Penske drivers rue missed chances

Team Penske-Chevrolet’s four drivers were left licking their wounds after strategic misfortune, a mechanical problem and a pitlane blunder ruined their chance to win in Roger Penske’s home race.

Penske drivers rue missed chances
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet
Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske Chevrolet
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet
Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske Chevrolet pit action
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Start: Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet leads
Start: Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet leads
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet, helmet
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Podium: race winner Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, second place Conor Daly, Dale Coyne Racing Honda, third place Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske Chevrolet

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon was the only driver who appeared to have the outright pace to match the Penske quartet in the first race of the Dual in Detroit, and at one point the Penske cars ran 1-2-3-4. However, Juan Pablo Montoya went on to become the highest finisher for The Captain with a third place.

Behind him, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud were forced by strategy to cruise home watching their fuel mileage, with the result that Castroneves made it to fifth running on fumes, whereas Pagenaud fell to 13th on the final lap.

Meanwhile, Power fought through to the front, but after being let down from his jack too early during a pitstop under caution, his right-rear wheel wasn’t on tight enough by the time he was waved out of his pitstall. That sent his gearbox into paroxysms and forced him to abandon his car in the Turn 3 runoff area as the wheelnut was lost.

The Aussie said: “The Verizon Chevy was great today. We started in ninth and were able to quickly gain ground and get up front. The car was really fast and felt very comfortable.

“Then we had that pit stop and problem with the wheel. You can't do much about it. My crew is the best; it was just one of those things. We'll regroup and give it another go tomorrow."

Montoya said that his pitstop strategy was compromised by the threat of rain, as race engineer Brian Campe naturally didn’t want his driver to stop for fuel and fresh slicks and then have to stop again for wet (grooved) tires.

Said the Colombian: "Where we missed it was when we were trying to save fuel when we were leading to try to make it to the rain, but the rain never happened. It was the right move if you were looking at the radar. We had good pace and everyone at Verizon and Chevy and Team Penske have done an amazing job.

“We had a boost problem at the end. If we didn't have that I think we would have won it anyway."

Castroneves was the only one of the Penske drivers not to lead the race, but was the lead Penske driver for a while. He commented: “I have to say the Hitachi Chevrolet was fantastic and ran really well and we were in great position to win.

“On the other side, we had to save fuel for about 30 laps. But if we look at the positive side, we've gained a lot of points in championship (now second) and that's very good for Team Penske. We will go back tomorrow and look for better results."

Championship leader Pagenaud was equally pleased with his car, the #22 leading the first 23 laps having been the only car to successfully nurse the soft red tires in the opening stint, pulling away from Castroneves who rapidly lost grip from lap 15 onward.

The Frenchman was then able to hit the front again as Montoya squeezed Power at Turn 3 as they dueled for the lead, which slowed the pair of them and left the inside lane clear for Pagenaud to pounce.

“We were running strong all day in the front,” said Pagenaud, “but it ended up being a fuel strategy race. We needed a load of fuel to make it at the end, but unfortunately there wasn't much we could have done. If we came in, it probably would have been the same [result].

“The crew did a fantastic job. It just didn't work out for us."

Pagenaud leads the points standings by 59 points, now ahead of Castroneves in second. St. Petersburg winner Montoya is sixth, 90 points from top spot, while Power is 12th.

 

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