Team Penske

Penske drivers lament missed victory at Road America (VIDEO)

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Team Penske dominated the entire Kohler Grand Prix weekend at Road America, twice going 1-2-3-4 over the three practice sessions on Friday and Saturday and then doing the same in qualifying, with Helio Castroneves taking pole from Will Power, Josef Newgarden, and Simon Pagenaud.

However, race day represented a missed opportunity. Though Castroneves led early, it was Newgarden who emerged as their best hope for victory following a spectacular outside pass on Castroneves entering turn 1 on lap 19. That put Newgarden in the lead, and he seemed to be in full control.

Still, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon had been stalking the Penske foursome all race long, and sat behind Newgarden in second for a lap 30 restart. With Newgarden on primary blacks and Dixon on alternate reds, Newgarden was somewhat of a sitting duck, and Dixon muscled his way into the lead with an equally spectacular outside pass in turn 1, with Newgarden briefly falling to third behind teammate Castroneves.

Josef Newgarden led several laps, but could not find his way around Dixon for the win. Photo: IndyCar

Although Newgarden regrouped, overtook Castroneves during the final pit stop sequence, and closed to within a second following a restart with seven laps remaining, he was never close enough to make a move for the win.

Even though the Team Penske drivers all finished in the top five, going 2-3-4-5 with Newgarden leading Castroneves, Pagenaud, and Power, missing out on victory was a bitter pill to swallow.

“It stings a little bit coming home second when you feel like you have a winning car,” Newgarden revealed in the post-race press conference.

He added that an ill-timed lap 28 caution for a spinning Takuma Sato ultimately put paid his chances of victory. “The caution didn’t fall our way. You can’t predict that stuff. It hurts when it comes at the wrong time. That’s pretty much what happened today. With (Tim Cindric calling the strategy), I feel confident with all our decisions, everything those guys do on the pit box. Things just didn’t fall our way today.”

For Castroneves, a slight error before his final pit stop saw him pit earlier than the team wanted, due to an alarm that went off in the cockpit. However, as he explained to NBCSN’s Marty Snider, it was of little consequence to the outcome of the race.

“We mentioned in the debrief that if in turn 14, the blue lights come on, you are to come right away. So I came in. I am sure they had a little buffer, and they knew what exactly was going on. (Race engineer Jonathan Diuguid) said keep going but I couldn’t quite understand him. But at the end of the day it didn’t cost us anything in terms of a win or second place.”

Still, the strong results see Pagenaud and Castroneves sit second and third in the championship, while Newgarden and Power sit fifth and sixth, respectively.

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Castroneves snatches Road America pole in Penske 1-4 sweep

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Helio Castroneves has done it again, pulling another final lap flier to secure the pole position for Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) from Road America.

Castroneves has secured his third and Team Penske’s sixth pole position of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, with the Brazilian dropping a 1:41.3007 best lap on his final lap.

This is also the 50th pole of his career, which breaks a tie with Bobby Unser for third on IndyCar’s all-time list.

That supplanted Will Power in a Penske-dominated qualifying session, continuing the team’s form this weekend. Power looked set to have the pole at 1:41.3611, but that ended just behind.

The remaining two drivers of the Team Penske, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, completed the team’s top-four sweep – its third straight session where all four Penske Chevrolets locked out the top four positions.

Team Penske did this most recently in qualifying at Sonoma Raceway for last year’s season finale, except there it was Pagenaud on the pole over Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Power.

This is the second time this year Penske has gotten four cars into the Firestone Fast Six shootout, having also done so at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course earlier this year. Pagenaud missed it there while Montoya, in his only road course outing of 2017 in the team’s fifth car, made it in.

Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal upheld Honda’s honor with fifth and sixth place on the grid, but significantly off the pace.

Dixon was 1.6 seconds off while Rahal didn’t put in a representative time in the final session. Rahal didn’t use a set of Firestone’s red alternate softer compound to save a set for the race on Sunday.

Max Chilton was seventh and best of those who didn’t make it into the Fast Six, with Marco Andretti best of Andretti Autosport’s quartet in eighth.

Elsewhere Ed Jones advanced into Q2, an impressive feat for the rookie with Dale Coyne Racing and his Chicago Bears tribute helmet, while Alexander Rossi was a surprise driver to not advance out of Q1, and will start 15th.

Esteban Gutierrez is 17th and Mikhail Aleshin 19th ahead of their returns, Gutierrez after missing Texas and Aleshin after missing Friday’s practice sessions.

Times are below.

