Team Penske to start 1-2-3 at Watkins Glen
Team Penske scored a 1-2-3 sweep of qualifying Saturday for the Camping World Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International. And, on the strength of Will Power’s pole-winning effort, the team tied a long-standing open-wheel record with its eighth consecutive pole position.
Power posted the fastest lap of the day – 1:29.3164 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda – around the 3.37-mile, 11-turn road course. Extending its IZOD IndyCar Series record for consecutive team poles, Power’s effort tied the all-time open-wheel racing record for consecutive poles shared by Team Penske (Rick Mears and Danny Sullivan over two seasons) and All-American Racers (Bobby Unser over two seasons). Team Penske will have a chance to extend the streak on July 17 in qualifying at the Toronto street circuit.
“This is incredible,” said Power. “When you have the combination of drivers, engineers and crew guys that we’ve got, you can expect things like this to happen.”
Saturday’s result also marked the sixth consecutive season that Team Penske has been awarded the pole at Watkins Glen (Castroneves started from the top position in 2006 when the starting grid was based on practice times). Unfortunately, the team is still searching for its first win at The Glen during the remarkable run.
Following Power on the grid will be Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe. Castroneves recorded a lap of 1:29.4609 in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, while Briscoe clocked the third-fastest time – 1:29.9346 – in the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda.
Castroneves credited his teammates, Penske Racing president Tim Cindric and his race engineer Ron Ruzewski with the result, and noted that the chemistry inside the team is tailored for success.
“This is a heck of a team,” said Castroneves. “Credit goes to Cindric and Will and Ryan. We’re all working together very well, and it shows. Certainly the competition is pushing us, but we’re able to do it. Everybody is on the same page. It’s a great atmosphere. We all want to win, but at the end of the day, as Roger (Penske) always says, ‘Only the team wins.’”
Briscoe, who won the previous two pole positions for the team at Watkins Glen, was excited to be a part of the team’s qualifying sweep – the first time Team Penske secured the top three spots in qualifying since last year’s race at Edmonton when Power won the pole followed by Briscoe and Castroneves.
“That was a really great result for Team Penske - qualifying 1-2-3 is awesome,” said Briscoe. “The balance was off just a tick on my car and I had to use up some of my tire allotment to make it into the fast six. I feel really good about the team's performance today and we have three strong cars for the race tomorrow.”
Cindric, who also serves as Castroneves’ race strategist, said he’s pleased with the team’s performance in qualifying in IZOD IndyCar Series events this season and at Watkins Glen, but would much rather see a streak of race wins.
“It’s a good testament to the team,” said Cindric. “But with all of those poles here, we still haven’t managed to win a race at this track. We’d trade it all to get a win tomorrow. The pole streak is great, but we need to start a winning streak.”
For Power, Saturday’s pole position was his fifth of the season and another point for his series-leading total. He now leads Scott Dixon by 12 points in the standings. “I was definitely a little bit rusty around this place at the beginning of the weekend, but my engineer and I came up with a good car at the end," said Power. " I was able to turn a lap in the second segment (of qualifying) that was fast and we were able to save a set of red (tires) and that really helped us in the last session. Another pole for Team Penske - eight in a row is pretty good.”
Television coverage of Sunday’s Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen will start at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC-TV.
The results from Group 1 and Group 2 of Round 1 Qualifying - All 12 advanced o Round 2
The results from Round 2 Qualifying - Top 6 advanced to Final round qualifying
Final Fast 6 Qualifying
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, pole): "Yeah, it's awesome to have the Verizon car on pole again. We're certainly racking them up, but we've got to get the race win. It's such an advantage to get a win with the way the points are structured. We'll focus on tomorrow and see if we can get it done." (About qualifying): "It was hard. I was on it. I haven't driven so hard, because I haven't had such an advantage here. In the practice sessions, I was a little worried. I was thinking, 'Man, it's going to be tough to get pole.' But we worked hard, and we got it all together." (About Firestone tires): "The reds were so stuck. There was heaps of grip. Incredible." (About race strategy): "We've got to make a decision on what tires to start. It's going to be a difficult decision, just looking at what happened to Ryan last year when he had a few people with reds on and he had blacks." (About Penske pole streak): "It's fantastic. It just shows what this team's all about. It's a great team, a lot of teamwork."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, second): "It's a great effort for Team Penske, Tim Cindric and Will (Power) and Ryan (Briscoe). We all worked together, and here we are, 1-2-3. Certainly the competition is pushing us, but credit goes to my engineer Ron Ruzewski and the other ones, as well. Each one of us wants to win, but as Roger (Penske) says, in the end the team wins. Whoever is up there, it benefits the team."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, seventh): "The Target car wasn't too bad. The balance wasn't too bad, either, overall, but we struggled through The Boot section of the course. The cars and competition are so close, so it will be tough to win from our starting spot but not impossible, by any means."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply Co A.J. Foyt Racing, 17th): "I think the lack of practice this morning because of the fuel pump problem hurt us a little bit maybe, and any little bit you give up in this series means positions. I think we're one step behind because of that. Not only that, we didn't unload like we have been unloading this year. We unloaded with the car far from where it needed to be, and we made huge improvements from yesterday to today, but we needed that little bit of track time because we needed to learn so much. It was unfortunate but A.J. and ABC have started here out of the top 10 and made great races, I have started here out of … well, actually I have not started here out of the top 10 … but we can make good things happen no matter where we start."