FORT WORTH, Tex. (June 9, 2012) – Ryan Briscoe’s third-place finish led Team Penske’s solid showing Saturday night in the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS).
All three of the team’s drivers finished among the top eight after running near the front for much of the race, including laps 186-194 which saw the three Team Penske cars running 1-2-3. Helio Castroneves finished seventh on the night, while Will Power wound up eighth as he maintained his lead in the series championship standings.
The race was the first that featured a new formula designed to eliminate pack racing at high-banked superspeedways. The result was a more spread-out field, with drivers lifting off the throttle through the corners while driving loose race cars.
Briscoe, who started 10th in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske car, ran among the top-10 for most of the race, which was the first on a 1.5-mile oval with the new Chevrolet/Dallara package. The result was a podium finish for Briscoe, to mark his third third-place and his fifth podium finish overall at TMS.
“All the drivers put their heads together and said, ‘We’re going to run with less downforce,’” said Briscoe. “We knew it was going to be hard. I thought it was a good result for the Hitachi team. (The formula) spread the field out, and you had to have a good-handling car. I had the track position at the end but, unfortunately, just didn’t have a good enough car to get to the front.”
Castroneves, who struggled in qualifying and started 15th in the 25-car field, also raced among the leaders before finishing seventh in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. The three-time winner at TMS fought hard most of the race to register the top-10 effort. . “What a race, the AAA machine was great,” said Castroneves. “We passed a lot of cars and were able to drive through the field. Unfortunately we had a lot of vibration and lost a lot of rear-wheel grip towards the end, we just couldn’t hold the top three and finished seventh. It’s upsetting because when you have a set up like that…it really gives you a great opportunity. But I will take seventh with a big smile on my face because I’ve crashed many times out there and so I’m happy we were able to finish in the top 10.”
Power’s No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car was leading the race when he was penalized for blocking Tony Kanaan’s car with 34 laps remaining. After leading 24 consecutive laps, Power served a drive-through penalty but rallied to finish in eighth place.
“Tony (Kanaan) took me by surprise and I feel bad for him because I ruined his day,” said Power of the incident. “We had one of the best cars out there, but I have to say this is the best racing I’ve ever had on an oval. You had to lift, you had to look after your tires, you had to really drive the thing – it was moving around. That is just the sort of racing that we need at these sort of tracks. I feel bad for the Verizon guys. I feel as though we could have quite easily won this race.”
Justin Wilson won the race after Graham Rahal hit the wall while leading with two laps remaining. Rahal held on to finish second.
Power continues to lead the IZOD IndyCar Series championship after seven races in the 2012 season with 256 points. Teammate Castroneves is 53 points behind in fourth place with 203 points and Briscoe remains in eighth, now with 177 points.