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IndyCar 2016 team preview: Team Penske

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NBC Sports takes a look through the teams competing in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series. Team Penske enjoyed a typically excellent 2015 season, including Roger Penske’s 16th Indianapolis 500 win, but came up just shy of the title. It’s a marquee year for Penske as the team celebrates its 50th anniversary, and looks for more continued success.

Team: Team Penske
Engine/aero kits: Chevrolet
Sponsors: Verizon (No. 2, No. 12), Hitachi/Shell Pennzoil (No. 3), Hewlett Packard Enterprise (No. 22)

2015 STATS

Races: 16
Wins: 3 (Montoya 2, Power 1)
Podiums: 15 (Montoya 5, Castroneves 5, Power 3, Pagenaud 2)
Pole Positions: 13 (Power 6, Castroneves 4, Montoya 2*, Pagenaud 1)
Fastest Laps: 4 (Castroneves 4, Power 2, Montoya 1)
Points: 1886 (Montoya 556, Power 493, Castroneves 453, Pagenaud 384)
Laps Led: 773 (Power 298, Castroneves 198, Montoya 145, Pagenaud 132)
Championship Position: 2nd (Montoya), 3rd (Power), 5th (Castroneves), 11th (Pagenaud)

*Montoya’s 2 poles were when qualifying was rained out and set by entry points

2016 LINEUP (Engineer in parentheses)

2 Juan Pablo Montoya (Brian Campe)
3 Helio Castroneves (Jonathan Diuguid)
12 Will Power (David Faustino)
22 Simon Pagenaud (Ben Bretzman)

2015 TEAM RECAP (Montoya, Power, Castroneves, Pagenaud driver recaps)

Most teams would be happy with the output achieved last year, including the Indianapolis 500 win. Most teams, however, are not Team Penske, and thus operate to the highest level of goals and targeted success. So in that regard even though Juan Pablo Montoya started strong with a well-judged win at St. Petersburg, then denied Will Power at Indy and cost the Australian a shot at a month of May two-race sweep, in truth the team was never as dominant in the second half of the year as it was in the first half.

Qualifying was staggering across the board – 13 poles, four of the best five starting averages, and 26 Firestone Fast Six appearances combined out of 48 possible attempts in the series – but there were no further wins after May, and Montoya’s consistent run lacked a truly otherworldly drive from June on. “JPM” still would have captured the title if not for Scott Dixon’s Sonoma heroics, and his own and Power’s contact during the race. Elsewhere in the team Helio Castroneves enjoyed another solid year, while the big surprise was how Simon Pagenaud’s qualifying pace generally failed to translate to results on Sundays.

2016 OUTLOOK

Unlike a year ago, there are no major changes within the team, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary as a team. Now that Pagenaud and his crew have had a full year and chance to acclimatize and embed themselves within the Penske culture, they should be better positioned for success and their first win. Power, too, should rebound after a rare one-win season with multiple wins.

The story will likely remain the same, where all four should be race winners and at least three of the four could contend for the championship. Highest priority though must be securing the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, a race so near and dear to Roger Penske’s heart, with the championship the second target provided a 500 win is achieved.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.