After the second/final round of green-flag pit stops in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, it was apparent that Will Power would have to make a major mistake to relinquish the lead in the 75-lap race at Infineon Raceway.
Fortunately for Team Penske, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe were running second and third if that opportunity arose. Power maintained control as he had throughout, which made clearer the roles of his teammates – remain in front of IZOD IndyCar Series championship points leader Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
“We sort of got to a point in the race where my focus was just to hold off Dario and bring home this 1-2-3, especially on that last restart,” Briscoe said. “There was no point in trying to risk anything to make a position. My focus was entirely on keeping the Ganassi cars behind me.”
Power sliced 21 points off Franchitti’s advantage and trails by 26 heading to the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix this weekend. There are four races remaining – two each on 1.5-mile ovals and road/street courses.
“Like I said before the race, if we could finish how we started it would be a perfect weekend,” said Power, who cashed in his sixth PEAK Performance Pole Award for his series-leading fifth victory of the season. “Now we have a legitimate shot at the championship. Two more road courses, two more ovals, we can get this.
“Great momentum for the team, and I’m just really happy for the team effort overall. To have a 1-2-3 is something we've been working hard on for the last two years and we finally got it.”
It was the first time Team Penske had a 1-2-3 finish since Nazareth in 1994 (Paul Tracy, Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi), and the eighth overall. The last time a team swept the podium in IZOD IndyCar Series competition was 2005 at St. Petersburg by then-Andretti Green Racing.
Over the seven events at Infineon Raceway, Team Penske has accumulated 12 top-five finishes (including back-to-back two victories by Power and one by Castroneves in ’08).
“This weekend was about the team doing a great job,” said Castroneves, whose two season-high runner-up finishes have been logged behind Power. “It's very rare to have been starting 1-2-3 and finishing 1-2-3. All of us have been working really well together. The results showed up.
“For me, the race, it was great. I definitely knew Will was a little bit faster, especially from the (field-topping) warm-up. I noticed what he was capable of. Will saved enough 'push to pass' in the end so I couldn't do much.”
Power tested for the group a week earlier on the 2.303-mile, 12-turn course, joining 19 other drivers. Items on the team’s list applied to all three cars, which were used to derive the baseline set-ups.
“We all sort of made variations of changes on the mechanical balance of our cars,” said Briscoe, who also tied his season-high finish. “But at this track, we're really able to help each other a lot.
“The other big part is how we push each other, just looking at speed tracings, cornering. Having three cars, as competitive as we all are, we're pushing each other so hard, learning from each other, trying to get ourselves a step ahead of the rest.”
For the immediate future, that’s especially true of Franchitti.