Team Penske Returns to Defend Title at Sonoma
August 25, 2011
Drivers: Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske), Ryan Briscoe (No. 6 Penske Truck Rental) and Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske)
Event: Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California
(2.5-mile permanent road course)
When: Qualifying -Saturday, August 27 at 5:35 p.m. ET (Coverage on VERSUS at 6 p.m. ET)
Race (75 laps) - Sunday, August 28 at 4:45 p.m. ET (Coverage begins at 4 p.m. p.m. ET live on VERSUS)
TV/Radio: VERSUS/IMS Radio Network and Sirius XM Channel 94
Sonoma Scene-Setter: Team Penske has enjoyed its share of success at Infineon Raceway since the IZOD IndyCar Series began competing at the circuit in 2005. Helio Castroneves and Will Power have both claimed a victory at Infineon as they each won from the pole (Castroneves in 2008 and Power in 2010). Ryan Briscoe has earned two runner-up results at the venue (2008-09) and collectively Team Penske has produced nine top-five and nine top-10 finishes to go along with five podium results, two wins and two poles in 13 starts at the famed wine country road course.
Recent Roll: In the last four IZOD IndyCar Series races at Infineon, Team Penske has finished in either first or second place - Castroneves finished second in 2007, Castroneves and Briscoe finished 1-2 in 2008, Briscoe earned a runner-up result in 2009 and Power posted a victory last season.
First of Many: Penske Racing's first-ever pole position in open-wheel racing was earned at Sonoma over 41 years ago. Driver Mark Donohue captured the honor on April 4, 1970 in the USAC IndyCar event driving a Lola/Chevy. Team Penske has produced 200 poles in its storied Indy car history.
Power-Ful Position: Power enters this weekend ranked second in the championship standings, just 47 points behind series leader Dario Franchitti. Last season, Power was crowned Mario Andretti Road Course Champion at Sonoma after a remarkable weekend that saw him earn his first win at Infineon Raceway. The win allowed Power to build his championship lead to 59 points over Franchitti at the time. Though Power has had an up and down season in 2011 after finishing second in the title chase last season, he has earned a series-leading five poles and four victories in 2011 and he continued to be a strong contender for the series' road course crown and overall title.
Test of Wills: Power was among the 20 drivers that tested last Thursday, August 18 at the 2.5-mile Infineon Raceway circuit. Power unofficially clocked the fastest time overall during the test session.
Profound Place for Power: Infineon Raceway is significant to Power in two distinctly different manners. The native of Toowoomba, Australia was involved in a horrific practice accident at the track in 2009. A car driven by Nelson Philippe had spun and stalled in the middle of the track during practice as Power came down the blind Turn 3A high-speed corner. Power's Team Penske entry struck Philippe's car causing both drivers to suffer serious injuries. Philippe broke his leg in the crash while Power fractured several vertebrae. Both drivers were sidelined for the remainder of the season. Power went on to make an incredible comeback the following season and returned to the Sonoma track in 2010 to earn the pole, lead the most laps and capture the dramatic victory.
Special Connection: Power connected with a special local fan at this race last season. Power appeared at an IZOD autograph session at Union Square in San Francisco before the 2010 race and while there he met a local boy named Brian McEnnerny. Brian has cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair. Brian became interested in Power after hearing about the serious accident that he was involved in at Sonoma in 2009. Just as Brian was drawn to Power and his story, the Team Penske driver was drawn to Brian. After meeting Brian, Power learned that he and his family were not able to secure tickets to the race. So with the help of the team, Team Penske's photographer and Infineon Raceway officials, Brian and his parents were given tickets to attend the race. That weekend Power ended up earning the pole, leading the most laps, winning the race and winning the inaugural Mario Andretti Road Course Championship. The team invited Brian into Victory Lane where he posed for victory photos with Power, Mario Andretti and the entire Verizon team. The occasion further cemented an already strong bond between the two and their friendship has continued to grow since. The McEnnerny family will once again be in attendance at the race this weekend as Brian cheers on his favorite driver.
Helio in Wine Country: Castroneves has six starts to his credit at Infineon and he has started in the first two rows in all of them. His best result at Sonoma came in 2008 race when he started from the pole, led the most laps and won the race just days after a transporter carrying both the primary No. 3 and No. 6 Team Penske machines caught fire on the trip out to California for the race. The three-time Indy 500 winner has four top-five finishes at the scenic wine country venue but accidents also resulted in two DNFs for Castroneves in 2005 and 2009.
Ryan Rewind: Briscoe has had some strong performances at Infineon Raceway. The fourth-year Team Penske driver has started and finished in the top-five in each of his last three outings in Sonoma. Briscoe also won his first-ever IndyCar Series pole position at Infineon in 2005, while driving for Ganassi Racing.
Meet the Boys: Castroneves, Briscoe and Power will participate in an autograph session at Macy's Union Square in San Francisco on Thursday, August 25 from 6-7 p.m. PT. The trio will also appear at Marin Honda, located at 2 Shoreline Parkway in San Rafael on Friday, August 26 from 6:30-7 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT THE INDY GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA
Helio Castroneves: "Infineon Raceway is a great track. The No. 3 Team Penske car has always been fast there and we hope that continues this weekend with the Guidepoint System car. It is always nice to visit California's wine country and the track is certainly challenging. Team Penske knows how to find Victory Circle at Sonoma. Our teammate, Will, just tested there for us so we should be in a good position to finally put it all together and have a great result on Sunday."
Ryan Briscoe: "We are really looking forward to getting our Penske Truck Rental car on track at Sonoma as we have been fast on this type of circuit this year and we have started on the front row at the two previous road courses this season (Barber and Mid-Ohio) . The wine country will be the perfect place to put all of the bad racing luck we've had this season behind us, have a great race and hopefully get our first win of 2011."
Will Power: "This is going to be yet another very tough weekend - the competition seems to be getting tighter each race. The Verizon car has traditionally been quick at Sonoma and it is a place that really suits my driving style. Once again, it is going to require flawless execution to come out on top. I am very focused and determined to give it everything I've got."