Power Maintains Series Lead After Tough Indy 500
May 29, 2011
Photo courtesy of Steve Swope
SPEEDWAY, Ind. (May 29, 2011) – Team Penske encountered difficulties during the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 on Sunday and, unfortunately, recorded disappointing results in the historic race. The bright spot on the day was that Will Power maintained his lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship, despite Sunday's results.
All three cars had trouble during the 200-lap event. Ryan Briscoe was involved in an accident on the 158th lap and was scored in 27th place, Helio Castroneves lost a lap and spent a good portion of the race trying to return to lead-lap racing before he finished 17th, and Power fell behind early after he lost a wheel in the pits before he eventually raced back to finish 14th.
"It was a tough day, but we've got to execute better," said team owner Roger Penske. "It's a great place to race, but a tough place to win."
Power, who started fifth, lost a wheel on the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda during the team's first pit stop on the 23rd lap. The car eventually lost its brakes as a result of the mishap and the ensuing repairs left Power running a lap down to the race leaders. He continued to work hard and managed to battle back for the team's top finish of the day.
"Our day went bad early when we had a problem in the pits that resulted in the wheel falling off as the Verizon car was leaving the pit lane," said Power, who now has a 194-178 lead over Dario Franchitti in the series point standings. "That caused the brake line to get loose and I lost the brakes. When we came in to fix that I lost a lap. I fought hard all day trying to get that lap back, but it didn't work out. It just wasn't our day, unfortunately, but we'll learn from this and come back strong at Texas."
After starting 16th, Castroneves fell a lap down, but he also experienced tire problems after the No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske machine struck some debris following an accident. However, he regained the lap momentarily and held on to a 17th-place finish.
"Well, we struggled a bit today in the Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra car," said Castroneves. "Unfortunately, the turbulence of our season continued today. First we had a vibration in the car, then an unscheduled pit stop and then a flat tire, which set us back. It was a tough result for Team Penske but I think we learned a lot today that should be valuable for us on the ovals. We'll keep fighting and the results will come. We just have to keep working and we'll get there."
Briscoe actually looked to be in the best position to post a solid result for Team Penske. He went from a 26th-place starting position to running inside the top-10 in the No. 6 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Honda midway through the race before making contact with Townsend Bell. It appeared that Bell swerved into Briscoe and both cars made contact with the wall as Briscoe's day ended at Indy with contact for the second consecutive season.
"I saw Townsend brush the wall in Turn 4," said Briscoe. "Everyone was going down the inside. I was just following through on the inside into Turn 1. I just think he didn't know I was there and he just came down and pinched me. As soon as we made contact, the wheels interlocked. And that was it. It's a shame. We were following our game plan and we looked to be positioned for a solid finish before that."
Dan Wheldon claimed victory Sunday after rookie J.R. Hildebrand hit the wall on the final turn while heading for the checkered flag.
For Team Penske, which has won the Indianapolis 500 a record 15 times, Sunday's results were disappointing. However, all three of the team's drivers have shown good speed this season after five of 17 races in the IZOD IndyCar Series. The season resumes June 11 with the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway.