Sunday, April 8, 2012

Power Takes Team Penske to Second 2012 INDYCAR Win at Barber

Photo Credit: Steve Swope (C)2012 Steve Swope Photography

The second race in the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR Series, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama offers the latest competitive trial of the driver and team combinations for the new season. Drivers who finished well in the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg headed to Barber Motorsports Park eager to back up their performance while others having forgettable opening race outings for 2012 want redemption.

Set for 90 laps around the 2.38-mile road course of Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday, the second race of the IZOD INDYCAR Series' 2012 season started with Team Penske's Helio Castroneves taking full advantage of his pole winning performance on Saturday. Leading the first 24 laps of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Castroneves was intrepid early in the event for continuing his winning ways after the 2012 season opener. The 2010 winner of the inaugural IZOD INDYCAR event at the Barber Motorsports Park road course, Helio Castroneves lost the lead to Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon.

Putting pressure on the #3 car of Castroneves, Dixon’s #9 car snuck by the Team Penske after pit stops concluded for the IZOD INDYCAR Series competitors on lap 27. Maintaining a spot at the front of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama over the 90-lap distance, Castroneves’ car was just slightly off in handling allowing him to be caught. Helio Castroneves would cross the Barber Motorsports Park’s finish line in 3rd place.

Photo Credit: Honda © 2012 American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Somewhat like the St Petersburg opener, the amount of caution periods during the race was brief at the Barber Motorsports Park race for the IZOD INDYCAR Series. The yellow flag first flew when the #98 Lotus-powered entry driven by Alex Tagliani stopped on track in turn 4 of the first lap. Driving the first car out of competition for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Tagliani would be a member of a much smaller list of three non-finishers due to mechanical problems. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was also the scene where the Honda and Chevrolet were battling on more equal terms. As the Barber Motorsports Park race transpired for the IZOD INDYCAR Series, there would also be a reason for optimism for Lotus engined competitors.

As the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama progressed, some team desperate to demonstrate early race pace delivered on the 17-turn road course. Namely, the performance of two former Formula 1 contesters ultimately found the sweeping Barber Motorsports Park as more agreeable than the St Petersburg street circuit. Part of the two-car team competing within the newly-energized Lotus Dragon Racing team, Sebastien Bourdais climbed from 17th place in qualifying into the top-10. Bourdais’ effort would result in a 9th place finish to become the first driver to score a top-10 with a Lotus-engined Indy Car in 2012. “I honestly didn't believe we were going to hold off Justin (Wilson), (James) Jakes and (Dario) Franchitti and all these guys and race them this close because we know we're at a big power disadvantage.” said Bourdais who was very happy with the overall performance of the car as well as team.

Sebastien Bourdais’ spent in Formula 1 is relatively short compared to Rubens Barrichello who has joined the KV Racing Technology team in the off-season. Meeting disappointment late in St Petersburg, the Brazilian drove his #8 car to a strong 8th place finish ahead of more experienced IZOD INDYCAR teammates EJ Viso and Tony Kanaan. In post-race, Rubens Barrichello commented, “By the end of the race, I had one of the fastest running cars, so I think it was enjoyable to watch and for me to race. People race hard over here, but they were fair. I had many knocks and bumps, but the cars are so robust in this series that we can luckily get away with it.”

Photo Credit: Honda © 2012 American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Through the early course of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Will Power had been overcoming disappointment of starting 7th after his track record qualifying run was disallowed. Charging from 9th place, the #12 Team Penske Racing car benefited heavily from the second of two full-course yellow flags. Pitting just two laps ahead of the caution, Will Power was able to inherit the race lead on lap 68. Arguably losing the St Petersburg event due to pit stop strategy, Power and the #12 Verizon-sponsored Team Penske crew celebrated victory thanks to the right strategy in the 2012 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Leading 22 laps on the day, the winning driver proudly declared after the race “The entire Verizon Team Penske crew were on the money today,”

Repeating his 2011 victory at Barber Motorsports Park, Will Power records his first victory of the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR Series season. Most impressive is Power’s win keeps two streaks alive in IZOD INDYCAR for Team Penske. Firstly, Penske cars have won every event held at Barber Motorsports Park since the race was introduced to the IZOD INDYCAR Series schedule. Secondly, Team Penske starts the 2012 open wheel schedule with team members of their three-car program winning pole and the main event at both events. For the Brazilian Helio Castroneves who has finished 1st and 3rd so far this season, he possesses the IZOD INDYCAR Series’ overall points lead heading into the next event at Long Beach.

Will Power crossed the start/finish line 3.4 seconds ahead of second the #9 car driven by Scott Dixon. Starting off the season with two second-place runs, the New Zealand driver holds onto second place in the overall driver standings for the IZOD INDYCAR Series.

Dixon has stepped out of the shadow of his respective teammate Dario Franchitti. For the past three championship-winning seasons, the Scottish driver has been struggling to find his typically consistent form early in the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR tour. Cracking into 10th place in his Honda-powered Dallara DW12 race car, Franchitti is tied in 10th place in the overall points. However, with only two races in, the ability for Dario Franchitti to recover in the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car is highly possible.

Finishing just outside of the podium at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was the Chip Ganassi Racing-owned race car piloted by Graham Rahal. The result is Rahal’s latest top-5 since the Milwaukee Mile race in last season.

Continuing to impress early as a rookie, Simon Pagenaud followed his 6th at St Petersburg up with a 5th on the Barber Motorsports Park track. Pagenaud’s #77 car finished just ahead the 2011 Rookie of the Year James Hinchcliffe who suffered a late-race set-back due to an impeded restart.

On April 15th, the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR Series returns to action at what is one of the most revered street course events the United States called the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
Barber Motorsports Park
Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Nationality Race Team Engine

1 12 Will Power Australia Team Penske Chevrolet
2 9 Scott Dixon New Zealand Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
3 3 Helio Castroneves Brazil Team Penske Chevrolet
4 38 Graham Rahal United States Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
5 77 Simon Pagenaud France Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports Honda
6 27 James Hinchcliffe Canada Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
7 14 Mike Conway England AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda
8 8 Rubens Barrichello Brazil KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
9 7 Sebastien Bourdais France Lotus-Dragon Racing Lotus
10 10 Dario Franchitti Scotland Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
11 26 Marco Andretti United States Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
12 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay United States Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
13 22 Oriol Servia Spain Lotus-Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Lotus
14 2 Ryan Briscoe Australia Team Penske Chevrolet
15 4 JR Hildebrand United States Panther Racing Chevrolet
16 19 James Jakes England Dale Coyne Racing Honda
17 67 Josef Newgarden United States Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda
18 5 EJ Viso Venezuela KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
19 18 Justin Wilson England Dale Coyne Racing Honda
20 78 Simona de Silvestro Switzerland Lotus-HVM Racing Lotus
21 11 Tony Kanaan Brazil KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
22 20 Ed Carpenter United States Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
23 6 Katherine Legge England Lotus-Dragon Racing Lotus
24 15 Takuma Sato Japan Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
25 83 Charlie Kimball United States Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
26 98 Alex Tagliani Canada Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Lotus

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