric and Roger Penske.
While Cindric wouldn’t comment on any further driver speculation, he stressed there’s no rush to finalize the remainder of the lineup.
“There’s no set deadline at the moment,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to get the right lineup rather than trying to push things out too early or setting deadlines for ourselves.”
With Cameron locked into his contract with Action Express Racing through the end of the WeatherTech Championship season, Montoya will be handling he majority of the team’s initial testing and development with the ORECA-chassied car.
Cameron said he expects to begin testing the Acura DPi following October’s season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans
“Obviously Juan will take on the brunt of the testing here while the other guys either become available or finish up what they’re doing or what have you,” Cindric said.
“Our plan, depending on how fast everything comes together, is to hit the racetrack before the end of the month. So hopefully we’ll be able to achieve that.”