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Josef Newgarden to replace Juan Pablo Montoya with Penske

INDIANAPOLIS -- The worst-kept secret in racing was revealed Wednesday morning when Team Penske confirmed it has signed Josef Newgarden to drive its No. 2 Chevrolet in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series.

Newgarden, 25, made himself the hottest American Indy car prospect in quite some time with a series of standout performances for Ed Carpenter Racing over the past two years, including three race wins.

Now he joins the most successful team in the sport. Team Penske has won the Indianapolis 500 a record 16 times, and on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in the sport, Roger Penske's organization claimed its 14th Indy car championship this year, sweeping the top three in the standings with Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Helio Castroneves.

Newgarden finished a career-best fourth in the 2016 IndyCar Series points, and he is expected to make the legendary team even tougher to beat in the future.

He replaces Juan Pablo Montoya, who finished eighth in the 2016 standings and hopes to continue with another team in Indy cars.

"For any open-wheel racer -- or any race car driver in general -- Team Penske is a dream job," Newgarden said in a team statement. "Roger Penske is a legend in the motorsports community and his team has done just about everything they've ever set out to do.

"I look forward to working with all of Team Penske's great partners, and to get an opportunity to work with Simon, Will and Helio, along with the rest of the team, will just help make me a better driver."

Newgarden blazed through the junior open-wheel ranks, easily winning the 2011 Indy Lights championship. Two years in Indy cars with a small team owned by former driver Sarah Fisher showed his promise, and when Fisher's team merged with and ultimately transformed into Ed Carpenter Racing, Newgarden made the growing organization a winner.

Carpenter tried hard to re-sign Newgarden, but the opportunity to drive for Penske prevailed.

Newgarden finished fourth in the 2016 standings despite essentially missing one race. He led 282 out of 300 laps to win at Iowa Speedway less than two weeks after he broke his clavicle and right wrist in an accident at Texas Motor Speedway.

That toughness, in addition to his natural speed and outgoing personality, was what convinced Penske to make his youngest driver signing since Castroneves joined the team in 2000 when he was 24.

"When you look at the top talent in the series, both from a driving and commercial perspective, Josef is near the top of the list," Penske said. "We are always looking to build toward the future and when we had the opportunity to talk with Josef, we knew that he would be a great fit with our program. He is a fantastic driver on the track and will be great with our partners off the track.

"He is hungry to win more races and win championships and we hope to give him that opportunity as part of our team."

The 2017 IndyCar season starts March 12 with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.