Team Penske Verizon IndyCar Series Race Report
Track: Watkins Glen International
Race: INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen presented by Hitachi
Date: Sept. 4, 2016
No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Juan Pablo Montoya
Laps Completed: 60/60
Laps Led: 1
Points Position: 14th (-192)
Recap: Juan Pablo Montoya’s season of frustrating race results continued on Sunday at Watkins Glen International. The INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen started with a spin in Turn 1 on Lap 1 for Montoya as he fell back to the 20th position after starting eighth. The No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Chevy team adjusted its strategy by staying out on track during the first caution period of the day to move back to the lead pack. The two-time Indy 500 champion demonstrated enough speed to stay with eventual race winner Scott Dixon, but the rest of the race did not play out in his favor. Like many competitors late in the race, Montoya was playing a fuel strategy game that ultimately prevented any chance of contending at the finish. He had to come down pit lane with 11 laps remaining for a splash of fuel to make it to the end as he went from running seventh to 18th. Montoya closed strong to finish 13th in the running order. The race was a microcosm of Montoya’s season of what-ifs and almosts.
Quote: “It was like two different races out there today. There were times when the PPG Automotive Refinish Chevrolet was great early on, then we got shuffled back a little and fuel mileage didn’t work out for us. The goal was to make it to the end, but with the way the race played, we couldn’t and had to come in for a splash (of fuel). That’s been our luck this year.”
No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Helio Castroneves
Laps Completed: 60/60
Laps Led: 2
Points Position: 4th (-104 pts.)
Recap: Helio Castroneves rallied after his No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet needed fuel late in the race to score a third-place finish at Watkins Glen. Castroneves started the race in the fourth position and stayed inside the top five throughout the early going, but dropped back to 18th following a stop during the second caution period of the day on Lap 20. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner then started to weave his way to the front of the field and was sixth with just over 20 laps to go. Following the ensuing pit stop, Castroneves was able to beat everyone off pit lane and take the race lead for two laps before Dixon got by him on Lap 36. While running second, Castroneves had to pit with four laps remaining in order to make it to the end on fuel. After a quick stop he was able to move back up to third place at the checkered flag to claim third place and his fourth podium result of the season. Castroneves was virtually eliminated from championship contention following the race and is 104 points behind leader and teammate Simon Pagenaud. There are 104 points on the table for the finale at Sonoma Raceway on Sept. 18, but even if a strange sequence of events led to him finishing in a tie at the top with either Pagenaud or Will Power, Castroneves would fall short in the tiebreaker system. Sunday’s third-place showing represented the 93rd podium finish in Castroneves’ career.
Quote: “It was really good. The Hitachi Chevy was actually running smooth. But, unfortunately when I saw the numbers, and the way the set-up was for our car, I didn’t think we’d be able to save fuel. And I told the guys on the radio to think of another strategy because we weren’t going to be able to save enough. I’m glad they were able to pick up really quick. We bailed out right away and were able to push as hard as we could and open up enough of a gap so in the end, I guess the No. 5 and the No. 18 (cars) ended up running out of fuel, so it was a great strategy with Roger (Penske) and the Hitachi car. Now let’s keep going. I know the championship might be over, but it’s not over for Team Penske. So, now we need to focus and go win Sonoma.”
No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Will Power
Laps Completed: 38/60
Laps Led: 2
Points Position: 2nd (-43 pts.)
Recap: After narrowly missing the pole in Saturday’s qualifying and starting second in Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen, Will Power’s day ended early following a Lap 38 crash with Charlie Kimball. The result was a 20th-place finish, but Power is still in the hunt for his second Verizon IndyCar Series championship heading into the final race of the season. The Aussie sits 43 points behind leader Simon Pagenaud heading into the double-points season finale on Sept. 18 at Sonoma Raceway. Before Sunday’s accident, Power battled for the lead on the 3.37-mile New York road course and led two laps early on. Following the incident in which Kimball’s car made contact from behind and the No. 12 Verizon Chevy hit the barrier in Turn 5, Power entered INDYCAR Medical’s concussion protocol and he will be evaluated further in a few days.
Quote: “It was a disappointing end to the day. The Verizon Chevrolet was driving great. I have no idea if we had anything for (Scott) Dixon or not. We caught a bad break and mixed it up with (Charlie) Kimball a little and had no chance after that. I feel fine. The doctors tell me that we’ll do some tests in the next day or so and go from there. I don’t really have much to say beyond that.”
No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud
Laps Completed: 60/60
Laps Led: 0
Points Position: 1st (+43)
Recap: Simon Pagenaud took another step toward a Verizon IndyCar Series championship Sunday by finishing seventh in his first career series race at Watkins Glen International. Pagenaud will carry a 43-point advantage over Will Power into the season finale in two weeks as he and Power are the only two drivers with a realistic opportunity to win the title. If there was any question of Pagenaud’s claims to stay aggressive in pursuit of the championship, it was answered in the very first lap of Sunday’s race when the French driver moved from seventh to third as cars scattered in Turn 1. He raced inside the top five for much of the early going, but slid back as far as 13th following his first pit stop. Later in the race, the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevy team was looking for a strong finish with a little luck on fuel mileage, but events on the track didn’t cooperate. Once the team went into a fuel-saving mode, a top-10 finish became the goal and Pagenaud was able to deliver. Sunday marked Pagenaud’s 13th top-10 finish of the season, which include his four race victories. Power also has four wins on the year, but Pagenaud holds the tiebreaker advantage entering the finale with his three runner-up finishes to Power’s two in 2016. The two Penske drivers will battle in Sonoma to determine the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion.
Quote: “It was a pretty eventful day in the HPE Chevrolet. The last caution made it so the guys in front had to save a lot of fuel, and we didn’t save enough at the start of the stint and were very slow. We made it back in seventh and for the championship the day was very good. We collected a lot of points and we have a bit of a cushion going into Sonoma. We still have to race hard, but it’s going to be a lot more comfortable.”
Next Race: The Verizon IndyCar Series season concludes Sept. 18 with the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at California’s Sonoma Raceway. NBCSN’s live telecast begins at 6:30 p.m. ET as will coverage from the IndyCar Radio Network.