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 HP Luczo Dragon, 11th): "This qualifying result was a big improvement from some of the last races, so that's a great positive. I'm a little disappointed we didn't get to move on to the Fast 6, but again, it's good to have improved from some previous events. We have learned a lot this weekend. We'll just keep working to continue that improvement. Tomorrow's race will be long and physical. We'll take what we've learned and use it to hopefully produce a good result tomorrow."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, 13th): "We had a tough session. We have a good car, but we just made a poor choice during qualifying. I'm disappointed, but we'll be good tomorrow."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD, 16th): "That was very frustrating. We had a car capable of moving on, and Milka (Duno) cost us the lap. It's very frustrating. Every point in this series is so valuable and qualifying on the road courses is key. That said, I know we've got a good car. I love this track, and I've won here before. And you can win from 16th. We're just going to have to be very creative tomorrow with how we go about it."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, eighth): "We were fighting too much understeer today to be as quick as we needed to make the Firestone Fast Six. I was definitely disappointed because the Venom car showed signs of good pace, but we went the wrong way and messed it up. I'm still optimistic about the race. We basically qualified our 'race car,' and it was very easy to drive. I think that's a good sign."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com, 21st): "I was feeling really confident going into qualifying this afternoon, but I just didn't have the speed I needed to get the GoDaddy car out of the first group. The field gets more and more competitive, and when you're just a tad off the pace, it can end up costing you more than ever. We'll try to make our way up through the field and hopefully have a strong result come tomorrow."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic, 14th) "After the yellow flag, I went back out on red tires. Then I was stuck behind Milka, and it was the second timed lap on the tires, which is the best lap over the life of the tire. It ended up costing us our second and third timed laps. For sure, there was more in the Formula Dream/Panasonic car because even on the last lap, which was a 1:31.1, there was still some left on the table; at least two or three-tenths of a second, which would have been good enough to get us to the next group of qualifying. Starting 14th isn't good, but we have two sets of new red Firestone alternate tires that others don't, so at least that is good for strategy."
MARIO MORAES (No. 32 KV Racing Technology, ninth): "Overall, it was a good qualifying. I think that the #32 KV Racing Technology car had very good balance. A couple of times I was in the top six, but the times were so close. I am happy with today, and tomorrow we will spend warm-up on race setup and then hopefully have a good race."
E.J. VISO (No. 8 PDVSA-Jet Aviation-KVRT, did not participate, will start 25th): "I am very disappointed that I couldn't qualify today. In practice, I was pushing hard and went wide at Turn 1. When I rejoined the track, I took a bump, which broke the skid pad and bent under the car. This caused my front tires to lift, and I lost steering control. It's a shame because the car was fast. However, it's a long race, and anything can happen. I am grateful to be here and to be able to get back in the car for tomorrow."
ADAM CARROLL (No. 27 Team Boost Mobile, 10th): "I'm much happier after the first practice. It's the usual scenario: a great track, new circuit for me, traffic and trying to push at the end. The track is getting better, and the car is getting better. It helps to speak with the guys with experience and get their point of view, as well. It's all coming together, so we're getting there. I'm looking forward to my first race with Andretti Autosport and Team Boost Mobile tomorrow."
PAUL TRACY (No. 24 Honda Indy Toronto/DRR): "We made huge improvements with the DRR/Honda Indy Toronto/Motegi Wheels car. I'm pretty happy. Last practice session we were P20, and I wasn't feeling that great about it. Yves, my engineer, and I made big a jump in qualifying, and we were able to advance into the fast 12. We wanted to improve on that, but we basically went a little bit quicker but not enough to go eighth, ninth or 10th, and we ended up 12th. But we are pretty happy with that. Obviously, we would've liked to be a little further up, but if we could get a top-10 result tomorrow, we will be happy with that."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, 19th): "This type of result isn't what we had hoped for today. It's not good, but the positive is that we made improvements from yesterday and this morning, and the team found some things that made more sense around this track. We feel the pain of not having tested here due to the rain because what we found late this morning we would have had coming in to the race weekend if we had gotten our test day completed. Now we just have to regroup and make the same type of change on the car for tomorrow now that we know where we need to be and what the car likes on this track. So if we have a good car for the race, the rest won't matter. We'll have to go out and have good strategy, fight to move up front and have a good result."
DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, 20th): "We've been quick and competitive all weekend in the National Guard Panther Racing car, and we could tell something wasn't quite right during our qualification run. Once the Panther boys got back to the garage, they found a problem in the steering that was causing the car to scrub and obviously run slower. It's the precision and dedication on their part that helped discover the problem so quickly, and now we can focus on moving up and having a great race tomorrow."
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