|Button says racing on ovals "scares the shit out of me" so no IndyCar|
UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with today's announcement that Ricky Taylor will fill the final full-time seat at Team Penske.
Honda Performance Development President Art St. Cyr has admitted that “other circumstances" have prevented Jenson Button from joining Team Penske’s Acura DPi effort in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year.
St. Cyr, meanwhile, admitted discussions had taken place with the Englishman but ultimately didn’t pan out.
“Of course, someone with Jenson Button’s talent and also his pedigree with Honda is definitely someone that we had considered," St. Cyr told Sportscar365.
“But there were other circumstances that precluded him from being part of this program.
“It was something that was considered.
“As Tim [Cindric, Team Penske President] said, there’s a lot of different dynamics that we were considering with the drivers that we have right now. There’s a lot of discussions back and forth.
David Malsher of Motorsport.com reports Roger Penske and HPD president Art St. Cyr have said they hope to reveal the full 2018 lineup for their pair of Acura ARX-05s within the next two weeks, but wouldn’t confirm the rumor that 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button could be one of the drivers.
In Suzuka last weekend, Button admitted that his run in Super GT’s Suzuka 1000kms had reawakened his interest in motorsport, and while he dismissed the notion of going IndyCar racing (“It scares the shit out of me"), he spoke glowingly of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship, specifically the Prototype division.
“I love that there is a selection of tubs that they race with and then they can make it their own with the aerodynamic package and power unit. It's a growing sport, motorsport in America.
“The GT category is great but I'm not sure I can be in a car being overtaken by DP cars. That's something I can't get my head around."
Penske told Motorsport.com: “We have not made a decision on who the other drivers will be in the Acura program – the second driver with Helio and the extra drivers for the three endurance races. That’s really in the hands of Art [St. Cyr] and the people at Honda and Acura.
“We obviously have our guys lined up the way we expected and this is now a chance to look across the range of drivers available, internally and externally – and by that I mean established IMSA drivers and others outside of IMSA – to see if there’s anyone that Honda wants, from a public relations standpoint. This would be a good opportunity for them."
“I’m really looking to get the nod from [Honda/HPD] in the next week to two weeks to be able to announce the full lineup. I’ve had no direct contact with Jenson Button but if he has an interest, then he probably had a talk with the Honda guys."
St. Cyr said: “The contracts are with the team but we have done a good job of narrowing down the field of who we mutually agree would work in this program. And Roger’s right, we haven’t made our final final decisions yet, but we’re closing in on it."
Regarding Button, St. Cyr added: “There were some schedule conflict concerns that we have discussed with him [Jenson] but right now we haven’t made our final determination on drivers so I don’t really want to say yes or no. I personally haven’t had any discussions with Jenson."
Button’s other main option is believed to be racing an Acura/Honda NSX in the Super GT Championship in Japan, but that series’ schedule would still allow him to be a third driver for IMSA’s endurance races – Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans.
Asked if that was a possibility, St. Cyr stated: “We have several criteria when deciding who our drivers are going to be. Number one is that they have to be fast. Number two, this is a program designed to raise the profile of the Acura brand. Teaming with Penske gives the program instant credibility and it’s important to have a driver who fans instantly recognize. Number three, there’s some weight given to a driver’s understanding how to race in IMSA, how to endurance race, and having knowledge of the tracks we race at."
On the subject of Penske’s IndyCar drivers – Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud – participating in the enduros, despite racing for Chevrolet and against Honda in their fulltime rides, St. Cyr said: “Our requirements are speed, good representation of the brand and it’s really about winning races. If those drivers fit that bill, they will be considered. It’s not out of the question at all." Motorsport.com
10/07/17 Jenson Button could make the transition to sports car racing next year, with multiple options on the table for the Formula One star in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, including a possible deal with Team Penske and Acura.
The 2009 F1 World Champion, who made his Super GT debut in last weekend’s Suzuka 1000km, has revealed ambitions of returning to full-time competition in 2018, after making only a single start in F1 this year.
Button recently purchased a new home in Los Angeles, which could fuel his desire to compete full-time in North America.
“Several options are being taken into account," Button said last weekend in Suzuka. “I drew a line on Formula One, where I spent 17 years at. Super GT is one of the possibilities for 2018, as is FIA â€‹â€‹World Rallycross and the IMSA championship, which is growing with Acura arriving in 2018.
“Le Mans is also still part of the plans. Competition has failed me in recent times and I want, at all costs, to find a competitive environment."
While Button, who has one year remaining on his contract with McLaren-Honda, has been linked to the new-for-2018 Penske Acura DPi program, United Autosports has also been in discussions with the 37-year-old to join them for its LMP2 effort in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The common link is McLaren Technology Group Executive Director Zak Brown, who also co-owns the Anglo-American squad.
“We’ve spoken to Jenson and have spoken to a bunch of others," Brown told Sportscar365. “Jenson is close to the family, so to speak.
“If he wants to do it, we’d love to have him in our car. But he’s yet to decide what he wants to race next year."
The addition of the F1 veteran to the WeatherTech Championship grid would come as another significant boost for IMSA, which has continued to gain momentum through the introduction of its DPi platform.
Penske has yet to confirm the two full-season drivers for its second Acura ARX-05, on the heels of announcing Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron earlier this month, with Team President Tim Cindric declining to comment on driver speculation.
While rumors have linked Helio Castroneves to a seat, potentially alongside current Prototype championship leader Ricky Taylor, it’s believed the Brazilian could remain in IndyCar should he win this year’s title, thus opening the door for Button.
“There’s no set deadline at the moment," Cindric said on confirming the remainder of its lineup. “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." Sportscar 365