Roger Penske: Team understands aero kit setup better after Castroneves’ crash

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CONCORD, N.C. – Roger Penske doesn’t believe the recent spate of airborne wrecks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are connected to the new aero kits used by the Verizon IndyCar Series this season.

On Wednesday, Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves backed into the wall after his car wiggled through Turn 1 and went airborne after turning backward. The car completed a somersault before landing on the track. Castroneves was unhurt. Josef Newgarden also escaped injury after a similar crash the following day in which his car landed on its airbox.

Before Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Penske said Castroneves’ car likely didn’t have enough grip because the team was working with an unfamiliar setup. The Indianapolis 500 marks the debut of the aero kits on ovals.

“We looked at the data, and we actually had less downforce than when we qualified last year,” Penske said. “I think we understand how we’ve got to set them up now. I think any of these cars that get backward, it’s like a NASCAR car, that’s something the league is going to look at is how we can keep them on the ground. … I think we’ve got enough information now that you don’t want to be going  backward, point No. 1. Point No. 2, if you do get backward, you need something to mitigate that. The league’s on it. We’re on it as teams.”

Penske said Chevrolet’s aerodynamicists had helped fine-tune the new aero kit setups after Castroneves’ crash. “We saw we were in the ballpark where we needed to be,” he said. “I feel good about where we are.”

Penske also feels good about the mindset of Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 winner.

“Helio got right back in the car,” Penske said. “Ironically, all that going through the air, he said he was never a big thump. It was almost like a feather coming back on the ground. So we were very fortunate.”

 

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.