IRL: Indy 500: Team Penske preview

More than meets the eye. With the 86th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race less than a month away, Marlboro Team Penske has already been hard at work preparing to defend its title at the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing." While the race will take place at...

More than meets the eye.

With the 86th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race less than a month away, Marlboro Team Penske has already been hard at work preparing to defend its title at the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing." While the race will take place at the end of May, you can be sure that Marlboro Team Penske will be working hard throughout the entire month to make sure the identical red and white Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolets are ready to go when the green flag drops on May 26th. One of the keys to success at Indy is preparation and Marlboro Team Penske has been preparing for this year's race since Helio Castroneves took the checkered flag last May.

Beginning this Wednesday, May 1st Marlboro Team Penske will be on-site at the Brickyard working from the garages at the track. Led by Jerry Breon, Facilities Manager, Penske Racing Inc., three members of the Penske Racing staff will head to Indianapolis to begin setting up the Marlboro Team Penske garages at the track before the rest of the Team arrives on May 3rd. The transporters with the race cars and equipment will leave the race shop in Reading, PA on the morning of May 2nd and arrive at the Speedway later that evening. While the facilities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will not be open for practice until the afternoon of Sunday, May 5th, Marlboro Team Penske will have a lot to do to create a suitable working environment for the entire month of May. Since the Team will be occupying the garages at IMS from May 1st until the day after the race, there are a lot more things that must be done than when the Team embarks on a typical race weekend.

Once Breon and his advance Team reach the track, the first thing they will do is make the garages feel as much like Marlboro Team Penske's Reading race shop as possible. There will be office furniture in the garage so that the engineers and race staff will be able to conduct meetings each day after practice. Special dressing rooms for the drivers will be assembled in the work area as well. In addition, each garage will have a chassis set-up pad constructed in the work area rather than out by the transporters like they are during a typical race weekend. The goal is to have the most effective workspace possible, since Indianapolis will be Marlboro Team Penske's home for the next 27 days.

By the time the track opens for practice this coming Sunday afternoon, Marlboro Team Penske will already have a perfectly functioning garage area and will have been working on the cars and taking them through the various stages of technical inspection during the previous two days.

While those two days will provide the Team with a head start on the month's testing, what will really be helpful is the data taken from the Team's test session at IMS earlier this month.

The Team has created a library of data in order to make sure that they know how changes in the track and weather conditions affect the cars. Since the Team tested at the facility under several different weather conditions, they are prepared for whatever may happen during the month of May. In addition, the Team has had the opportunity to test on the new grooved track surface. While each day of practice will vary, the Team has data which covers a myriad of different weather and track conditions, so they will extrapolate the data that they have acquired and apply it to each given day of practice.

During the time between May 5th and Pole Day on May 11th, the Team will be working hard to find an effective qualifying set-up. Those six days, along with the data from the tests, will provide the Team with valuable information for when the time comes to qualify on Saturday, May 11th. The Team will use every possible hour preparing for qualification up until the order is drawn on Friday, May 10th at 6:00 p.m.

Once the cars have been qualified, Marlboro Team Penske will use the remaining practice days to fine-tune the race set-up of the cars, for the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

While most fans will only come to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on race day, you can be sure that Marlboro Team Penske has been working throughout the entire month in hopes of repeating its 1-2 finish the Team earned just one year ago.

The importance of preparation for Indianapolis

"Not a lot of people give enough credit to the word preparation. In my mind, preparation is everything. It is the foundation of success. The only way to be consistently successful is to be consistently well-prepared," said Two-time National Champion Gil de Ferran. " The Indianapolis 500 is such a complex event that it makes matters much more intricate and being prepared that much more important. The ability to see the month of May as a whole and to prepare accordingly is key.

As far as I'm concerned, my own preparation includes staying abreast of what the Team is tackling during the month, and contributing to the planning and scheduling. I've used the time since the last race (Nazareth, 4/21) to make sure that I'm in the best possible shape heading into May."

According to defending Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, "You need to be as well prepared as possible at Indy because you are running for 500 miles which is about 3 ½ hours with 6-7 pits stops and anything can happen. In last year's race it even rained and we had to stop the race so it's vital that the Team is prepared for any possible track condition or situation."

Tim Cindric on the team's outlook for Indianapolis

"As we say, last year was last year. Every year at Indianapolis brings a whole new set of circumstances and this year we even have a new track surface to contend with, as the track has been grooved since we won there last May," said Tim Cindric, President of Penske Racing, Inc. "Indianapolis tends to bring out the best and sometimes the worst in everybody. We need to remain focused and stay positive throughout the month to be successful."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske