UNTIMELY CAUTION FLAG PREVENTS SOLID FINISHES FOR TEAM PENSKE AT MID-OHIO
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 7, 2011) – All three Team Penske drivers encountered bad luck Sunday during a disappointing Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Two of the team's drivers – Will Power and Ryan Briscoe – were racing among the leaders when they were caught out on track by a yellow caution flag. They were forced to surrender their first- and second-place positions to pit under caution and they eventually finished deeper in the field than they should have – Power came home 14th in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda and Briscoe crossed the line 16th in the No. 6 Penske Truck Rental car. It marked the first time in the last five races at Mid-Ohio that a Team Penske car did not finish among the top three at the 2.26-mile road course.
Meanwhile, Helio Castroneves, who was forced to pit early in the race to repair damage after two cars made contact and struck the No. 3 Penske Truck Rental machine, finished 19th on Sunday.
The disappointing ending to the day was most damaging to Power, who fell further behind Dario Franchitti in the chase for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship. Power entered Mid-Ohio in second place in the standings, 38 points off the lead, but after Sunday’s race he stood 62 markers behind the leader, following Franchitti’s second–place finish.
“Today was tough,” said Power, who started the race in fourth place but suffered his worst result in three starts at Mid-Ohio. “The Verizon car was fast even while I was saving fuel. We were making great fuel mileage and we were going to go a lap or two longer than the leaders on the second stop, which would have put us in great position to challenge for the race lead in the last stint. Basically, today we suffered for doing a great job of driving a smart race. I have to thank the Verizon crew. They gave me great pit stops today we just got caught out by that last yellow flag.”
Briscoe fell from sixth to seventh in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings. He started the race on the front row and held on to second place during the first stint until a problem during his first pit stop dropped him to seventh in the running order. He battled back and was running in the top three when he and Power were caught out by the untimely full-course caution on lap 57. Both drivers were trying to stretch their fuel windows and were preparing to make their respective pit stops when the cars of Danica Patrick and Graham Rahal made contact in Turn 2 to bring out the caution flag.
“We were just really unlucky today,” said Briscoe, the 2008 winner at Mid-Ohio. “In the first stint the Penske Truck Rental car was able to stay with (race winner Scott) Dixon, we were saving fuel and we were pretty comfortable. We had trouble with a tire change on our first pit stop, which hurt us, but we were still in good shape. We did a good job saving fuel – I think Will and I were able to go farther than everyone else – but we just got caught out by the yellow flag. In the end, that’s what really hurt us. It’s just really frustrating. We had a great car today – a winning car – but we just caught a tough break.” Castroneves, who had a tough qualifying result on Saturday but appeared to have a strong car once the green flag flew on Sunday, said the finish was tough to take.
“I’m just very frustrated,” said Castroneves, who remained ninth in the series standings after Sunday’s result. “We worked hard all weekend and we finally got the Penske Truck Rental No. 3 car where we wanted it. But the double-file restarts hurt me again. I try to stay away from trouble but somehow trouble seems to find me. Somebody touched the No. 4 car (J.R. Hildebrand) and he lost control and hit me and we needed to come in and change our front wing. That really did us in for the race. I feel really bad for my guys. To work so hard and finish 19th is really tough.”