Power Claims First Oval Victory in Second of Texas Twins
June 12, 2011
Photo courtesy of Steve Swope
FORT WORTH, Texas (June 11, 2011) – Will Power led a strong performance by Team Penske as he claimed his first career oval victory in the second race of the Firestone Twin 275s on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
Team Penske's drivers owned three of the top four finishing positions in the second race after all three finished among the top-10 in the first event of the evening. Power, who won the IZOD IndyCar Series road course championship last season, reveled in his first-ever oval win as he also earned his third victory of the season in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda. The result also helped pad his lead in the series championship battle to 21 points after six of 17 races this season.
"This means so much to me and the Penske boys," said Power, who posted his 12th career Indy car win. "I've been trying for this for so long. I'm so happy for Verizon."
Power's effort highlighted a solid showing by the team in both races. Ryan Briscoe finished third in the No. 6 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske car in the second race, while Helio Castroneves posted his top result of the season with a fourth-place effort in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Dallara/Honda.
In the first race of the night, Power started and finished in third place as Dario Franchitti recorded the race win. Briscoe improved from his ninth-place starting spot to finish sixth and Castroneves drove to a 10th-place finish after starting 13th.
After the first 114-lap race concluded, all drivers were assigned their starting positions for the second race by a random draw. Power was clearly elated when he drew his third-place starting spot, as he knew he would be in a good position to win the nightcap. Ironically, all three Team Penske drivers drew each other's car numbers in the blind starting grid draw – Castroneves drew No. 6 and Briscoe drew No. 12.
Power was strong from the outset of the second race, as he immediately grabbed second place before he passed Tony Kanaan for the race lead on lap 39. The native of Toowoomba, Australia then had to hold off a hard-charging Scott Dixon through the second half of the race to secure the victory.
"We've been chasing this for so long," said Power of his initial oval victory before shooting off the customary six shooters in Victory Lane at Texas. "It was a fun race and great day. It was a good battle with (Tony) Kanaan at the start and then (Scott) Dixon came on strong. This is what we need for the championship."
Power now holds a 239-218 advantage over Franchitti in the title chase, and he also ranks second in the series oval championship, trailing only Dixon, while he continues to lead the road course point standings.
Briscoe's results kept him in the thick of the championship as well. He's now ranked sixth in the standings, 93 points behind Power.
"It was an exciting night, the new two-race format ended up working well for us," said Briscoe. "The Guidepoint Systems car ran strong in both races. We were able to improve from our starting position in each of the two races. We made some changes between the races and the car ran even better still. We just missed out on a Team Penske 1-2-3, but I think that we can feel very pleased with our result."
Castroneves also felt good about the evening's results. After struggling in the first five races of the year, the three-time Indy 500 champion scored a pair of top-10 finishes at a track where he's also visited Victory Lane three times in his distinguished career.
"Today the AAA Insurance car was very competitive and it certainly was a very exciting night with the new two-race format," said Castroneves. "In the first race we had a strong car, but we chose not to take tires in the last stop which probably cost us a top-five result. The second race was great for Team Penske with Will's win and I am very pleased with our fourth-place finish. We finally got our first top-five result of the season and now we have found our rhythm. It was a great job by the whole team tonight."
The twin races – the first time the format has been used in major open-wheel racing in 30 years – created some unusual moments. Power had to dive low on the track late in the second race to miss a car that had slowed suddenly.
"I wasn't sure which way I was going to go, so I just committed to the inside," said Power. "That was really close. It probably ruined my in lap, but it worked. I was just happy to bring the Verizon car home P1."
Briscoe was forced onto the grass in the frontstretch in the second race. "All I could do was go to the grass," said Briscoe. "We got away with that. But it was a very strong race. We started 12th and finished third but just didn't have enough to catch Will and Scott (Dixon)."
The IZOD IndyCar Series season swings back into action on Sunday, June 19 with the Milwaukee 225 at The Milwaukee Mile.