Team Penske visits Auto Club Speedway looking to secure historic 13th Indycar championship

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Will Power
Will Power

Photo by: Adriano Manocchia

Grand Finale: Team Penske enters the season finale with Will Power leading the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings by 17 points with 453 total points. Teammate Helio Castroneves is still mathematically eligible for the title in third place with 401 points and Ryan Briscoe is a mere 15 points from putting all three drivers in the top five in the standings. This marks the fifth consecutive year that Team Penske has entered the last race with at least one driver eligible to win the championship.

Charm City Surprise: On the streets of Baltimore two weeks ago, Team Penske’s Power won the pole (his second at that track) and Briscoe raced for his second consecutive win until he was passed by the second-place car on a race restart with six laps to go. The event was still a success for the Team, as Briscoe finished on the podium in second, Power avoided late contact to finish sixth and Castroneves earned a 10th-place result.

Going Four It: Power has won three consecutive poles (Mid-Ohio, Sonoma, Baltimore) coming into the race at Fontana, bringing his 2012 total to five and tying him with Dario Franchitti for eighth all-time with 29 career IndyCar poles. In addition to clinching his third consecutive Mario Andretti Road Course Championship, Power has three wins (Barber, Long Beach, Sao Paulo) on the year and his seven top-five finishes lead all series drivers. The MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championships also marks the third consecutive year Power has led the point standings entering the final race.

Successful Scenarios: Entering with a 17-point lead, Power can clinch the IZOD IndyCar Series championship with a second-place or better finish at Fontana. Once both drivers start the race and not factoring in any bonus points for the pole or most laps led, current series runner-up Ryan Hunter-Reay must finish in sixth place or higher to be mathematically eligible to win the championship, with Power finishing at least 16 points behind in Saturday night’s 500-mile race.

On A Roll: Castroneves is the only Team Penske driver with actual IndyCar race experience at Fontana. In eight races from 1998-2005, Castroneves won two poles (2003 and 2004) and finished 10th or better six times at Fontana. He has also led more laps (241) at the two-mile superspeedway than any other active IndyCar driver. Should Castroneves remain third in the championship standings after Fontana, the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion will have his best series finish since 2008, when he finished second to Scott Dixon in the title chase. A podium finish would also break Castroneves of his current tie with Dixon, as both drivers have 69 podium finishes, good for 12th all-time. Both Castroneves and Dixon have 29 career second-place finishes, which place them tied for eighth all-time.

Finishing Strong: Briscoe enters Fontana on a hot streak as the 2012 Indianapolis 500 pole winner followed up his first win of the season in Sonoma two weeks ago with a runner-up result in Baltimore, moving from ninth to sixth in the point standings. Briscoe has an average finish of seventh in the three oval races he’s completed in 2012, including a top-five result in the Indy 500 and a podium at Texas.

Return of the Yellow Suit: Castroneves will remain in the Los Angeles area after the IZOD IndyCar Series finale at Auto Club Speedway to compete in the All-Star edition of ABC-TV’s “Dancing With The Stars.” Castroneves won the Mirror Ball Trophy in 2007 with Julianne Hough and will be partnered with Chelsie Hightower in the upcoming season, which debuts on September 24.

Manufacturer’s Mastery: Team Chevy recorded another dominating effort in Baltimore as it placed seven drivers in the top 10, including the top-two positions and all three Team Penske drivers. Led by Team Penske’s combined eight poles and six race victories, Chevrolet has accounted for an impressive nine poles and 10 wins in 14 races this season. Chevy has made its triumphant return to IndyCar racing this season as it wrapped up the manufacturer’s championship at Sonoma.

Deja Vu: Going into the final race of 2012, Team Penske has matched its impressive numbers from the 2011 campaign with six wins and eight poles and all three drivers contributing in both categories. The Team could match its 2011 total of 15 podium finishes with a 1-2-3 finish on Saturday.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT THE MAVTV 500 INDYCAR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS:

Ryan Briscoe: “I’m excited to race for the first time at the Auto Club Speedway in the No. 2 IZOD car and the 500 miles could make things very interesting. Certainly the focus this week is on Will going for the championship but the IZOD guys still have a lot to go for as well. I am proud of my crew to overcome the adversity we had this year to put us in position to finish fifth this season, it really shows how hard we have worked. It has been a great year for Team Penske and Chevrolet and I want to end it with a great race.”

Helio Castroneves: “After the test last week we feel very good about what we can do with the Auto Club machine this weekend. It is going to be very competitive out there and I’m excited to see how the championship plays out over the 500 miles. Our car has felt strong all year long thanks to my crew and Chevrolet and hopefully we can finish with an awesome race.”

Will Power: “This is a big weekend for the entire Verizon crew and we are all completely focused on what we need to do to win the championship. Having been in this position before, I know that our guys are ready. I am ready. We were able to learn a lot about the track at the test last week and now it is time to put it all together. I am appreciative of the Team Penske and Chevrolet teams putting me in this position and it is our mindset to finish the race as the champion.”

Source: Team Penske

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Series INDYCAR
Article type Preview
Tags briscoe, castroneves, chevrolet, fontana, penske, power

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