Team Penske Verizon IndyCar Series Race Report – Barber

 Verizon IndyCar Series Race Report
Track: Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala. (2.3-mile, 17-turn road course)
Race: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
Date: April 26, 2015
No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Will Power
Start:  2
Finish: 4
Status: Running
Laps Completed:  90/90
Laps Led:  0
Points Position (points behind leader):  5th (-24)

Recap: Will Power battled back from an early penalty for a solid fourth-place finish in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park. Drivers got through the opening laps without major incidents, but there were minor ones that resulted in reviews by Verizon IndyCar Series officials. Power was warned about blocking his teammate, Simon Pagenaud, on the first lap of the race. Then the series champion was penalized on Lap 26 for avoidable contact when his car struck Takuma Sato’s car as Power exited the pits. That penalty dropped him to last in the 23-car field. Power then rallied with a marvelous drive and timely strategy to finish fourth, his sixth top-five finish in the six races contested at Barber.

Power Quote:  “I’m proud of the Verizon Chevy Team today. For me to come back from the back after the penalty and finish P4 was a great job by our team.  I feel bad for what happened with Sato. I didn’t see him, which was unfortunate. I think the race as a whole in Barber was the best all year so far.  At this point we will look to Indy for a win.”

No. 2 Hawk Performance Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Juan Pablo Montoya
Start:  18
Finish: 14
Status: Running
Laps Completed:  90/90
Laps Led:  1
Points Position:  First

Recap: Juan Pablo Montoya dropped to the back of the field early in the Grand Prix of Alabama after a penalty for avoidable contact on Lap 26 before returning to the pits two laps later to change the front wing on his car. The trip down pit road dropped him to last place in the running order when he returned to the racing surface. He used pit strategy and speed to move his way back through the field, but he wasn’t able to consistently run with the race leaders. Sunday’s result marked his first outside of the top five this season. Montoya, however, maintained his points lead in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, now just three points ahead of Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves.

Montoya Quote:  “We had a long day with the No. 2 Hawk Performance Chevy. We started with a bad qualifying effort, but we seemed to be in an okay position to dig ourselves out of the hole at one point. We were racing with (Ryan) Hunter-Reay and he finished fifth. It’s hard to race with some of the guys in the back of the pack. They are young and sometimes make moves like you aren’t even there when you are right beside them. So we ended up with two broken wings and a 14th-place finish.”

No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Helio Castroneves

Start:  1
Finish: 15
Status: Running
Laps Completed:  90/90
Laps Led:  18
Points Position (points behind leader):  2nd (-3)
Recap: Helio Castroneves started from the pole position and led the first 18 laps of the race, but lost the lead to Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud and later to eventual winner Josef Newgarden, on pit road. Despite having slight handling issues over the course of the race, Castroneves was able to maintain his position at the front of the field as the leaders began making their final pit stops of the day at lap 62. Unfortunately, Newgarden and Scott Dixon were able to stretch their fuel mileage a bit further on that round of pit stops, allowing them to stay in front of Castroneves over the final laps of the race and eventually the three-time Indy 500 winner had to come back to pit road with one lap remaining for a splash of fuel to make it to the end as he fell from fourth to 15th at the checkered flag.
Castroneves Quote:  “Not the finish we hoped for the AAA Insurance Chevrolet. There was just a bit of miscommunication on our fuel number that, unfortunately, caused us to have to pit with one lap left. You never want to see the white flag on pit road. We were basically on the same strategy with Newgarden and Dixon, but they were able to pit a lap or two later than we were and that gave them a better fuel number to meet. Unfortunately that caused us to come up short. I hate it because the AAA guys gave me another car that could’ve easily won the race, but it was a crazy race out there today.”

No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud

Start:  3
Finish: 9
Status: Running
Laps Completed:  90/90
Laps Led:  3
Points Position (points behind leader):  9th (-40)

Recap: Pagenaud held steady for another top-10 finish in the young Verizon IndyCar Series season. The Team Penske newcomer was involved in some early-race drama with teammate, Will Power, as several of the top qualifiers bunched together upon entry into the first turn, which resulted in a blocking warning to Power from race control. Pagenaud led three laps of the 90-lap race and battled gamely in the late stages for his third top-10 finish of 2015. He took the lead from Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves on Lap 19 and held it through Lap 21, when he pitted and surrendered the lead to eventual winner Josef Newgarden.

Pagenaud Quote:  “We had plenty of pace in the Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet. Plenty. Plenty. We would have challenged for the win. In the first stint when we got by Will (Power) we were looking really strong coming up on Helio (Castroneves) and (Josef) Newgarden. It was a little bit of a shame. We just got unlucky with the yellow (flag) there. From then on we had to be really aggressive and attack and pass people, which we did. That was fun from that part; I’m happy with my driving. But, I feel like we had a much better car than the result we actually had, but there are always some outside factors you can’t control. Congratulations to Newgarden on his first win. He deserves it. He has been knocking on the door for a long time. I’m really happy for him.”