Power Wins at Sonoma Leading Team Penske to a 1-2-3 Finish
August 29, 2011SONOMA, Calif. (August 28, 2011) – Team Penske swept the podium on Sunday as its three drivers finished in the same order they started – first, second and third – to complete a remarkable weekend at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway.
Will Power led the way as he guided the No. 12 Verizon car from the pole position to Victory Lane. Power produced his IZOD IndyCar Series-leading fifth win of the season as he held off teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe during a late-race restart. The win allowed Power to creep closer to Dario Franchitti in the series championship points race and the results also enabled Briscoe and Castroneves to move up in the series standings.
In the end it marked the first 1-2-3 finish for Team Penske in nearly 17 years. Paul Tracy, Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi finished first, second and third, respectively, at Nazareth Speedway on September 18, 1994.
“What a fantastic day for Team Penske,” said Power, who also won from the pole and led the most laps last season at Infineon to make it back-to-back perfect points weekends at the 2.3-mile road circuit. “It’s a real credit to all the hard work all of our teams do. I love racing here at Sonoma and this is exactly the result we needed to really make a run for this championship.”
Sunday’s dominant win, that saw Power lead 71 of the 75 laps, represented the first repeat IZOD IndyCar Series victory in Infineon Raceway history. It trimmed 20 points from Power’s championship deficit to Franchitti, who finished fourth in Sunday’s race. Power is now within 26 points of Franchitti with four races remaining in the 2011 season.
“I have been unbelievably motivated after a few bad races this season,” said Power, who finished an uncharacteristic 14th or worse in three out of the last five races entering Sonoma to fall to second in the points race. “I knew that Verizon Team Penske was better than this as a team. We came here with a good setup today, finished strong, and we are on the right track now.”
Castroneves, who started second in the No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske Dallara/Honda, lined up beside Power on the final restart with just six laps remaining, but he could not get by Power and settled for a runner-up finish, matching his best result of the season.
“The Team Penske sweep shows how strong our team is, and I am really happy for us,” said Castroneves. “I certainly wanted to win, but Will was in a class of his own today. When you look at his lap times in practice and qualifying, you knew he would be strong. I was really pushing it during the race, and I thought with the help of traffic I may be able to gain on him. He saved enough push-to-passes for the end of the race to take advantage of it, and he was the winner.”
The finish moved Castroneves up two positions in the standings to ninth place. “Thanks to my guys on the Guidepoint Systems team we were able to make up some ground today,” added Castroneves. “Now, let’s keep pushing and try to get our first win of the season next weekend in Baltimore.”
Meanwhile, Briscoe also gained in the standings, moving from sixth to fifth with his third-place finish in the No. 6 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Honda to mark his fourth podium result of 2011.
“I was trying to keep Dario behind me,” said Briscoe. “I knew we had a good shot today at a 1-2-3 finish for Team Penske. That was our first goal today. I had a lot of traffic coming out in front of me and I just didn’t want to make a mistake. I may have been a little more conservative than I needed to be, but I just didn’t want to make a mistake out there. It has been two years now since the three of us have been teammates and we have been working so hard for this Team Penske sweep. We have come close a few times, but I tell you it feels really good now that it has happened.”
The victory by Power, coupled with Brad Keselowski’s win Saturday night in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, made for a landmark weekend for the organization as it marked the first time since June 2000 that Penske Racing had won in both series on the same weekend. Back then it was Castroneves who captured his first-ever victory for Team Penske at Detroit and Jeremy Mayfield won at Pocono.
“It’s an awesome time – a credit to all of our people on both sides of the speedway, whether it’s NASCAR or IndyCar,” said Roger Penske moments after the checkered flag on Sunday. “I just want to thank Will and Helio and Ryan. What a run here. I just can’t believe it.”
“It was a huge day for us, and obviously it puts us in a much better position for the championship for Will,” said Penske Racing president Tim Cindric, who also serves as Power’s race strategist. “The biggest concern is if we had a restart was that we had the best set of red tires. Will usually does a great job on restarts and he did just that. For us to finish 1-2-3 here is just great.”
The win was especially satisfying for Power, who saw his season come to a painful ending after a practice accident at Infineon Raceway in 2009. He returned one year later to claim victory and he made it two in a row at the wine country course on Sunday. After the race he celebrated in Victory Circle with a large group of guests from Verizon.
“I’m just so happy for Verizon,” said Power. “They do so much for our team and they had a lot of people out here this weekend and it’s great to pay them back with a performance like this – a real team effort.”
The IZOD IndyCar Series resumes next weekend with the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix in the streets of downtown Baltimore, Md. Qualifying coverage on VERSUS will be broadcast on Saturday, September 3 at 6 p.m. ET, with live race coverage set to begin at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 4 on VERSUS.
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