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100th Indianapolis 500 team preview: Team Penske

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MotorSportsTalk looks through the Verizon IndyCar Series grid ahead of the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. First up, Team Penske.

There is no greater race, no more important race for Team Penske than the Indianapolis 500. And as the team celebrates its 50th anniversary season with the 100th ‘500 a centerpiece of the campaign, nothing less than the team’s 17th Indianapolis victory will suffice.

ENTRIES 

Juan Pablo Montoya-W, No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet
Helio Castroneves-W, No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet
Will Power, No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet
Simon Pagenaud, No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet 

2016 SEASON SO FAR

Heading into May, the team has three wins from four races – thus matching its entire 2015 win total – and Simon Pagenaud is riding the wave of his IndyCar career to this point with back-to-back wins and a 48-point lead in the championship. He’ll be leading the points into the ‘500 regardless of what happens in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, even if he scores minimum points.

Elsewhere Juan Pablo Montoya has been nearly as good with the St. Petersburg win, while Helio Castroneves has been good if not great to this point and Will Power doing a fair job of playing catch up after missing the season opener. 

INDY OUTLOOK

It’s hard to bet against any of the four drivers, particularly now that Pagenaud has a wave of momentum entering the event. And keeping in mind Pagenaud probably had the strongest car of the four last year, he’ll be buoyed by his performance.

Castroneves ticks the highest national story line boxes if he were to finally win his fourth – he’s not gone more than seven years in-between Indy wins (2001, 2002, 2009) – while Montoya looks to further etch his place in history, and Power looks to beat Pagenaud to his first Indy triumph.

RECENT RESULTS 

  • 2015: 1. 2-Montoya (15), 2. 1-Power (2), 7. 3-Castroneves (5), 10. 22-Pagenaud (3)
  • 2014: 2. 3-Castroneves (4), 5. 2-Montoya (10), 8. 12-Power (3)
  • 2013: 6. 3-Castroneves (8), 7. 2-Allmendinger (5), 19. 12-Power (6)
  • 2012: 5. 2-Briscoe (1), 10. 3-Castroneves (6), 28. 12-Power (5)

Here are the starting times for 2020 NTT IndyCar Series action on NBC and NBCSN

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Another important tidbit for NTT IndyCar Series fans is out as INDYCAR and NBC announced starting times for the 2020 season. The full television schedule is also included.

There are different starting times at four races in 2020 from 2019. Those include the March 15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at Circuit of the Americas on April 26, a later starting time for the Saturday night race at Iowa Speedway on July 18 on NBCSN

INDYCAR released the green flag times today for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season that features starting time shifts at four races – St. Petersburg, Circuit of The Americas, Iowa and Mid-Ohio – and the anticipated evening return to Richmond Raceway.

Those four returning races represent the only significant green flag start time changes from a year ago in the 17-race 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, beginning with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg scheduled for Sunday, March 15.

The August 16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be moved to an earlier starting time and will be broadcast on NBC. Previously, the race was scheduled for 4:05 p.m., but has been changed to a 12:45 p.m. Eastern Time green flag.

INDYCAR’s return to Richmond Raceway on Saturday, June 27 will begin at 8:15 p.m. ET. That is the only new event on the schedule.

Detailed broadcast information for the entire season will be announced at a later date.

Here are the notable changes to the starting times on the schedule:

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which began at 1:40 p.m. ET this past season, will now have a 3:30 p.m. green flag. The race on the downtown streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., will be celebrating its 10thanniversary as the series’ season opener and be televised on NBC Sports Network.

The AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at Circuit of The Americas on Sunday, April 26, will have a similar shift, moving from a 1:43 p.m. ET green flag this past season to 4:10 p.m. (3:10 p.m. local) in 2020. The permanent road course in Austin, Texas, will play host to the fourth race of the season and be broadcast on NBCSN.

The Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway, set for Saturday, July 18, on NBCSN, will be better accommodated for an evening race under the lights with the green flag moving from 7:15 p.m. ET to 9 p.m. (8 p.m. local).

“The return of a night race for INDYCAR at Iowa Speedway is exciting news for our race fans, sponsors, and the entire region,” Iowa Speedway President David Hyatt said. “The cars look great under the lights, and the competition should be even more fierce given what should be cooler conditions. Our track provides some of the best racing you’ll see anywhere, which will be good for attendance. This will be a can’t-miss weekend for all race fans.”

The return to a true night race at Iowa was the result of fans requesting it. The race will begin at 8:00 p.m. CT on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. And for fans and drivers, it is nostalgic, hearkening back to the first race many of them experienced … a night race on a short track.

The series hasn’t held a race that began after dusk at Iowa Speedway since 2015, and drivers and fans are welcoming it. Not only does it look more vibrant — and create sparks as cars bottom out — it also makes for better racing. Tires grip better when the track is cooler. Fans also avoid sweltering conditions during summer afternoons.

The Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, Aug. 16, will be the only race among the four that moves to an earlier start time. The race, which had a 4:05 p.m. ET start this past season, will shift to a 12:45 p.m. green flag in 2020 and be televised on NBC.

The NTT IndyCar Series heads to Richmond Raceway – the only new addition on the 2020 schedule – for the 11th race of the season on Saturday, June 27. The field will take the green flag at 8:15 ET for the start of the first Indy car race at the .75-mile oval since 2009. The race will be broadcast on NBCSN.