Whether Jenson Button drives for Team Penske in its maiden IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2018 is out of Roger Penske’s hands.
The famed race team owner revealed Monday that Honda and Acura ultimately will decide who slots in alongside Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron in Penske’s two-car Daytona Prototype international lineup.
Button on Friday expressed interest in competing full-time next season in IMSA’s DPi class, putting Acura Team Penske in the spotlight. Given that Button raced with Honda power in Formula One for eight-plus years, the new-for-2018 program would be his most likely destination in the North American sports car series.
“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,” Penske told Motorsport.com, “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.”
Although Penkse said he’s had “no direct contact” with the 2009 F1 world champion, he noted that if Button truly is eyeing a drive for 2018, he probably already has spoken to Honda about it. Honda Performance Development president Art St. Cyr similarly told Motorsport.com that he himself hasn’t spoken to Button, but his comments confirm that the Japanese manufacturer has been discussing the matter.
“There were some schedule conflict concerns that we have discussed with him (Button) but right now we haven’t made our final determination on drivers so I don’t really want to say yes or no,” St. Cyr said. “I personally haven’t had any discussions with Jenson.”
If Button instead, as some have speculated he will, pursues a full-time campaign in Japan’s Super GT, his schedule still would allow for him to be part of Penske’s extended driver lineup for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans. He might not fit the bill, however.
St. Cyr reportedly said that Honda will evaluate potential drivers for those races based on three criteria: speed, the ability to elevate Acura’s brand — both of which Button posses — and endurance racing experience, something the Brit lacks.
Thumbnail photo via Honda Racing
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