LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 5, 2012) – Team Penske’s Will Power regained the lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship battle Sunday by finishing second in the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The finish led Team Penske’s performance in the race with Ryan Briscoe’s last-lap pass giving him a seventh-place result and Helio Castroneves finishing 16th after fighting through the field from his 23rd-place starting position.
Power led the first 57 laps of the race before his final pit stop with 28 laps remaining in the 85-lap race. As he drove the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet into the pits, he had to maneuver around Scott Dixon’s car in the pit stall before his, which cost the team an additional second and allowed Dixon to emerge from pit lane ahead of Power. After the stops cycled through, Dixon took the lead and led the final 26 laps as Power finished 3.46 seconds behind for his fifth podium result of the season.
“That was definitely a good points day for the No. 12 Verizon car,” said Power, who also leads the Mario Andretti Road Course Championship standings. “I knew with Scott (Dixon) and I pitting on the same lap, it was going to be tough because I had to get around his guys to get into my box. That is where he got us. It is so difficult to pass around this track. Still, a very good day to score all the points we did. That was everything we had. You can’t ask for anything more. I don’t think we could have done anything better.”
With the second-place finish, Power moved from third into the lead in the standings over Ryan Hunter-Reay, who began to experience car trouble on Lap 55 and finished 24th. With races remaining at Sonoma, Baltimore and Fontana, Power now leads Hunter-Reay by five points, with Castroneves ranked third in the standings, 26 points behind.
“We had to save fuel to get to the end,“ said Power. “At the end of the day, because it is so hard to pass, it probably wasn’t worth the risk of pushing hard on cold tires considering the championship and the state it is in. (Race strategist) Tim (Cindric) keeps me informed on what is happening, and with Ryan Hunter-Reay having a problem, he told me to just be careful.”
Castroneves, who crashed and injured his left hand during Saturday practice, started deep in the field in the No. 3 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Chevrolet after the 10-spot grid penalty for an unscheduled engine change. He methodically improved positions over the course of the race without the benefit of any caution flags, the first time IndyCar racing has recorded consecutive races without a yellow flag in 25 years.
“The Penske Truck Rental boys did a great job with the pit stops today,” said Castroneves, a two-time race winner in 2012. “Certainly it was a day where we ended up taking a big hit in our race for the championship as starting in the back with an engine change created a big challenge. But we need to just keep going and hopefully we can have a strong race out in Sonoma.”
Briscoe’s pass of Marco Andretti on the final lap in the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet secured his sixth top-10 finish of the year. Briscoe’s consistent day saw him run in the top-10 for 79 of the race’s 85 laps. He remains ninth in the championship standings, now 112 points behind Power.
“We had a pretty solid day in the PPG car and getting Marco there on the last lap to get seventh made for a decent finish,” said Briscoe, who has finished inside the top-10 in four of five career races at Mid-Ohio. “With the fuel saving strategy, which the Chevy engine did a great job of, it made for a strange race. Overall it goes back to the first lap where we got out of the top five and shuffled back a few positions and we did what we could from there to make it a good day.”
Power’s runner-up effort was his sixth top-five result of the season.
“We’re happy to get the Verizon car on the podium,” said Power. “We’ll keep chasing after it, we’ll get a win here soon and keep going after that championship.”
The IZOD IndyCar Series season resumes on Sunday, Aug. 26 with the GoPro Indy Grand Prix at Sonoma. Team Penske recorded a historic 1-2-3 finish at Sonoma in 2011, with Power taking the win and Castroneves and Briscoe finishing right behind him. Live coverage of the race will begin at 4:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network.
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