Team Penske Out To Show It Can Still Win Indy

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 22 2015
Roger Penske has tasted milk for six years. (INDYCAR/LAT USA)

Roger Penske hasn’t tasted milk for six years. (INDYCAR/LAT USA)

Mike Harris | Senior Writer

INDIANAPOLIS – It’s been six years since Roger Penske last visited Victory Circle at the Indianapolis 500.

That must seem like an eternity to a guy who has won the biggest race in the world 15 times bugindy500since Mark Donohue gave Penske his first victory here in 1972.

But the 78-year-old Penske is philosophical about the recent victory drought.

`We’ve won a lot, but we also know that this place is not easy,’’ Penske said. “You don’t just show up and win. It takes a tremendous amount of work and preparation.

“Sometimes the breaks just go against you. But we come here every year thinking we can win the race, and this year is no exception,’’ he added. “We think we have four drivers here capable of winning the race if we do everything right, make the fewest mistakes out there.’’

The Penske team goes into Sunday’s 99th running of the 500-mile race with reigning Verizon IndyCar champion Will Power, three-time 500 winner Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the race for Chip Ganassi in 2000, and newcomer Simon Pagenaud as its drivers.

Montoya, the current series points leader, likes the team’s chances because each of the drivers brings pluses to the table.

“Everybody brings a little bit of something to the team,’’ Montoya explained.

“Will is pure speed, Helio has the experience, me, I bring determination, and Simon is methodical. I spend 40 minutes with my engineer and I’m done. I see everything I need to see. Simon can spend three hours going over every possible number.’’

Montoya, a former CART series champion, left open-wheel racing to compete in Formula One for six years and then NASCAR for nine years before joining Team Penske last year.

Despite not having driven an IndyCar at the speedway for 14 years, Montoya finished fifth in last year’s 500. But he said the competition is different now than when he won here as a rookie.

“It’s harder because you can’t drive away from anybody now,’’ the Colombian driver noted. “That means it’s anybody’s race on Sunday. I think there’s eight to 10 cars that can win this race. But being in a Penske car can give you an advantage because this team is all about preparation, every detail.’’

Castroneves, who last won here in 2009, is still hoping to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears as four-time 500 winners.

“We know how to win here,’’ Castroneves said. “Sometimes, you have the car to win and not the strategy. Sometimes you have the car and the strategy but not the luck. You need all three at this place.

“But we have four really good cars and drivers this year and maybe we can finish 1-2-3-4 – with me winning, of c ourse.’’

Power has been the fastest of the quartet this month. He will start in the middle of the front row of the 33-car field, between pole-winner Scott Dixon and Pagenaud. Castroneves will be in the middle of the second row and Montoya on the outside of row five.

“I like our chances,’’ Power said. “The winner usually comes from the first three rows and we’ve got three cars up there. And, of course, Juan can get up front in a hurry.’’

Pagenaud will be running his fourth Indy 500 and, so far, he has finished every lap, finishing 16th in 2012, eighth in 2013 and 12th last year.

But this is the first time the 31-year-old Frenchman, the youngest and least experienced of the Penske drivers, has been with one of the elite teams.

“Roger is very detail oriented, and the resources as unlimited,’’ Pagenaud said. “My confidence level is at a completely different place. This is the first time on an oval that I’ve got the same mindset as on a road course – a winner’s mindset.

“And, with Team Penske, everything is done to win races.’’

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 22 2015
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