Will Power


Castroneves and Power Both Lead Team Penske Qualifying


Team Penske came up just short in its pursuit of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach pole position Saturday, but if recent history is any indication, the team will be in prime position for a race victory when the green flag flies.

Teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves both qualified for the Firestone Fast Six, with Power earning a third-place starting position and Castroneves securing a sixth-place starting spot. AJ Allmendinger had the ninth-fastest lap in his group during the first qualifying round and will start 14th on Sunday.

Power, the defending Long Beach race winner, was clocked at 67.3987 around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile circuit in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. Power unfortunately was unable to record his planned fast lap as the checkered flag flew before he could start his third lap in the Firestone Fast Six.

“Yeah, it was good, obviously, to get to the Fast Six, and then just how qualifying is at the moment. We got caught out at the end there,” said Power, who managed to win the race from a 12th-place starting position in 2012 despite qualifying second when he and the other Chevrolet drivers took 10-grid spot penalties after changing out engines. “Tim (Cindric) came over the radio and said that you’re barely going to make one more lap. I thought he meant fuel, not time, but it was time. So I got to the start of my last lap, and it was checkered flag. But still, I’m happy with third.”

The current IZOD IndyCar Series championship leader, Castroneves turned a lap of 67.9698 in the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner has now qualified eighth or better in his last four races at Long Beach.
“We made some adjustments to the Auto Club Team Penske Chevrolet between the sessions today and improved quite a lot,” said Castroneves, who won the 2001 Grand Prix of Long Beach from the pole. “It’s a shame because I felt that I had a better car than sixth. I’m not complaining, being top six is great, but I just want to make sure we get everything we can out of the car because it is so competitive here.”

Allmendinger, in his second race driving the No. 2 Penske Automotive Dallara/Chevrolet, had a fast lap of 1:09.2001 in the first qualifying session.

“Tough day for the No. 2 Penske Automotive Chevrolet,” said Allmendinger, who competed at Long Beach three times previously and recorded a top-10 finish in 2005. “We thought we had the car in a pretty good place going into qualifying but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get out of it what I needed. I know that Will won the race last year from 12th so that gives us some hope that we can move up through the field tomorrow and hopefully be competitive.”

Power, who also won the Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2008, will start inside the second row and alongside Takuma Sato and behind polewinner Dario Franchitti.

“It’s definitely a good starting position,” said Power. “I look for a good, solid race again tomorrow in the Verizon car.”

Sunday’s 80-lap Grand Prix of Long Beach is scheduled to begin at 4:45 p.m. ET with NBC Sports Network coverage beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


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Power’s Third Consecutive Win at IndyCar Sao Paulo 300!


SAO PAULO — Will Power loves racing in Brazil.

Power had a flawless race to win IndyCar’s Sao Paulo 300 for the third straight time Sunday, extending his dominance on the streets of South America’s biggest city.

The Australian was hardly challenged at the 2.5-mile, 11-turn Anhembi circuit, taking control of the race from the start to finish ahead of American Ryan Hunter-Reay.

“I think I love Brazil, I love Sao Paulo,” Power said.

Japan’s Takuma Sato had a great run to finish third for his first podium after starting only 25th and overcoming a drive-thru penalty, while Brazilian Helio Castroneves was fourth after starting 18th. Three-time defending series champion Dario Franchitti recovered from an early spin to finish fifth.

It was Power’s third straight victory after four races this season, and Penske’s fourth straight. It is the first time the team wins four in a row to start the season, dating to the introduction of CART in 1979. Penske also won the first three races of the year in 2010.

Power became the first driver since Scott Dixon in 2007 to win three consecutive races. It was the Australian’s 18th career victory at IndyCar.

“Something is clicking there very well,” Hunter-Reay said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all that they’ve won as many as they’ve won this season. Three out of four, that’s astonishing.”

Power led the most laps and clearly was faster than the rest of the field on Sunday, but had to fend off Hunter-Reay on a couple of late restarts, including one with five laps to go. Power crossed the line less than a second ahead of the American.

“I was giving absolutely everything I had to keep Ryan behind,” said Power, who started from the pole position. “A solid day when you look at it, very solid, no mistakes.”

