Baltimore, Md. – Ryan Briscoe recorded his second consecutive podium finish and Will Power maintained his lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship Sunday with a sixth-place result as all three Team Penske drivers finished inside the top-10 at the Grand Prix of Baltimore.
Briscoe’s second-place result was not without controversy as a questionable restart late in the race gave the lead to Ryan Hunter-Reay, Power’s closest challenger in the championship battle. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves also remained alive in the title chase as he finished in 10th place.
But it was Power’s sixth-place effort in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet that was the story of the day for Team Penske. Power now leads Hunter-Reay by 17 points heading into the 2012 IndyCar season finale Sept. 15 at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway oval in Fontana, Calif.
As he attempted to win from the pole at Baltimore for the second consecutive season, Power paced the first 18 laps of the race. After light rain hit the circuit, Power and the team made the switch to rain tires and the No. 12 Verizon car fell back in the running order after pitting to return to slick tires when the track began to dry out.
Still Power kept coming up through the field and looked to be in position to secure a top-five finish before Rubens Barrichello edged the Penske driver for fifth place after the final race restart.
“It was a tough day and some tough calls (between wet and dry track conditions) for the Verizon team,” said Power, who earned two bonus points for leading the most laps in the race (22). “I knew it could be a day like this. It never comes easy, ever. We will keep fighting.”
Briscoe, who had led the 11 previous laps, was unhappy after Hunter-Reay accelerated past his No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet during a late restart, which cost the Australian racer the lead. Briscoe and his teammates felt Hunter-Reay accelerated before the green flag, as Briscoe fell to fourth before he battled back for the runner-up finish
"It was a tough race today,” said Briscoe, who moved up to sixth in the IZOD IndyCar Championship standings with 354 points. “Really mixed conditions with the rain and everything. Strong finish, the PPG car was fast, even saving fuel that whole final stint, the car was really fast. I'm really proud of the whole team, my engineer, everybody, for giving me the whole car to race today.
Bit of frustrating end there on that final restart, they waved the green and we weren't even lined up yet, it was a little bit unfair. But Hunter-Reay did a great job today, and I'm just really proud of my whole team. And Roger (Penske) pulled off one of those strategies today and it worked for us.”
Castroneves battled the wet and dry conditions that confounded teams throughout much of the early laps of the race, but he managed his11th top-10 finish of the year in the No. 3 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Chevrolet. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner remains in third place and is still mathematically eligible for the Championship, now with 401 points – 52 behind Power.
“It was a long day, but man did the Penske Truck Rental guys work hard out there,” said Castroneves. “Once the track dried out we were able to move up but things just didn’t work out in the end. We had a front wing that broke and that could have really messed up the day, but fortunately my guys were able to make a quick change and get back into the race.
It’s still a good feeling to know that we have a chance for the championship going into the last race so we are going to give it everything we have.”
While Power saw his championship lead shrink by 20 points over Hunter-Reay, he still carries a healthy separation into the season finale in two weeks. Power finished second the previous two drivers’ championships, both of which came down to the final race of the season.
However, the 2012 Mario Andretti Road Course Champion is earning valuable results at the right time, with three podium results and Sunday’s sixth place finish in his last four starts.
“We’ve just got to do our best and do everything right (at Fontana),” said Power. “I’m used to it every year. We just have to work like a dog to the end. That’s normal. We’ll come out swinging.”
Source: Penske Racing