RESULTS

ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Qualifying Saturday for the KOHLER Grand Prix Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 4.014-mile(s) Road America, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:41.3007 (142.649)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:41.3611 (142.564)
3. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:41.6608 (142.143)
4. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:42.0385 (141.617)
5. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:42.9308 (140.389)
6. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:45.0464 (137.562)
7. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:42.7566 (140.627)
8. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:42.8614 (140.484)
9. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:43.2105 (140.009)
10. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:43.3221 (139.858)
11. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:43.7959 (139.219)
12. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:43.9786 (138.975)
13. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:42.9039 (140.426)
14. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:42.8875 (140.449)
15. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:43.0171 (140.272)
16. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:42.9077 (140.421)
17. (18) Esteban Gutierrez, Honda, 01:43.1652 (140.070)
18. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:42.9132 (140.413)
19. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:43.8891 (139.094)
20. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:43.4111 (139.737)
21. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:44.1579 (138.736)

Pagenaud leads Penske 1-2-3-4 in Practice 3 at Road America

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Team Penske continued its domination this weekend at Road America, with Simon Pagenaud leading third practice for the Kohler Grand Prix (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Pagenaud pipped teammate Will Power in the final seconds to take fast lap honors in third practice, with Pagenaud’s 1:42.0439 edging Power’s 1:42.0698.

Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden ended third and fourth, making it a Penske 1-2-3-4 for the second consecutive session this weekend (they did the same in second practice on Friday). Scott Dixon ended the session fifth, the best of the Honda runners.

Several drivers had off-course excursions during practice as they pushed the limits ahead of qualifying this afternoon. Most notably, Newgarden brought out a brief red flag when he spun into the gravel in Turn 14, the third spin in turn 14 this weekend. Newgarden did not have any contact with the tire barriers, but the No. 2 Devilbiss Chevrolet was beached in the gravel and needed a tow. He suffered no damage, however, and rejoined the session after it resumed.

Of note, Marco Andretti and Spencer Pigot enjoyed strong sessions to end up sixth and seventh, while Mikhail Aleshin was 20th after arriving at the track earlier in the morning, with immigration issues delaying his travel.

Times are below. Qualifying begins at 4:00 p.m. ET (3:00 p.m. local time), and airs on NBCSN at 5:00 p.m. ET.

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Newgarden, Penske top second practice at Road America

Photo: IndyCar
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Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden topped second practice in a 1-2-3-4 sweep for the Team Penske outfit, driving the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden’s best lap of a 1:42.8229 was about five hundredths of a second quicker than teammate and defending race winner Will Power, who was second with a 1:42.8229. Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves completed the Penske top four sweep, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe the best of the Honda drivers in fifth.

The session was only briefly interrupted early on when Alexander Rossi went off the track in Turn 14 and gently slid into the tire barrier. The red flag was flown to remove the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda from the barrier, but Rossi was able to continue, ending the session in 11th after leading the morning practice.

Of note, Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones enjoyed a strong session to end up sixth, while teammate Esteban Gutierrez was 17th on his return to Coyne.

Also, Robert Wickens continued to fill in for Mikhail Aleshin, ending Practice 2 in 20th. While Aleshin is reportedly en route to Road America, it is unknown if Wickens will continue his fill in role through the weekend.

Times are below. Practice 3 rolls of at 12:00 p.m. ET (11:00 a.m. local) on Saturday.

Will Power survives crash-filled night to win in Texas (VIDEO)

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Verizon Team Penske’s Will Power assumed the lead in the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 after the opening round of pit stops following a lap 38 caution. Power emerged in the lead and thwarted off a series of challenges for the rest of the night to lead the most laps and dominate for his second win at Texas Motor Speedway (he won Race two of the 2011 doubleheader).

Throughout the night Power managed to fend off challenges from all comers, including the likes of Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, and even Tristan Vautier, and later Tony Kanaan, who was in the crosshairs for another reason entirely courtesy of the night’s biggest accident.

“It was very intense. I could see (Scott) Dixon was able to pass me at the start/finish line. So, I was starting to think about what I was going to do there at the end,” Power said of the late-race battle.

The victory also holds personal significance for Power, whose wife Liz is a Texas native.

“We were just talking about it and her cousin said ‘Man you haven’t won for me here yet!’  And like, he has come year after year and I really didn’t think that it would be this weekend, but oh man, you don’t understand how good that feels,” Power added in victory lane.

Behind Power, carnage and chaos reigned in the remainder of the 22-car field, with only six cars running on the lead lap at the checkered flag.

The carnage began on lap 38 when Alexander Rossi got pinched in between Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan entering Turn 3, and spun before impacting the outside wall.

Shortly thereafter there was contact on pit road between James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves and Takuma Sato. Hinchcliffe got loose exiting the pits, spinning into Castroneves, who then spun into Sato.