Reay said he knew his best chance was to try to make a move at the restarts.

“I was certainly going hard, giving Will Power every bit of the fight that I had in me going into Turn 1. I tried to get him on the outside,” the Andretti Autosport driver said. “It was a good race, a lot of fun, but came out just a little bit short.”

Last year Power won from the pole in a race postponed for a day because of heavy rain. He won the inaugural Sao Paulo 300 in 2010, passing Hunter-Reay with three laps to go to win the rain-shortened race.

Power was coming off victories in Alabama and Long Beach and his triumph in Sao Paulo helped him increase his series points lead heading into the Indy 500 next month. He has a 45-point lead over Castroneves, the best Brazilian at the Anhembi circuit on Sunday.

“Definitely good for the points, the biggest one is next race and we’ll try to make it four in a row,” he said.

Japan’s Sato surprised with his third-place finish after starting back in the grid because of an engine change. He also overcame a drive-thru penalty on Lap 12, using a three-stop strategy and being aggressive on restarts to move to the front.

“Will was just about lapping me when I had a drive-thru penalty, so we were really luck,” Sato said. “It was an eventful and very exciting race. Every restart really helped me a lot.”

Weather was a concern as it rained hard during the morning practice session and it was expected to rain all day on Sunday, but the race started and finished on a mostly dry track. There was a light drizzle during the race, but not enough to get the track wet. Rain had affected the Sao Paulo race every year since it joined the IndyCar calendar in 2010.

Eight drivers were involved in a crash at a restart with eight laps to go, and although there was little contact between the cars, the track was blocked as the cars tried to make it through the first chicane.

Dixon was on a different pit strategy and passed Power for the lead on Lap 52 as the Australian came off the pits, but Dixon — who started third — had to make another stop at the end and finished only 17th.

Franchitti stayed close to Power in the beginning of the race but spun on a restart on Lap 27. He apparently was touched from behind at the first chicane and lost control of his Chip Ganassi Racing car. He needed to use pit strategy to race back to the front to finish in the top five after starting second. It was his first top five of the season.

Ryan Briscoe‘s race ended when he hit the wall exiting a turn on Lap 22, and Josef Newgarden was involved in an accident at chicane on a restart on Lap 29.

Rubens Barrichello, in his first race at home since joining IndyCar this season after a 19-year career in Formula One, ran as high as third place but fell to 10th at the end.

“Unfortunately, because of all the caution flags our strategy didn’t work out today, but it will some other day,” he said.


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Penske welcomes Chevy back to IndyCar with roaring start


Midway through Sunday’s Izod IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park, crew chief Tim Cindric called driver Will Power to the pits. At the time, Power was fifth. He wasn’t low on fuel and his tires weren’t shot, so the call was firmly strategic. Power eventually found himself leading and winning the race, a consequence of Cindric’s clever and timely decision.

These days, “clever” and “timely” are buzz words for Roger Penske’s IndyCar team, which helped orchestrate the reintroduction of Chevrolet to the series with unforeseen success. Wins in the first two races have Team Penske ahead of its rivals while helping Chevy make amends for an uncomfortable series exit six years ago.

The series has ushered in an era of new engines and chassis with two unpredictable, entertaining races. The adage of “What’s good for Penske is good for IndyCar” has been turned sideways: What’s good for IndyCar is strategy, unpredictability and unusually competitive racing. So far, that’s also been good for Team Penske.

MORE: Timeline of Roger Penske and Chevrolet
STANDINGS: Izod IndyCar Series points leaders

“The saying actually should be ‘What’s good for IndyCar is good for Penske,’ ” said Cindric, also team president. “We will only be successful if the series is successful, and so far this change has been good for everyone.”

When Honda, which in previous years had teamed with Penske’s Ilmor Engineering to supply the IndyCar Series with engines, chose to go in-house to develop and build the new turbocharged V-6 engines, Penske approached General Motors executives Tom Stephens and Mark Reuss about teaming with Ilmor to bring Chevy back to IndyCar. racing.

The result was an engine that appeared to be stout, although the Chevy and Ilmor engineers weren’t certain until the first practice before the March 25 opener in St. Petersburg, Fla.

