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Indy Notes: Captain Crunched

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 30 2010

Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe whacks the front stretch wall at Indianapolis on Sunday. It was tough day all around for the team of "The Captain". (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Indianapolis – It was supposed to be another Team Penske show in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

Roger Penske’s team has won a record 15 of the Indy classics and it appeared he had three solid shots at making it 16 this year before uncharacteristic mistakes shot down the effort.

Helio Castroneves started from the pole and was the favorite to win for the second straight year and join the elite trio of A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as a four-time winner.

Will Power started from the middle of the front row and Ryan Briscoe on the inside of the second row in the 33-car field, both of them expected to contend for their first Indy win.

In the end, pit mistakes cost each of them dearly and Power’s eighth-place finish was the best Penske finish.

“The car was very quick today,’’ said Power, who had to overcome a drive-through penalty for leaving his pit with the fuel hose attached. “We could have hung with (winner) Dario (Franchitti) no problem, I think.

“You just can’t make mistakes at Indy and win, and we just made too many mistakes today. We still have a championship to compete for, so we’ll move on from here and keep pushing for that,’’ added Power, who leads the IZOD IndyCar Series points standings heading into next week.

Castroneves lost the lead to Franchitti on the first lap and never really recovered, finishing ninth.

What cost the Brazilian the most was stalling his engine in the pits during a stop 55 laps from the end of the 200-lap race. He came into the pits fifth and came out 15th.

His team used a fuel strategy to get him back with the leaders, topping off his fuel tank during the next caution period. It worked for a while when Castroneves stayed on track while the leaders pitted and took the lead on lap 189, hoping for one more yellow flag.

But it didn’t come and Castroneves had to pit on lap 192.

“We tried,’’ he said. “Unfortunately, silly mistakes put us in the back. I’m very disappointed.’’

Briscoe had the worst day among the Penske drivers, crashing on lap 148 and finishing 24th.

The Australian driver was running among the top 10 before pitting only moments before the accident.

Team owner Roger Penske, who oversees Briscoe’s races, said, “He came in to put more downforce in the car. I don’t know what happened.’’

Minor Injuries: Two unidentified male spectators were treated for minor injuries after being struck by debris from the spectacular crash involving Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay one lap from the end of Sunday’s race.

Speedway officials said one of the men received stitches for a cut on his forehead, while the other suffered a head laceration that required no stitches.

Both men were seated near the front of the spectator section just above the spot where Conway’s car became airborne and smashed into the fencing high off the ground.

Hunter-Reay suffered a thumb injury and Conway was taken to a hospital for treatment of a leg injury.

He said his engine died as he drove through Turn 3 on the 2.5-mile oval and Conway ran over his left rear tire, launching the car high into the air.

After seeing the crash on video, Hunter-Reay said, “I can’t believe (Conway’s car) didn’t hit my head. I guess it came down on the (on-board) camera, right on top, and at 230 miles per hours that’s as close as it gets. I have to have surgery on my thumb on Tuesday. It’s a bummer.’’

Danica’s Day: Danica Patrick’s demeanor and her words were certainly a lot different than the unhappy woman who berated her team after a disappointing qualifying effort. She was even booed by the crowd for saying, “It wasn’t my fault’’ and putting the onus on her crew for the poor showing.

She drew a mixture of cheers and boos in pre-race introductions Sunday, but the crowd was cheering and chanting “Danica! Danica! Danica!’’ as she stood near the pit fence after the Indianapolis Motor Speedway worked it magic for her again.

Open-wheel racing’s glamour girl wound up sixth after spending much of the race running outside the top 10. It was her fifth top-10 finish in six Indy 500 starts.

“I’m very happy with the result, and the reason we got it were that our pit stops rocked and we had a perfect strategy,’’ Patrick said. “We did struggle a little in the early going. We almost went down a lap. But we were able to get the car into the position should have been in.

“I focused on making sure I lifted (off the gas pedal) and got a tow from other cars to save fuel as the laps were winding down. I’m really glad the yellow came out at the end because we were cutting it real close on fuel. That’s the roll of the dice and the team did a perfect job.’’

Tough Day: Graham Rahal, who drove his first IndyCar race for his father’s team on Sunday, was black-flagged for blocking Dan Wheldon and finished a disappointing 12th.

Bobby Rahal, who co-owns Rahal Letterman Racing with TV host David Letterman, was furious about the penalty, arguing to no avail with an IRL official in the pits.

“I thought Graham did a hell of a job today,’’ said the elder Rahal, who won at Indy in 1986. “A bogus penalty really hurt us. I don’t think Graham did anything others drivers weren’t doing, but we got a penalty. … I really think he got everything he could out of the car.’’

Wheldon, who went on to finish second, said the 21-year-old Rahal deserved the blocking penalty.

“It was totally out of order,’’ the Englishman said. “He put me in the grass at over 220 miles an hour.’’

Spark plugs: Honda is the sole engine supplier for the IZOD IndyCar Series and Sunday was the fifth consecutive running of the Indy 500 without an engine failure. … The fastest lap in the race was 225.090 mph by Will Power. …Winner Dario Franchitti averaged 161.623 mph in the race slowed by 9 caution flags for a total of 44 laps. … Franchitti is the 17th driver with at least two Indy victories and also the first driver from Scotland to win her more than once. Jim Clark won in 1965. … Panther Racing has finished second in the 500 for three consecutive years with Victor Meira in 2008 and Wheldon in 2009 and 2010.

Results Sunday of the 2010 Indianapolis 500 IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (3) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

2. (18) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

3. (16) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

4. (26) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

5. (6) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

6. (23) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

7. (11) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

8. (2) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

9. (1) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

10. (5) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

11. (33) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

12. (7) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

13. (27) Mario Romancini, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

14. (22) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

15. (20) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running

16. (10) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running

17. (8) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running

18. (17) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 198, Contact

19. (15) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 198, Contact

20. (31) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 198, Running

21. (21) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 196, Contact

22. (24) Bertrand Baguette, Dallara-Honda, 183, Running

23. (32) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Honda, 159, Contact

24. (4) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 147, Contact

25. (19) E.J. Viso, Dallara-Honda, 139, Contact

26. (29) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 125, Contact

27. (30) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 105, Contact

28. (9) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 76, Handling

29. (12) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 72, Contact

30. (28) John Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 62, Contact

31. (13) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 17, Contact

32. (25) Bruno Junqueira, Dallara-Honda, 7, Contact

33. (14) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 0, Contact

Race Statistics

Winners average speed: 161.623

Time of Race: 03:05:37.0131

Margin of victory: Under caution

Cautions: 9 for 44 laps

Lead changes: 13 among 8 drivers

Lap Leaders: Franchitti 1-30, Power 31-35, Franchitti 36, Briscoe 37-38, Franchitti 39-108, Scheckter 109-113, Franchitti 114-142, M. Andretti 143, Briscoe 144-146, Franchitti 147-162, Conway 163-177, Wilson 178-188, Castroneves 189-191, Franchitti 192-200.

Point Standings: Power 227, Franchitti 216, Dixon 203, Castroneves 199, Hunter-Reay 175, Wilson 167, Briscoe 155, Kanaan 151, Wheldon 142, M. Andretti 134.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 30 2010
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