Team Penske
Subscribe    Print This Page   

Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Race Preview

June 26, 2014




THE RACE

Verizon IndyCar Series
The Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston
NRG Park Street Circuit
June 28 – 29, 2014                    

THE CARS

No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
Driven By Juan Pablo Montoya

No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
Driven By Helio Castroneves

No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
Driven By Will Power

 
THE NEWS AND NOTES
    
No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
    

·    A DIFFERENT HOUSTON CIRCUIT: Juan Pablo Montoya has made two Verizon IndyCar Series starts in Houston, but they came on the former circuit that ran near the George R. Brown Convention Center in 1999-2000. In those two starts he earned one pole award (1999) and a top finish of second place (2000).

·    MONTOYA ON THE STREETS: Montoya has made 20 career Verizon IndyCar Series starts on temporary street circuits. He has amassed a total of four wins and six Verizon P1 Pole Awards in that discipline.

·    OFF WEEKEND RACING: While many other drivers used the two-week break to rest for the stretch run to the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale at Auto Club Speedway, Montoya returned to the NASCAR Cup Series on June 15 for his first start of the year for Team Penske. He finished 18th and completed all 200 laps in the event at Michigan International Speedway.

·    50 STARTS: This weekend Montoya will make his 50th career Verizon IndyCar Series start when he takes the green flag for the first Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston race on Saturday. His first start came in 1999 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In his 49 previous starts, Montoya has garnered 11 career wins.
    
THE Q & A

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA

WOULD YOU SAY YOU ARE MORE COMFORTABLE ON THE TEMPORARY STREET CIRCUITS NOW AFTER A FEW STARTS INTO YOUR RETURN TO INDYCAR?

“I definitely feel a lot more at ease on the street courses now and I believe that it’s showing in the speed we have. At Detroit we made the Firestone Fast Six for the first time all season. Our strategy has taken the most time to come around but I think we are getting there too. We knew that street courses and short ovals would be our biggest obstacles this year. All you can ask for after being away from the series for so long is to show progress. The No. 2 Verizon Chevy has definitely done that.”

THIS WILL BE A DIFFERENT HOUSTON CIRCUIT THAN WHAT YOU’VE COMPETED ON BEFORE. WHAT DID YOU DO TO PREPARE?

“I will watch some old race footage. I’ll pick Will’s brain and Helio’s brain. You know, there’s not much more that you can do. I’m not a big simulator guy. So when I’m going to a new track it really puts a premium on having a good plan in place so that we maximize our track time during the practice sessions. But when you have a team like Team Penske behind you it makes it much smoother, a much easier transition.”    

 

THE NEWS AND NOTES
    
No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet

 
·    SCORE TO SETTLE: Helio Castroneves entered last year’s Grand Prix of Houston with a 49-point lead in the series standings. Unfortunately, the street circuit was unkind to the Brazilian-born driver as he had mechanical issues in both races, dropping him to a 25-point deficit at the end of the weekend as he wound up finishing second in the series championship. Castroneves enters this week’s race determined to put last years’ experience behind him with solid results.

·    SECOND IN THE STANDINGS: Castroneves enters this weekend’s doubleheader in a good position in the series standings. He sits just 39 points out of the lead held by Team Penske teammate Will Power. For the season, Castroneves has recorded one win (Detroit), five top-five finishes and 127 laps led. Castroneves has now won at least one race in 15 of the last 16 Verizon IndyCar Series seasons.

·    SHELL/PENNZOIL HOME GAME: This weekend, Castroneves will again be behind the wheel of the No. 3 Pennzoil Chevrolet featuring the iconic “Yellow Submarine” paint scheme – the same livery he raced at the Indianapolis 500 in May. Castroneves will be competing in front of many Shell and Pennzoil employees in attendance as the companies are headquartered in Houston.

·    OVERHEAD DOOR ON THE WINGS: Overhead Door Corporation (ODC), a customer of Team Penske partner Hitachi Consulting, will adorn the front wings of the No. 3 Chevrolet this weekend. ODC, based in Dallas, Tex., is a leading manufacturer of doors and openers for residential, commercial, industrial and transportation applications.

