Penske Racing Enjoys Memorable 2009 IndyCar Series Season
October 29, 2009
Photo courtesy of Steve Swope
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (October 29, 2009) - A memorable season that included a strong run at the IndyCar Series championship, a landmark victory in the Indianapolis 500 and a talented new addition to the program is reason for pride and optimism at Penske Racing after the 2009 IndyCar Series season.
All three Penske drivers - Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Will Power - won races during the season, with Briscoe competing for the championship until the last lap of the final race, Castroneves winning the Indy 500 for the third time and Power making an impressive debut for the team.
Briscoe came into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway involved in a tight battle for the championship with Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon. In a stirring performance, Briscoe led most of the race and finished second, but Franchitti won the championship by just 11 points over Dixon, with Briscoe a point behind Dixon. Franchitti used fuel mileage to win the race and the crown, but Briscoe produced a great result for the team with the title on the line.
Briscoe said he was pleased with the effort this season and he anticipates much more success in the future.
"When you're fighting for the championship and it comes down to the wire, it's a memorable season," Briscoe said. "Everyone at Team Penske can be proud of the year we had. The team really stepped it up, and I think I got better as a driver. My pit stops were even better than they were before, and they were good before. I improved with experience and gained confidence. The whole package just became a whole lot stronger, so I see a lot of hope for the future. What happened in 2009 bodes well for what we can accomplish in future years."
Castroneves claimed victory at Indianapolis, putting him in line for a historic fourth win in the legendary race. Only three drivers - Team Penske advisor Rick Mears, Al Unser and A.J. Foyt - have won the Indy 500 four times. Despite missing the first race of the season, Castroneves finished fourth in the series championship as he won at Indy and Texas and finished second at Kansas and Edmonton.
"I've said this a lot this year, but just to be here was a thrill," said Castroneves, who rejoined the team in April after his tax trial in Miami. "We put everything together on short notice. Winning in Indianapolis was an incredible moment, as was the win in Texas. Normally every year I win two or three races, so I was still at about that average. Unfortunately , we had some races where the performance didn't go the way we'd planned."
Still, with Power's help in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda in the season opener at St. Petersburg, the car finished fourth in the final entrant standings and Castroneves wasn't far behind Briscoe in the final driver rankings.
"I'm extremely happy with the way the season went," said Castroneves, who also revealed at the season finale that he and girlfriend Adriana Henao are expecting their first child around the first of the year. "People say, ‘Yeah, but you didn't win the championship.' It wasn't meant to be, but we were there, and we will be back next year fighting for it again."
After filling in for Castroneves at the first race, Power became a more permanent member of the Penske Racing family by producing strong results in all six races in which he competed, including a win at Edmonton. Power produced four top-five and six top-10 results and won the pole at Long Beach and Edmonton before producing his first victory for the team. He sustained spinal injuries in a crash at Infineon Raceway in August, but Power is expected to make a full recovery and to be back with the team in a larger role in 2010.
"It ended badly, but I still thought it was one of my best seasons," said Power. "I really enjoyed the year. I learned quite a bit as well. I had a great month of May at Indy. I learned a lot during the race. It was a short season. I didn't race all the races, but I feel like it was a good one. Each of us won a race, and Ryan was right in the championship down to the very last race. This is exactly where I want to be. I'm really looking forward to the future."
In just his second season in the Team Penske No. 6 Dallara/Honda, Briscoe emerged as one of the brightest stars of the IndyCar Series. He won at St. Petersburg, Kentucky and Chicago, and finished second in seven other races. Just days after the season finale, Briscoe was eager to race again.
"I'm ready to get out there and go right now," said Briscoe, who will marry his fiancée Nicole Manske in December. "I can't wait for next year. Performance-wise, I hope I can be as good. Our performance as a team was unreal this season. You can't expect to be that good every year, but hopefully we can be. I felt a big difference, personally, that I was able to go out and be more aggressive but run safely. That showed confidence with the equipment and experience. I'm excited about the future with Team Penske."
The 17-race 2010 IndyCar Series season will begin on Sunday, March 14 with a street race in Brazil. The Indy 500, which Penske Racing has won a record 15 times, will take place on Sunday, May 30.