Inaugural Excellence: Will Power led 70 of a possible 75 laps to win the inaugural Grand Prix of Baltimore from the pole in 2011. In doing so, the Verizon Team Penske driver established course records for both fastest qualifying lap (91.520 mph) and fastest race lap (90.001 mph). Teammate Ryan Briscoe qualified third and finished 14th last season while Helio Castroneves started 28th and ended his tough day in 17th place.
Sonoma Success: Team Penske is coming off a dominating weekend in Sonoma where Power and Briscoe continued their success at the 2.31 mile road course. Race winner Briscoe and runner-up Power combined to lead 84 of 85 laps, ran first and second for 82 laps, and secured Team Penske’s third 1-2 finish since 2008. The weekend also saw Power win his third consecutive pole at Sonoma while Helio Castroneves started the race fourth and finished sixth, his sixth top-10 finish at the track in eight races.
Three for the Road: As he took full advantage of his 100th career IndyCar start, Power clinched his third consecutive Mario Andretti Road Course Championship in Sonoma as he continues to be the only driver to ever win the award.
Championship Within Reach: Power can clinch the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Championship by finishing Sunday’s race in Baltimore with a 54-point lead over the competition. This would eliminate any potential ties in the standings and account for any unforeseen event leading to Power not starting the season’s final race at Fontana. In order to produce a 54-point cushion, Power will need to finish 18 points better than second-place driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, 13 points better than his teammate Castroneves and ahead of the other five drivers still mathematically eligible for the championship.
On A Roll: Since his disappointing finish at Belle Isle due to a late spin-out in June, Castroneves began an impressive streak of earning top-10 finishes in six of the next seven races, including a victory at Edmonton. The three-time IndyCar champion is currently five points out of second place in the standings and he enters the Baltimore race tied with Scott Dixon for eighth all-time in second place finishes (29) and 12th all-time in podium results (69).
Back On Top: Briscoe’s victory at Sonoma was his seventh career win (at seven different circuits) and first since Texas in 2010. With the win, Briscoe passed Dario Franchitti for eighth in the standings with 317 points and he is still mathematically eligible for the Championship. Briscoe has now led at least one lap in eight of 13 races in 2012 and will look to continue his success at Baltimore, where he was a race leader in 2011.
Numbers of Note: Power’s pole win at Sonoma was the 28th of his career, breaking his tie with Al Unser and placing him ninth on the all-time IndyCar list. Castroneves’ 27 career victories place him two behind his mentor and Team Penske legend Rick Mears for the most wins all-time at Penske Racing. His next win would give him sole possession of 11th place on the IndyCar all-time list, breaking his current tie with Johnny Rutherford.
Manufacturer’s Mastery: With Briscoe’s win at Sonoma, Chevrolet clinched the 2012 Manufacturer’s Trophy in its highly successful return to open-wheel racing. Team Chevy placed six drivers in the top-10 at Sonoma, including all three Team Penske drivers. Led by Team Penske’s combined seven poles and six race victories, Chevrolet has accounted for an impressive eight poles and nine wins in 13 races this season.
Team Tally: With two races remaining, Team Penske has already posted comparable numbers from its 2011 campaign. The six wins in 2012 match the total from 2011, while the team is one off its 2011 total of eight poles with seven so far in 2012 and four behind its 2011 total of 15 podium finishes.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT THE GRAND PRIX OF BALTIMORE:
Ryan Briscoe: “I’m excited to be returning to Baltimore, it was a very challenging course last year and with the changes they are making we’ll have to see how things play out this year. Last year were having a strong run after qualifying fourth so we will try and pick up from what we learned there last year. It was great getting the win at Sonoma last week and clinching the (Manufacturer’s) Trophy for Chevy. We are still focused on getting wins and hopefully we get another this week.”
Helio Castroneves: “I was really impressed with how great the Baltimore fans were last year and I am looking forward to driving the Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet machine there again this year. Certainly we are still in the middle of the championship hunt so we need to have a good points weekend to start closing the gap.”
Will Power: “We will go into this week just as we do every week and that is to get a win for the Verizon team. We would obviously like to repeat last year’s success and once we get some practice time we will be able to see how the new changes affect the way we attack the track. Hopefully we can follow up last week’s great wins for both Team Penske and Team Chevy with another one this week.”
Source: Team Penske