Team Orders Are Filed In Penske’s Waste Basket
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
Barring on-track contact between the two – and that’s entirely possible – Saturday night’s season-ending MAVTV 500 figures to be a free-for-all between Team Penske’s Will Power and Helio Castroneves.
“We’re not big on ‘team orders,’ ” Roger Penske said Friday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. “Obviously we’ll see what’s out there (during the race), but at the present time (it’s) each guy for himself.”
Championship runnerup Castroneves gave his team a huge boost Friday by qualifying on-pole for the Verizon IndyCar Series event around the 2-mile/D-shaped ACS oval. The last of 22 qualifiers, Castroneves recorded a two-lap average of 218.540 mph in the No. 3 AAA Southern California Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet as track temperature reached a blistering 134 degrees.
Castroneves bagged one bonus point for the 41st pole of his career and now trails Power by 50 points entering the 250-lap finale. As the final leg of the Triple Crown series, Saturday night’s race will pay double points, and Castroneves – a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner – will need every one in order to claim his first series championship. Power will clinch his first series title with a finish of sixth or better regardless of where Castroneves finishes.
“It ain’t over; it’s just beginning,” said Castroneves, who earned his third pole of the season and third since 2003 at ACS. Fittingly, the pole broke a tie with four-time Indy 500 champion Rick Mears, now a consultant for Team Penske, for fourth all-time in Indy car history. Four-time series champion Dario Franchitti (2005) and Power (2013) are the only drivers to win at ACS from the pole position.
“Our job is to be aggressive over the 500 miles,” Castroneves said, “and finish where we started.”
Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet, qualified a season-low 21st with a two-lap
average of 212.604 mph. Meanwhile, Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports _ the third driver eligible for the championship – qualified 13th at 215.752 mph in his No. 77 Dallara/Honda. Pagenaud is 80 points behind Power.
“With the starting position, I’d rather start at the very front or the very back to stay out of trouble early-on,” said Power, winner of this event last year who struggled with his qualifying setup Friday. “It’s obviously all about the race; it’s very long and we’ll be racing in different conditions.”
Team-owner Penske, poised to win his first open-wheel title since Sam Hornish Jr.’s championship in 2006, reiterated that neither he nor team president Tim Cindric will play favorites.
“You’ve seen us race before,” said Penske, aiming for his 13th open-wheel championship since 1977 with Tom Sneva. “I don’t think there will be team orders. Obviously we use our heads, the drivers will. I think what we need to do is we need to run this race. Helio may be a little different than Will. Will has got to finish the race in good shape. Things would have to fall perfectly for Pagenaud for him to win. But to me, you never know. Obviously, anything can happen in the race.”
The original builder and owner of ACS, Penske added, “I always tell our guys if one driver wins the team wins. We got here because it was a team effort.”
Castroneves said chasing Power is the payoff for the organization’s work dating to the offseason. “The negative side is the entire work that we did this year, it’s working for both and he’s going to be your main competitor,” the native Brazilian said of Power. “I don’t see it as a negative, I see that as a positive because the way we’re working together, we were able to be better than all the rest of it. One day might be his day, one day might be my day. Hopefully, Saturday night will be my day.”
Power _ championship runnerup to Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2010 and 2011 and to Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012_ said this title scenario certainly has presented him with a unique angle.
“Yeah, I’d say this year, obviously with a teammate, you have everything he has _which can be a good or bad thing _ but it’s not the normal championship that you might have,” said Power, a native of Australia. “This has been a very good year for Penske all around, and I think the aim was for the team to win the championship this year. We’ve got two cars with a very good chance on Saturday night, and just, yeah, we’re very determined to make it happen.”
Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya recorded a two-lap average of 217.621 mph in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet to qualify second. Josef Newgarden, driver of the No. 67 Hartman Oil/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara/Honda, also qualified on the front row at 217.600 mph for the season’s second three-wide start.
The 13th Indy car race to be run at ACS will be televised live at 9 p.m. (EDT) by NBCSN (Local Cable providers, Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640/1640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network (Local affiliates, XM 209 and Sirius 213), the Verizon INDYCAR 14 App and www.indycar.com.
Series rookie Mikhail Aleshin was airlifted to Loma Linda (Calif.) University Medical Center complaining of injuries to his right shoulder and right foot after being involved in a grinding, multi-car accident during Friday’s final practice.
Aleshin, driver of the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda and the first Russian-born competitor in series history, was conscious and alert while being transported to the hospital, according to Dr. Terry Trammell, INDYCAR medical consultant.
In what rates as a worst-case scenario for INDYCAR officials, Aleshin’s car got airborne briefly aftedr contact and struck the catch-fencing before falling back onto the track.
Charlie Kimball, driver of the No. 83 Dallara/Chevrolet fielded by Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing, also was involved in the incident. Kimball was checked and released from ACS’ infield care center and cleared to drive.
The Grand Prix of Houston will not return to the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule in 2015, INDYCAR officials have confirmed. The 10-turn/1.7-mile temporary circuit at the MD Anderson Cancer Center Speedway hosted doubleheader races in each of the past two seasons, but INDYCAR and officials from the Grand Prix of Houston were unable to define a date for the 2015 event at Reliant Park.
Rookie Carlos Huertas of Dale Coyne Racing claimed the first victory of his career when he won the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Race 1 on June 28. Huertas became the 211th different winner in Indy car racing. And Frenchman Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports captured Houston Race 2 on June 29 for his second win of the season and fourth of his career.
“INDYCAR is thankful to Mike Lanigan and his team for all their hard work and for the tremendous support of the Grand Prix of Houston that we received from Shell, Pennzoil and Honda,” Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said in a statement. “We look forward to a continued relationship with Mi-Jack Promotions and will always keep our options open when it comes to an important market like Houston.”
The Grand Prix of Houston previously was part of the Indy car schedule from 1998-2001 and 2006-07. INDYCAR officials announced on Wednesday that NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La., will play host to the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on April 10-12 over a newly-configured 13-turn/2.67-mile permanent road-course.
Qualifying for the MAVTV 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event around the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis/engine, and speed:
1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara/Chevy, 218.540
2. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara/Chevy, 217.621
3. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara/Honda, 217.600
4. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara/Honda, 217.323
5. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara/Chevy, 217.057
6. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara/Chevy, 217.017
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara/Chevy, 216.857
8. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara/Honda, 216.726
9. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara/Honda, 216.305
10. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara/Honda, 216.299
11. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara/Honda, 215.898
12. (8) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara/Chevy, 215.878
13. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara/Honda, 215.752
14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara/Chevy, 215.326
15. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara/Chevy, 214.713
16. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara/Honda, 214.486
17. (98) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara/Honda, 214.173
18. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara/Honda, 214.109
19. (34) Carlos Munoz, Dallara/Honda, 213.991
20. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara/Chevy, 213.981
21. (12) Will Power, Dallara/Chevy, 212.604
22. (18) Carlos Huertas, Dallara/Honda, 202.319No Comment