INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 27, 2012) – Team Penske placed two of its drivers in the top 10 Sunday during an Indianapolis 500 that had team expectations as high as the near record temperatures.
Ryan Briscoe started from the pole position and fought hard to come back from mid-race issues to finish in fifth place while Helio Castroneves experienced similar troubles midway through the 500-mile race on the way to a 10th-place finish. Will Power unfortunately was caught in a bad position early on as Mike Conway lost control of his car in front of Power and he finished a disappointing 28th after the contact.
“I had a pretty good car,” said Briscoe, who charged back into the battle among the race leaders during the closing stage and led 15 total laps in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. “I was driving a lot in traffic. We were probably running a little bit less downforce than the Ganassi cars, but man, they were fast. I had a good race car. In the second-to-last pit stop, I made up a few positions and certainly got ourselves back in the game with the IZOD car.”
Castroneves fought handling issues at times with the No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet after starting sixth. The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion fought a tight-handling condition for part of the race and also overcame some slight damage from an errant tire, as a result of Conway’s contact, that hit his front right tire.
“The Shell Pennzoil car was a very good car – a comfortable car,” said Castroneves. “But unfortunately, going to the next phase, I couldn’t do it, especially on the restarts. First we chose the wrong lane, or then it would not get the draft. It was very weird. We tried high downforce, but certainly it was not what we were expecting.”
Power’s day came to a premature end when Conway’s compromised car spun in front of him and crashed into the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske machine on lap 80. The winner of the last three consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series races spent the early part of the race in the top 10 and was running eighth at the time of the incident.
“I’m just disappointed for the Verizon guys,” said Power after being checked and released at the infield care center. “All the work they put in this month, and just to be taken out like that. It’s tough. We’ll move on and look forward to next week in Detroit.”
Despite the result, Power still leads the IZOD IndyCar Series standings with 200 points and he carries a 36-point lead over second-place Castroneves in the championship chase. Briscoe currently sits in eighth place with 128 points.
The race, won by Dario Franchitti, had a record 34 lead changes among 10 drivers. It tied for the second-hottest Indy 500 on record with a high temperature of 91 degrees, nearly matching the record of 92 set in 1937.
“It was a long and hot day,” said Briscoe, who equaled his best Indy 500 finish from 2007 and is now eighth in the series standings. “It was pretty tiring out there. I’m a bit upset. I really wanted to win this, and we had a good shot at it. Hopefully we can come back next year and try again.”