Saturday, July 21, 2018
Sports

Team Penske owns formula for success at Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG

Team Penske drivers Will Power and Juan Pablo Montoya will officially unveil new silver cars that Power dubbed "the silver bullet" when the IndyCar season opens today. • It's an odd choice; when it comes to the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Penske is only used to gold. The racing powerhouse has won seven of the series' 11 races at this 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course and will be favored again today after sweeping the top four spots in Saturday's qualifying. • "They're our yardstick," Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon said. • And everyone else keeps measuring up short. • No driver has more Grand Prix victories than Penske's Helio Castroneves (three). Power has won here twice and will start on the pole for the sixth time in the past seven years after breaking his own track record. Montoya had to beat his teammates to win last year's race; Penske's four drivers all finished in the top five and combined to lead 105 of the 110 laps.

Since a disappointing 2005 when both drivers wrecked, Penske has led more than half (556) of the total laps (1,030) while always placing at least one driver in the top two.

"If you look at those different races that we've won over the years," team president Tim Cindric said, "they're all very different."

Penske drivers have won on pure speed; Castroneves led 95 of the race's 100 laps in 2007 and beat the entire field by more than five seconds in 2012.

They have won on strategy; Power deployed a controversial slow restart that triggered a wreck in 2014.

They have won on luck; Castroneves used a fortuitous caution flag to win under yellow in 2006.

And they have won on bold moves; Ryan Briscoe passed Justin Wilson off of a restart with 14 laps left to win in 2009.

The only common factors, the team and its competitors said, are the right people and the right parts.

The drivers' credentials are obvious. Montoya is one of the most accomplished drivers of his generation; he's a two-time Indianapolis 500 champion with victories in IndyCar, Formula One and the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

"There's no tougher guy on the race track than Montoya when he gets in the car," team owner Roger Penske said.

But Montoya might not be the best driver on his team. Castroneves and Power are both in the top 16 of the all-time victory list in American open-wheel history with 54 wins combined. Simon Pagenaud, who joined the team last year, has finished in the top five in points in three of his four full-time IndyCar seasons.

The result is a team with four decorated drivers who push each other in every practice session and help each other's strategy. They walked the track as a team Thursday to analyze every corner and every bump.

"You don't have an A team and a B team — you don't have any of that," said Montoya, last year's series runnerup. "All four cars are equal."

And if they're not, the team's engineers work together to get them that way.

"There's nothing that is secret between the cars," Penske said. "In fact, we really want to know why one's better than the other. Is it the car? Is it the driver? Is it the setup?"

That setup always seems to be right at the Grand Prix, which Cindric attributes to the crew's offseason work.

The Grand Prix comes toward the beginning of the season and has been the series opener in six of the past seven years. All teams have the same amount of limited testing, but Penske joins Ganassi and Andretti Autosport as the only teams with four cars. The extra drivers and resources help Penske extract every bit of information from those few practice sessions.

"I feel like preparation has always been something that we strive for," Cindric said. "From a fitness perspective and an overall preparation standpoint the drivers come here prepared.

"I think as far as hitting the ground running, our engineers, our drivers, our team … our group's good at getting going early."

Penske proved that last year with its showing here.

The series debuted new bodywork at the Grand Prix, and teams were still trying to find the best way to configure the aero kits' tiny flaps and winglets. Penske figured it out first; Power broke the track record as his team qualified 1-2-3-4.

"Every year, we come in, we've paid attention to those small details," Castroneves said.

Those small details remain a secret. Former series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay said there are a near-infinite number of possibilities, ranging from geometry to springs, that have given Penske's drivers a little extra grip and speed.

"If we knew, then we'd figure it out," said Dixon, who has finished runnerup to Penske drivers three times here. "It's never that easy."

Penske just makes it look that way.

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected]. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

     
           
Comments
Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome misses cut but has a blast in PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship

Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome misses cut but has a blast in PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship

Seminole's Brittany Lincicome did not make the cut in her first PGA Tour event, but she did improve by seven shots in her second round.Lincicome shot 1-under 71 on Saturday at the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky., after having to wait an e...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs’ Mike Evans fires back at Trump after anthem protest tweet

Bucs’ Mike Evans fires back at Trump after anthem protest tweet

Bucs receiver Mike Evans fired back at President Donald Trump on Saturday, responding to another tweet from the White House criticizing NFL players who want to protest during the national anthem.Trump's latest tweet came after Thursday's joint announ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Marlins, with Justin Williams called up

For starters: Rays vs. Marlins, with Justin Williams called up

UPDATE, 3:52: 3B Matt Duffy (back) is feeling better but Cash said they would stay away from using him except in an emergency. That's not that unlikely, however, as the Rays wull have a short bench, with only C Adam Moore and Williams, assuming he ge...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs training camp questions: How to split the QB reps, position battles and more

Bucs training camp questions: How to split the QB reps, position battles and more

TAMPA — Jameis Winston would like to move forward with his career now that he has accepted the NFL's decision to suspend him three games and apologized — for something — to the Uber driver that the league says he touched in an "inap...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays journal: Replacement catcher Adam Moore ready to play

Rays journal: Replacement catcher Adam Moore ready to play

ST. PETERSBURG — The newest Rays player is also nearly the oldest.With All-Star C Wilson Ramos on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, Tampa Bay turned to veteran Adam Moore, 34, as the new backup catcher behind Jesus Sucre. Only reliever...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Martin Fennelly: Rays and Marlins at different stages of same mission

Martin Fennelly: Rays and Marlins at different stages of same mission

ST. PETERSBURG — New York Yankees god and former Tampa resident Derek Jeter, who was once going to save the Rays (or so we thought), was at Tropicana Field on Friday night. The Captain had the gall to show up as Miami Marlins chief executive of...
Published: 07/20/18
Dolphins owner: Actually, we haven’t decided whether to levy anthem penalties

Dolphins owner: Actually, we haven’t decided whether to levy anthem penalties

Times wiresThe NFL can't seem to get away from the divisive national anthem issue.The latest developments this week assure that, despite the league's wishes, the debate about how to handle players who kneel during the anthem to protest police violenc...
Published: 07/20/18
Late rally falls short as Rays lose to Marlins, 6-5

Late rally falls short as Rays lose to Marlins, 6-5

ST. PETERSBURG –The Rays rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth Friday night, but their rally came up short as the Marlins held on for a 6-5 win at Tropicana Field.Tampa Bay's bullpen gave up five runs in the seventh, and that was too...
Published: 07/20/18

Sports on TV/radio for Saturday, July 21

TODAYAction sportsX Games1 p.m.ABCXGames7 p.m.ESPNArena FootballWashington at Albany7:30 p.m.CBSSNAutosF1: German Grand Prix qualifying8:55 a.m.ESPN2Xfinity: Lakes Region 200 qualifying11 a.m.CNBCXfinity: Lakes Region 2004 p.m.NBCSNNHRA: Mile High Na...
Published: 07/20/18
Kiermaier has ‘severe bone bruise’ in foot, dates back to April injury

Kiermaier has ‘severe bone bruise’ in foot, dates back to April injury

Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier left Friday's game in the fifth inning when an injury to his right foot that has bothered him since April flared up with the worst pain he's encountered this season.Kiermaier called the injury a "severe bone bruise" an...
Published: 07/20/18