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Power's Second-Place Finish Leads Way in Long Beach

April 20, 2009

Photo courtesy of IMS Photo



LONG BEACH, Calif. - A remarkable and memorable weekend in California for Penske Racing ended with a runner-up finish and plenty of smiles Sunday at the IndyCar Series' Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Will Power finished second to lead the Penske contingent on the tough 1.968-mile street circuit, despite a problem with the radio in the No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless Dallara/Honda that left him unable to hear team communications except when he was on a short section of the front straightaway. Helio Castroneves, who returned to the No. 3 Team Penske car this weekend after being acquitted of tax charges in a grueling trial, finished seventh.

Driving the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, Ryan Briscoe finished 13th after an accident late in the race, but still managed to hang on to third in the IndyCar Series championship standings, just two points behind Power.

Power's finish capped an emotional weekend for Penske Racing, which switched gears Friday when news of Castroneves' acquittal was announced. Power, who had been filling in for Castroneves, was moved to the Verizon Wireless car and he promptly won the pole position on Saturday afternoon.

On the 17th lap of Sunday's race, however, Power thought he heard a call for a full-course caution over his malfunctioning radio. He slowed, and two cars passed him. The Australian driver recovered to finish second, moving up to second in the series standings after producing a sixth-place result in the season opener at St. Petersburg. Power trails only Dario Franchitti in the standings as a result of Franchitti's win on Sunday. Power had to conserve fuel in the waning laps of the 85-lap race and he could never put as much pressure on Franchitti as he felt the car was capable of because he needed to be conservative to make it to the end.

"I was saving fuel like you would not believe," said Power. "I was driving as hard as I could through the corners to make up for it. I was full-lean. That's the hardest I've ever driven. The car was there. If we had been able to go full-rich, we would have been on it."

Castroneves, with little notice or preparation, performed admirably in the exhausting race, starting eighth and finishing seventh. "It was a special day for me," said Castroneves. "Before the race as I rode around the track, the crowd gave me so much support. It was emotional, but I was thinking, ‘I have to race. I have to focus.'"

Briscoe said an accident with Scott Dixon under caution toward the end of the race was just a matter of bad timing.

"We were warming our tires," Briscoe said. "I accelerated while he was getting on the brakes and I ended up running into the back of him. It wasn't the best of days for us, but we remain third in the points, and now we have to focus on Kansas."

The IndyCar Series resumes next weekend with the RoadRunner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway, the first oval race of the season.