Roger Penske has outlined the key factors behind his team’s decision to hire Kiwi Fabian Coulthard to lead DJR Team Penske’s V8 Supercars assault in 2016.
Despite mixed fortunes in the American giant’s first season since taking over Dick Johnson Racing, the squad’s heritage and potential ensured it was able to dictate the driver market.
A host of others including David Reynolds, James Moffat and Tim Slade had also been free agents for 2016, while the likes of Will Davison and Nick Percat were also rumoured as possibilities despite being contracted.
Asked of Coulthard’s signing at the launch of the new headquarters for Penske Commercial Vehicles and Penske Power Systems in Auckland, Penske said the 33-year-old Coulthard met all of his team’s key requirements.
Penske stressed that he was not interested in poaching a driver already contracted to another team.
“Number one we want a driver that’s been able to win, which he’s demonstrated that (he can),” explained Penske.
“The skills he has communicating with the engineering side of it are excellent and certainly meeting him as a person, I felt that he would fit in our organisation.
“He didn’t have a contract and we’re not coming in and trying to buy people out of contracts at all.
“We looked at who was available and he certainly fit the bill. He has experience and he’s a winner, he’ll bring some value to the team.
“Marcos, obviously, and I think Dick, we had conversations with a number of people, but he seemed to be the one that came to the top.
“Quite honestly, when you look at the top group of drivers a lot of them are available, it’s the same thing in NASCAR, you’ve got a handful.
“Many of them have very good jobs and why would they want to take a risk coming over with us when we’re not running at the top yet? We’ve only had eight months in the business.
“I think he’s going to do a good job for us. He seems committed. He’s thrown his lot in with us now. He was in a good car, hell he won the first race I saw in Adelaide. We’re excited about that.”
Coulthard’s current race engineer Phil Keed will also head from Brad Jones Racing to DJRTP next season, when the Queensland-based squad will expand to two cars.
Typically, Penske downplayed his expectations for the team next season, stressing the difficulty of entering new championships.
“From my perspective, we’ve got to get better,” he said.
“When we first went into Indianapolis back in the 1970s, you don’t run up front right away. NASCAR was the same.
“There’s just too many nuances and expertise that you have to have. You don’t have that when you walk in the door.
“We expect to do better. I’m not the sort of person who’ll say we’ll win all the races or we’ll win half of them, but we want to go home every night saying we were competitive.
“Were our pitstops right, did we execute properly on our strategy? Those are the things that we have to get better as a team.
“(But) I would hope next year we could be on the podium for sure. “