They did fine. Penske’s Helio Castroneves raced from seventh to victory, signaling an early edge to Penske and Chevy. On Sunday in Birmingham, Ala., Power backed that up.

“Until you get on the track and face everyone, you can’t tell where you’re at,” said Jim Campbell, GM’s vice president of performance vehicles and motor sports. “After the first two races, we’re excited about where we’re at.”

Before Castroneves’ win at St. Petersburg, Chevrolet hadn’t won an IndyCar race since Tomas Scheckter of Panther Racing on June 11, 2005. Chevy left the series in after that season.
Beyond the success of the new Chevy are Penske’s other ventures related to IndyCar racing. His Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, dormant since 2008, will resume this season with Chevrolet as the title sponsor. Last week, Castroneves helped announce plans for a street race in Houston’s Reliant Park in 2013 that will be title-sponsored by Shell, the primary sponsor on Castroneves’ car.
Chevy and Honda have been close in the first two races — Honda-backed Scott Dixon is second in the driver standings after two second-place finishes, and Honda had three of the top five Sunday — but Penske’s Chevys have been just a tick faster.

Power showed that Sunday, doing so in an entertaining race on a track once thought to be adverse to action.

“I think the key to having a good series is having a lot of passing and action,” Power said. “We’re there to put on a show, and that’s what we’ve been doing. We have a new product that’s going well, and we need to keep it going in that direction.”

While the look of the new Dallara chassis bothers some fans, the true test — its performance — is the surprise of the season. The cars sound better and race better, and — thanks to new tire compounds from Firestone that degrade more rapidly — strategy has returned to IndyCar’s road and street races.

“The one thing that was loud and clear at Barber was the architecture of the cars and the work that Firestone has done has developed a much better show,” Cindric said. “Everything makes more sense. There is strategy and passing and unpredictability. … In the best times of IndyCar road and street racing, that’s what we had. Barber showed that you don’t really have to have all different cars and engines. You just have to have the right formula.”

It never hurts, though, to bring fresh players to the game.

For the six seasons while it was the sole engine supplier, Honda lobbied for competition. After the government bailout resuscitated GM, its leaders chose to take a risk and return to a form of racing that itself has been struggling.

“Someone made the commitment that they would invest in the brand,” Penske said. “There’s no question that they’ve not only committed to (IndyCar) from an engine perspective, they’re going to be active in participating in the race in Detroit. The nice thing is from top to bottom within General Motors in North America, motor sports has support.”

Perhaps another adage has been turned sideways: It’s not always true that what’s good for motor sports is good for Detroit. Sometimes it’s the other way around.


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Will Power takes Barber IndyCar victory


Will Power saw off a late challenge from Scott Dixon to take a superb win in Sunday’s IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park.

The Penske driver started from ninth on the grid, but a combination of aggressive strategy and a bit of misfortune on Dixon’s part helped the Australian to take the lead through the final cycle of pitstops.

Dixon (Ganassi) launched a final attack on the restart, and the lead duo quickly dropped the rest of the pack. The Kiwi was able to keep Power close initially before the Australian finally managed to open a gap. The final margin was 3.3 seconds.

Until just before the final round of stops, Dixon had the advantage. But after losing time behind HVM’s Simona de Silvestro, he suffered a slow pitstop, which was compounded by having to then wait for EJ Viso’s KV car to get out of the way before he could be released back into the pitlane. The time lost was enough for Power to take the lead, and after Dixon’s pursuit was halted by fading tyres, the result was sealed.

St Petersburg winner Helio Castroneves was third for Penske, although he had to see off a determined charge from Ganassi’s Graham Rahal to secure the place.

Despite Barber’s processional reputation, the race was peppered with overtaking from the beginning. The combination of passing and differing strategies made for constant position changes, with one of the main beneficiaries being Dario Franchitti (Ganassi), who managed to cross the line in 10th place after starting 18th.

The reigning champion spent the final phase of the race in combat with Dragon Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, who delivered the Lotus engine’s first top 10 finish when he crossed the line in ninth, and Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport), who was classified 11th after spending more or less the entire afternoon either attacking or defending.