Castroneves was the next to crash heavily, this time on lap 91 after an apparent mechanical failure saw his car shoot into the outside wall exiting turn two. He slid down the backstretch and impacted the inside wall as well. Although he took his time exiting the car, he did climb out under his own power and walk away.

Ed Carpenter then suffered a quick spin on a lap 103 restart, but managed to keep it going.

However, the big moment came on lap 153 when a huge pileup collected James Hinchcliffe, Tristan Vautier, Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Munoz, Ed Jones, Ed Carpenter, JR Hildebrand, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The subsequent cleanup necessitated a red flag.

Many drivers pointed the blame at Kanaan, with Hinchcliffe mentioning that Kanaan moved up into him to start the wreck. Kanaan’s team owner Chip Ganassi blamed Hinchcliffe, with Hinchcliffe then retorting “that’s adorable” to that accusation.

Castroneves’ earlier incident he blamed on a right front tire failure and fellow Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden had to pit earlier on sequences owing to blistering. INDYCAR then dictated that competition cautions would need to be implemented to address the blistering tires, after no more than 30 laps of green flag competition.

Following one of these cautions on 190, Newgarden was the next victim on lap 201. Newgarden had tried to pit prior to the yellow but then was told he’d need to pit again. Alas, Newgarden tried a three-wide pass on the outside of Turns 3 and 4, but drifted too high and broke loose, sliding into the the outside wall in the process.

Following another competition caution on lap 225, Dixon and Takuma Sato brought out the final caution of the race, with Sato clipping the grass and sliding into Dixon. Both cars spun and impacted the wall in turn one, with Conor Daly and Max Chilton collected in the aftermath.

Power led the field home under caution ahead of Kanaan, who’d recovered from going a lap down for being assessed a stop-and-hold plus 20 second penalty for the avoidable contact, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal, Gabby Chaves, and Marco Andretti, with only six cars running at the end. Daly, Chilton and JR Hildebrand were listed as classified finishers but with damage on their cars.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE? The six cars and drivers who finished on the lead lap. Power, lost in all the chaos, led 180 laps in a dominating performance…Kanaan overcame a stop and hold penalty for his role in the lap 153 crash to finish second…Pagenaud returned to the podium for the first time since his win at Phoenix…Graham Rahal seemed to lack the outright speed to battle for the win, but made it through the night unscathed to finish fourth…Chaves brought the Harding Racing No. 88 Chevrolet home in fifth, giving the brand new team finishes in the top ten and top five in its first two starts…Marco Andretti had a quiet night, but like Rahal, missed all the crashes and finished sixth, his best result of the 2017 season…Conor Daly (seventh) and Max Chilton (eighth) were credited with top ten finishes despite getting collected in the late crash with Dixon and Sato…Vautier was stellar in his return to the Verizon IndyCar Series and was a top five contender all night long before getting caught up in the lap 153 crash.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE? Tough seasons continue for Ryan Hunter-Reay and JR Hildebrand, with both getting collected in the lap 153 wreck. Hunter-Reay’s fourth at St. Petersburg and third at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course remain his only top ten finishes of the year, while Hildebrand’s third-place at Phoenix is his only finish inside the top ten…Charlie Kimball’s potentially strong night ended shortly after it started on lap 41 due to an oil leak…Helio Castroneves hammered the turn two wall on lap 91. Though he took his time climbing out, he walked away under his power and alleged afterward that the right front tire went down to send him into the wall…like Hildebrand, Hunter-Reay, and Vautier, Ed Carpenter, Mikhail Aleshin, Ed Jones, and Carlos Munoz were victims of circumstance and innocent bystanders collected in the lap 153 crash, though Carpenter and Hildebrand returned to the track to finish 11th and 12th following repairs.

NOTABLE: Dixon retains the championship lead, with Pagenaud now 13 points behind him in second…tenth-place James Hinchcliffe is only 94 points behind Dixon as the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Road America for the KOHLER Grand Prix (June 25, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

QUOTABLE: From Hinchcliffe (on the contact with Kanaan that precipitated the big wreck): “We had a run on (Tony Kanaan) and he had plenty of room on the left, but he just came to the right. If you look at the replay, he comes all the way from the white line to the middle of the racetrack, just pinched me into Mikhail (Aleshin). Either his spotter didn’t tell him we were three wide or what, but I couldn’t go anywhere, I was sandwiched in the middle. I was not expecting him to do that; Tony has more experience in this kind of pack racing than anybody. I went wheel-to-wheel with him last year for the win and nine times out of 10 would do that all day long, but for whatever reason, he wasn’t playing very nice today and wrecked a lot of good equipment.”

Results are below.

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