·    CLIMBING THE LISTS: With his victory in the second race of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans earlier this month, Castroneves moved into a tie with his mentor and Team Penske legend, Rick Mears, for 11th on the all-time IndyCar wins list with 29 career victories. In addition, he is now alone in seventh place on the career top-five finishes list with 116.
    
THE Q & A

HELIO CASTRONEVES

HOW DO PUT THE EXPERIENCE OF LAST YEARS RACES IN HOUSTON BEHIND YOU?

“Honestly, it’s pretty easy. What’s in the past is in the past. This is a new season and it’s a season that has gone very well for us so far. I put 2013 out of my mind as soon as we crossed the finish line at Auto Club Speedway. This Shell/Pennzoil Chevy team has not let last year affect them either. Now, would it be sweet to win one of these races this weekend? Absolutely. And not just for some type of vindication, but also because we are in the backyard of Shell/Pennzoil.”

DO YOU FORESEE THIS COMING DOWN TO A TEAM PENSKE CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE FOR THE REST OF YEAR?

"I think both Will and I will certainly be in contention all year long. I know I’m very driven and focused on the rest of the year, and it’s clear that Will has a fire burning inside of him right now. There is a lot of racing left to start counting guys out. We have two 500-milers left. We have the short ovals left, places where anything can happen. I fully expect Juan to get hot as he continues to get more comfortable in the series. There are a lot of guys in the top 10 that can get on a roll and make this a very interesting championship battle.”

 
THE NEWS AND NOTES
    
No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet

 
·    TOP OF THE CHARTS: Will Power continues to lead the Verizon IndyCar Series point standings as he carries a 39 point-advantage over Castroneves heading into this weekend’s Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston. Power has led the standings for six of the eight races this season.

·    WINNER, WINNER: After starting the second race of the 2013 Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader from the ninth position, Power wasted little time in working his way to the front of the field. He led 51 of 90 laps to score his first career win in Houston. The victory would begin a three-race winning streak for Power that included the season finale at Auto Club Speedway and the 2014 season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg.

·    TESTING…ONE, TWO, THREE: During the two-week break from racing action in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Power and his Team Penske teammates used the time to test for three upcoming races. The team trio turned laps at Iowa Speedway, the Milwaukee Mile and Pocono Raceway in preparation for the second half of the 2014 season.

·    SUPERB START: Despite enjoying some strong early-season results in his Verizon IndyCar Series career, Power is looking to produce one of his best starts to a season with solid finishes this weekend. The Toowoomba, Australia native has finished inside the top 10 in the last 10 Verizon IndyCar Series races dating back to last season, including two wins (St. Petersburg and Detroit) and seven top-five finishes. He is the only Verizon IndyCar Series driver to score top-10 finishes in every race this season.

·    THE IMPORTANCE OF STEM: On Thursday afternoon at 12:30 pm CT, Power and Tony Sime of Ilmor Engineering will speak to approximately 100 local students about the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math on behalf of Shell/Pennzoil. The event will take place at NRG Arena.
    
THE Q & A

WILL POWER

WE’VE SEEN THAT DOUBLEHEADER WEEKENDS CAN SOMETIMES MAKE OR BREAK A CHAMPIONSHIP. HOW DO MAKE SURE YOU DON’T LEAVE POINTS ON THE TABLE THIS WEEKEND?

“There isn’t really anything you can do to guard against something like that happening. I think we all learned a little from 2013 on what you need to do to strengthen the car to make it last over the Houston track – which can be pretty rough – although they have smoothed out some of the areas. With the street courses you have to absolutely wring the car’s neck to be fast. You have to play offense at all times. I’ve done that all year long in the Verizon Chevy and that’s what I plan on doing this weekend.”

YOU WON AT HOUSTON LAST YEAR. WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO DO IT AGAIN THIS YEAR?

“Not get any pit road speeding penalties! No, again you have to be very aggressive on the street courses because that’s where the speed is. You have to have good strategy. Aside from a part failure, having the wrong strategy can keep you from winning more than anything. (Race strategist) Tim Cindric has proven that he is one of the best at calling a race. The last two weekends alone he has been invaluable to our finishes. It’s going to be an interesting weekend. They always are in the Verizon IndyCar Series.”