Rubens Barrichello (KV) took a step forward in his adaptation to IndyCar by finishing eighth, capping his afternoon with a passing move on Andretti in the final laps.



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Riding Wave of Momentum, Team Penske Returns to Milwaukee June 16, 2011

INDYCAR Firestone Twin 275’s


Drivers: Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske), Ryan Briscoe (No. 6 Transitions Adaptive Lenses Team Penske) and Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske)

Event: Milwaukee 225
Milwaukee Mile
West Allis, Wis.
(one-mile oval)

When: Qualifying – Saturday, June 18 at 5:45 p.m. ET
Race (225 laps) – Sunday, June 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET (Live on ABC-TV)

TV/Radio: ABC-TV/IMS Radio Network and Sirius XM Channel 94

In Style at The Mile: Team Penske has tremendous history and tradition competing at the Milwaukee Mile. In 79 previous open-wheel racing starts at Milwaukee dating back to 1972, the team has recorded seven wins, 11 pole positions and 45 top-five finishes. In the last five IZOD IndyCar Series races run at the Mile, Team Penske has posted two wins and four pole positions.

Mears Was Magnificent at Milwaukee: Current Team Penske advisor and four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears posted the team’s first victory at the Milwaukee Mile when he took the checkered flag 33 years ago on June 18, 1978. Mears, who will also serve as a spotter for Helio Castroneves this weekend, earned a total of three wins and five poles at Milwaukee in his career.

Cheesehead at Heart: Ryan Briscoe has an interesting history at Milwaukee as well. The native of Sydney, Australia considers Milwaukee his “home” track as his wife, Nicole, host of ESPN’s NASCAR Now program, and her family hail from nearby Roscoe, Illinois. Briscoe, who has grown into a die-hard Green Bay Packer fan over the last several years, posted his first victory for Team Penske in 2008 at Milwaukee as that race also represented the 300th all-time win for Penske Racing. In the last IndyCar Series race run at the Mile, Briscoe won the pole, led 154 laps and finished second in the race in 2009.

Lucky 11 for Helio?: In 10 previous career starts at Milwaukee, Castroneves has earned three pole positions and two top-five finishes while leading 200 laps of competition. The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion, who earned his first Indy car pole at Milwaukee in 1999, will be looking for his first victory in his 11th start at the historic one-mile oval this weekend.

Power-ful Momentum: Current IZOD IndyCar Series point leader Will Power arrives in Milwaukee on a roll. Power has won three out of the first seven races on the series calendar and he scored his first career win on an oval track last Saturday night in Texas. Power also has won four pole positions this season and has finished in the top three in five of the first seven events. Power has two previous career starts at Milwaukee – he started fifth and finished 11th in 2006 in the CART Series and he qualified fourth and finished 14th for KV Racing Technology in 2008. Power clocked the fastest time at the series test at Milwaukee two weeks ago.

Texas Tidal Wave: Team Penske enters Milwaukee riding a wave of success from its performance last weekend in the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway. Highlighted by Power’s victory, the team recorded six top-10 and four top-five finishes overall on the evening. Power finished third in the opening race before winning the nightcap while Briscoe came home sixth in the first race and third in the second. Castroneves took the checkered flag for the first race in 10th place and he earned his best finish of the year in fourth place to close out the night.

Head of the Class: With wins at Barber Motorsports Park, Sao Paulo, Brazil and Texas in the No. 12 Verizon car, Power continues to lead the IZOD IndyCar Series standings for Team Penske. Power currently holds a 239-218 point edge over Dario Franchitti in the chase for the series crown. Power is also ranked second in the series oval standings, trailing only Scott Dixon. Briscoe enters this weekend ranked sixth overall in points while Castroneves is 14th in the standings.

Penske’s Premiere Partners: Team Penske is proud to welcome several new sponsors to its family in 2011. Joining Power’s No. 12 car team primary sponsor, Verizon, in the Team Penske stable this season, Guidepoint Systems will compete as a sponsor of the No. 3 car driven by Castroneves this weekend. Transitions Adaptive Lenses will serve as the primary sponsor of the No. 6 car driven by Briscoe at Milwaukee. Team Penske also welcomes Shell-Pennzoil, IZOD, PPG, AAA Insurance and Penske Truck Rental as primary sponsors in 2011 along with new associate sponsors Meijer, Coca-Cola and Comfort Revolution.

