Team Penske Endures Challenging Day at Milwaukee
June 19, 2011
Photo courtesy of Steve Swope
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (June 19, 2011) – Team Penske's Will Power battled back from a disappointing starting position to finish fourth Sunday in the Milwaukee 225 at the Milwaukee Mile, keeping himself at the top of the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings.
Power's effort in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda led Team Penske's results in the 225-lap race. Helio Castroneves led 31 laps and appeared to be headed toward his first win of the 2011 season before he had to make a late pit stop for a tire problem on the No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske car and he wound up finishing in ninth place. Ryan Briscoe battled back to an 11th-place result in the No. 6 Transitions Adaptive Lenses Team Penske Dallara/Honda after trouble in the pits dropped him back in the field.
For Power, though, the strong result was crucial. After a near-spin in Saturday's qualifying session left him starting the race from 17th, he steadily moved up through the field until reaching the top five. He made his way into the top three before he lost a position on the final race restart of the afternoon. The fourth-place finish left Power tied for the lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship race with Dario Franchitti, the winner of Sunday's race.
"Wow, that was a lot of fun out there," said Power who owns three victories and four pole positions this season. "It was a good, solid day for the Verizon team. We were really trying to hold on to third place on the last restart but after starting 17th and everything that happened during the race and over the weekend, we'll definitely take a fourth-place finish. It was a great job in the pits by my guys and the car was really good in the race. Looks like we're tied with Dario (Franchitti) for the (championship) lead so we know we need to keep the pressure on in Iowa next weekend."
After starting second on Sunday, Castroneves ran up front all day. He captured the race lead after a strong pit stop with 58 laps remaining, but then the left rear tire on the Guidepoint Systems car began to lose pressure. He was forced to pit under caution to take on new tires as he surrendered the lead to Franchitti. Castroneves, the three-time Indy 500 champion, ran strong to the finish as he earned his fourth top-10 result of the season.
"It was a fun race and it had to be an exciting race to watch for the fans," said Castroneves, who improved to 13th in the series standings. "The Guidepoint Systems car was awesome today. We weren't even thinking about the win because I know how this place works. We were just trying our best out there. We had a great pit stop and we got the lead and then on the next yellow they came over the radio to tell me the tire was going down. It's disappointing and we certainly could have finished higher, but after the season we've had, I was just very happy to be out there fighting for the win. Good job by the No. 3 Team Penske guys. We're definitely getting there."
Meanwhile, Briscoe also encountered the ups and downs of Milwaukee, as he raced among the leaders despite the pit problems that kept setting him back. On his first stop, Briscoe had to pull up short of his pit stall after the car of Takuma Sato had an incident on pit lane and came to rest in front of the No. 6 Team Penske crew. Briscoe eventually got the Transitions Adaptive Lenses car into the stall but he lost valuable time. Then, on the final stop of the day, the airjack jammed on what would have been a blistering stop for Briscoe and team and he fell back in the running order before rallying to finish 11th.
"It was a very hard fought race, unfortunately we had two really big incidents in the pits which put us to the back of the field each time. It's a shame that we had such a tough day on pit lane because the Transitions Adaptive Lenses car was really strong on track – we passed a ton of cars out there today. It was definitely a tough result for us, but we will be ready to get after it again next weekend in Iowa."
In the end, though, it was the perseverance of Power and his Team Penske crew that kept him in the midst of a championship duel with 10 races remaining in the 2011 IndyCar season.
"We just have to keep fighting away, keep having good days like this and make no mistakes and we'll be good," said Power, who posted his sixth top-five finish of the season.
Next Saturday night the IZOD IndyCar Series resumes with the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway. Live coverage under the lights will begin at 8 pm ET on Versus.