Power Finds Gift For The Owner Who Has Everything

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 5 2010

Will Power gave Roger Penske the perfect gift on the Fourth of July. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Team Penske ended a near 30-year, open-wheel dry spell at Watkins Glen International Sunday when Will Power paced a 1-2 finish in the sixth annual Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen.

Power passed teammate Ryan Briscoe for the lead with 17 laps remaining in the IZOD IndyCar Series race en route to his third victory of the season. It was the fourth major open-wheel victory at Watkins Glen for Team Penske but first since Rick Mears prevailed in a Championship Auto Racing Teams event in 1981.

It also was Team Penske’s first IndyCar Series victory on the famed 3.37-mile road-course in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York.

“I wanted it really bad; I really wanted to win,” said Power, whose pole position Saturday extended Team Penske’s streak of No. 1 qualifiers at WGI to six-for-six. “I can’t stand it when you’re the quickest in qualifying and then you have a bad race.  Honestly, it was the first race that I pushed on every single lap. Never once that I didn’t push. I love to have to push and fight for it. Those are the races I love.”

Power became the first driver to win this event from pole and gave Team Penske its fifth victory in nine IndyCar races this season. It also was Team Penske’s record 40th IndyCar Series win, and the team’s first 1-2 finish of 2010. Team Penske, domestic open-wheel racing’s most successful organization, now has finished 1-2 on 32 occasions.

Power, who led three times for a race-high 45 laps, lost the lead briefly to Briscoe, who came out ahead of his teammate on the final pit stop of the 60-lap race. Power, however, regained the lead heading into the circuit’s Bus-Stop chicane with 17 laps remaining. From there, the Australian ran as fast as possible while trying to conserve fuel.

“We had to get the fuel number the whole race, so I had to push really hard while saving fuel,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Honda. “I had to get the lap time while saving fuel. It was just a difficult race, but it was great. I loved it.”

The victory was the third on a road/street course for Power, who won the series-opener in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and followed with a win in Round 2 at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Power, who is seeking his first IndyCar driver’s championship, now holds a 32-point lead (327-295) over Dario Franchitti after nine of 17 events. The two-time and reigning series champion, Franchitti finished third in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda. Teammate Scott Dixon, also a two-time series champion, is third in the driver’s standings, 40 points behind Power.

Briscoe passed Franchitti on the final lap to secure second, and Team Penske’s first 1-2 result since Edmonton in 2009. It marked the second consecutive season that Briscoe has bagged a runnerup result at WGI. It also was the third podium finish in four starts at The Glen for Briscoe, driver of the No. 6 Dallara/Honda.

“Will was strong,” said Briscoe, who jumped to fourth in the standings, seven points behind Dixon. “We had a lot more downforce in the car. I was just a parachute going down the back straightaway. Both of these guys (Power and Franchitti) just came from nowhere and drove around me.

“It was a little bit frustrating, but with the downforce I was able to look after my red tires (soft compound Firestone Firehawks) a bit more than Dario. He was hanging on for dear life at the end and thankfully his went off about a lap sooner than mine did, so I was able to get him. It’s a great way to bring home a Penske 1-2.”

Franchitti, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, tied a career-best at Watkins Glen with his third-place finish.

“I was catching Will, but I used up my tires too much to catch up to him. Just overused them,”  said Franchitti , who also finished third at WGI in 2005 and 2007. “Ryan was getting closer to me. I was trying to make a gap to him and made a mistake, and he got past me.  I’m disappointed with the last lap, but it was a fun race. It’s a fun place to race.”

Franchitti said he was not sure if anyone could have overtaken Power during the closing laps. “Will did a great job,” said Franchitti, who earned his fourth podium of the season. “When the tires started to go off, he did a better job of managing his tires. I think he did a great job.”

Brazilian Raphael Matos of HP de Ferran Dragon Racing finished fourth while countryman Mario Moraes of KV Racing Technology was fifth.

“It’s been a really tough year for us,” said Matos, who tied his series career-best finish in the No. 2 Dallara/Honda. “The guys have worked really hard putting the cars together after Indy. It’s a great result for the whole team, and all the thanks go to them. This result is good for momentum for us.”

In all, seven teams were represented among the top 10 finishers.