Visit Us at Verizon: Power will appear at the Verizon store located at 1200 W. Sunset Dr., Suite 106 in Waukesha, Wis. on Friday night, June 17, from 7-8 p.m. CT. The IZOD IndyCar Series point leader will meet with fans and sign autographs at the store.


Helio Castroneves: “We are super excited to go back to the place where I earned my first-ever Indy car pole this weekend in the No. 3 Guidepoint Systems car. Team Penske has been very competitive at the Milwaukee Mile in the past, so I am certainly going there feeling very good. It is great that the IZOD IndyCar Series is returning to Milwaukee as it has such a long history in open-wheel racing and I can’t wait to see all the great Milwaukee fans again.”

Ryan Briscoe: “I’m excited to be returning to Milwaukee, a track which always makes for great racing. It’s a challenging track and I love the high g-forces we feel around there. It is also the site of my first-ever IndyCar win, which makes it very special to me. We tested very well there just a couple of weeks ago and the No. 6 Transitions Team Penske crew is ready for another strong performance in Sunday’s race.”

Will Power: “This is going to be yet another very competitive and difficult race. There are going to be a lot of cars out there and it is going to be very busy on the short oval. Milwaukee is one of my favorite oval tracks. The Verizon car tested great there just a couple weeks ago and coming off our first oval win, we are looking to continue building momentum. It should be a very entertaining race for the fans.”


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Team Penske Back to Defend Title at Sao Paulo



Drivers: Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Itaipava Team Penske), Ryan Briscoe (No. 6 Penske Logistics) and Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske)

Event: Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle

Streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil

(2.6-mile temporary street circuit)

When: Qualifying – Saturday, April 30 at 2:00 p.m. ET (Aired at 6:00 p.m. ET on Versus)

Race (75 laps) – Sunday, May 1 at 12:00 p.m. ET (Live on Versus)

TV/Radio: Versus-TV/IMS Radio Network and XM Channel 145 and Sirius Channel 211

Back in Brazil: Team Penske returns as the defending champions at Sao Paulo after Will Power drove the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda to victory in last year’s inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series event in the city. In a wild race on the wide-open street circuit, Power passed Ryan Hunter-Reay for the lead with four laps remaining and captured the win in the series’ season-opening race of 2010.

Scenes from Sao Paulo: In addition to Power’s victory, Sao Paulo native Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe also had interesting races last season in Brazil. All three drivers were involved in a multi-car accident at the start of the race and each dropped back in the field before making their way back up front. Starting eighth, Briscoe actually led four laps and looked to be on his way to victory late in the race before he made contact with the tire barrier. He returned to action and did finish the race in the 14th position. Castroneves, competing in front of his hometown fans, had to pit early for repairs and got caught out by a short rain delay before rallying to finish ninth.

After Three Rounds: Entering this weekend’s race, Team Penske is ranked second, eighth and 14th in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings. Power, who won Round 2 in Alabama, trails series leader Dario Franchitti by just seven points in the championship rankings, while Briscoe is eighth after a strong runner-up effort in Long Beach. Castroneves fell to 14th in points after a tough result in Long Beach that saw his car make contact with Power’s machine late in the race when both drivers were running inside the top-five.

Partnership Pride: Team Penske is proud to welcome several new sponsors to its family in 2011. Joining Power’s No. 12 car team full-season primary sponsor, Verizon, in the Team Penske stable this season, Brazilian partner Itaipava joins the team for Sao Paulo and will compete as the primary sponsor of the No. 3 car driven by Castroneves this weekend. Penske Logistics will serve as the primary sponsor of the No. 6 car driven by Briscoe at Sao Paulo. Team Penske also welcomes Shell-Pennzoil, IZOD, Guidepoint Systems, PPG and Penske Truck Rental as primary sponsors in 2011 along with new associate sponsors Meijer, Coca-Cola and Comfort Revolution.

Chasing 200: If Team Penske wins the pole Saturday in qualifying at Sao Paulo, it will mark the 200th all-time Indy car pole position for the most successful team in the history of North American open-wheel racing.