“I am happy with the team as they gave some position on pit lane today,” said Moraes, whose fifth-place result in the No. 32 KV Racing Technology car bested his previous high of sixth at Long Beach. “I was able to gain some positions on the track. I worked really hard on fuel conservation. We managed the fuel very well. I think I finished with nothing in the fuel tank.”

Former series champion Dan Wheldon finished sixth after starting 20th in the 25-car field. “I knew once we got to the pit stop the team would get me some spots,” said Wheldon, driver of the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Dallara/Honda. “And fortunately because the car was so good we were able to overtake people, and soon as we got the red Firestone tires on I was able to come through the field. That was a very strong team performance today by the Panther boys.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay finished seventh on the day it was announced he would complete the season for Andretti Autosport. Rumors surrounding the team’s sponsorship status with primary backer IZOD began to ramp up during Round 7 of the season at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth in early June.

“All in all, it was a pretty good day,” said Hunter-Reay, who won the street race at Long Beach in mid-April. “The IZOD guys gave me a good race car, but I dug myself quite a hole when we stalled in the pits. I think we had a fourth-place car. We were definitely better than seventh, but we had to come all the way from the back after the problem with the stall. We had to be careful with fuel at the end and we actually ran out on the cool-down lap, so it was close.

“I’m just happy to know that I’m here for the whole season. It’s really special to be able to race in honor of my mom for the rest of the year and in support of ‘RacingForCancer.org.’ It’s just really cool that this whole team pulled together like this.”

Meanwhile, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves rallied for a ninth-place finish. After starting second, Castroneves suffered a flat left rear tire when he was clipped from behind by Dixon while racing for fourth place on the fourth lap. While Castroneves salvaged a top-10, he lost ground in the championship standings. The Brazilian is fifth, seven points behind Briscoe.

“I think I proved I was the fastest car on three wheels out there,” Castroneves joked. “Unfortunately, we had the flat tire _ I think it was a little impatience by the No. 9 car (of Dixon). He had a fast straight-line car and probably could have made the pass without causing that contact, but we were both able to recover and finish in the top-10.”

Canadian veteran Paul Tracy started 12th and finished 14th in the No. 24 Honda Indy Toronto car fielded by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, as he prepped for the upcoming two-race stint in his native country.

Takuma Sato, driver of the No. 5 Lotus-KV Racing Technology Dallara/Honda, was the top-finishing rookie in 15th, while Adam Carroll placed 16th in his series debut for Andretti Autosport in the No. 27 Team Boost Mobile entry.

Danica Patrick, back from a weekend of NASCAR Nationwide racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, started 21st and finished 20th in the No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com Dallara/Honda. Tony Kanaan, Patrick’s Andretti Autosport teammate, finished 21st  _ last car on the lead lap. Kanaan, driver of the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car, posted his worst result since finishing 21st at Edmonton in July 2009.

The season resumes July 16-18 with the Honda Indy Toronto street race in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Results Sunday of the sixth annual Camping World Grand Prix At The Glen IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 3.37-mile Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road-course, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

2. (3) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

3. (4) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

4. (11) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

5. (9) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

6. (20) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

7. (16) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

8. (7) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

9. (2) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

10. (6) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

11. (25) E.J. Viso, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

12. (14) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

13. (8) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

14. (12) Paul Tracy, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

15. (5) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

16. (10) Adam Carroll, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

17. (19) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

18. (23) Bertrand Baguette, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

19. (17) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

20. (21) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

21. (13) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 60, Running

22. (18) Mario Romancini, Dallara-Honda, 59, Out of Fuel

23. (24) Milka Duno, Dallara-Honda, 57, Running

24. (15) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 38, Contact

25. (22) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 22, Mechanical

Race Statistics

Time of Race: 1:40:27.4391

Winner’s average speed: 120.768

Margin of victory: 1.2181 seconds

Cautions: 2 for 5 laps

Lead changes: 5 among 4 drivers

Lap Leaders: Power 1-18, Dixon 19-28, Power 29-38, Franchitti 39, Briscoe 40-43, Power 44-60.

Point Standings: Power 327, Franchitti 295, Dixon 287, Briscoe 280, Castroneves 273, Hunter-Reay 251, Tony Kanaan 241, Wilson 211, Wheldon 211, Andretti 201.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 5 2010
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