Remarkable Road Record: Team Penske excels at street course circuits. Castroneves, Briscoe and Power have all earned temporary road course victories over the last three seasons and the team overall has produced 22 poles and 12 wins at road/street course venues since 2007. This weekend’s race marks the fourth consecutive event held at a street or road course to start the 2011 season. The next race – the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 – begins a stretch of five consecutive oval races on the series schedule.

Power’s Pole Prowess: Power will be looking to capture his fourth consecutive pole position to start the season during Saturday’s qualifying session at Sao Paulo. Power qualified fifth last year at Sao Paulo to earn his worst starting spot on a road or street course in 2010. Power’s three consecutive poles are the most by a Team Penske driver to start the season. Mario Andretti won six consecutive poles to begin the 1966 USAC season while Bobby Unser earned six straight to start the 1972 USAC campaign.

Legacy of Success: Team Penske continues to set the standard of success in open-wheel racing. Throughout its storied history, the team has posted 154 race wins, 12 National Championships and 199 pole positions. In addition, Penske Racing has won the Indianapolis 500-mile race 15 times. Across all of its disciplines, Penske Racing teams have produced 333 major race wins, 398 pole positions and 23 National Championships.



Helio Castroneves: “Racing in Brazil is always special for me and this weekend I am hoping for a great result for Team Penske. Being able to race in my home country in front of all the passionate Brazilian fans is certainly something very special to me. I look forward to seeing friends and family while I am down there and I feel really good going into this race, as our No. 3 Itaipava Team Penske car looks like a winner to me.”

Ryan Briscoe: “I’m looking forward to Round 4 of the IZOD IndyCar Series in Brazil. I think that this track can provide some of the most exciting racing with its long straights and heavy braking zones, which is great. The No. 6 Penske Logistics car has been really fast this season and I feel good going into this event. My main goal is to carry our momentum from Long Beach as we try to make up points in the championship race.”

Will Power: “I think this has the potential to be kind of a crazy weekend. It tends to rain a bit in Brazil, so track time may factor into the equation. I’m excited to race in Sao Paulo. The circuit has plenty of places to pass so if you have a fast car you will be able to get to the front. Our Verizon Team Penske car has been fast all year long and I am going to do my best to qualify well and hopefully get a good result.”


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Helio Castroneves raring to go


Editor’s note: This is the first installment by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who’ll be writing periodically for throughout the 2011 Izod IndyCar Series season (as told to motorsports writer John Oreovicz).

Hello, everyone, and thanks for stopping by to read my first column for I’m excited to share my thoughts about the 2011 Izod IndyCar Series, and everyone at Team Penske is very optimistic about what we can accomplish this year.

Hopefully there will be a lot of victories and other good stuff to talk about! It’s been a long offseason — it’s been basically five months since I was in an Indy car.

That’s one of the toughest things for us, but it is what it is. That’s the nature of our sport at the moment as IndyCar tries to control costs by restricting testing. But I believe that will change for 2012, when the series introduces a new chassis and engine package.

The good news is that we’ve had basically the same car since 2003, so it wasn’t too difficult to get comfortable behind the wheel again after the long break. It’s just a matter of adapting to the weather and getting your timing back. For example, imagine if you played tennis for a hobby and you went six months without playing. When you first come back, you feel the ball is coming at you a bit too fast, and you lose a bit of your timing to hit the ball.

But after a bit of practice, you end up getting back your rhythm. That’s very similar to driving a race car. Initially, approaching the corners can be a bit tough, but after half a day, you’re back in the groove again. Your muscles are a bit sore, especially in the neck and the shoulders, because even if you do a lot of exercise and training, you’re still using different muscles when you drive the race car. That’s something most people don’t realize.

But the long offseason has been cool for me because I spent a lot of time with my family. My little girl is 14 months old now, and it’s awesome to see her grow. Those things are priceless, and I’m very glad to have those memories. It’s wonderful the way children teach us to have patience about things that maybe we weren’t patient about before. Being a parent changes your priorities — the kids come first, and you become the second option!

At Team Penske, we have a lot of good news to share entering the 2011 season. The team had sponsorship from Philip Morris for more than 20 years, and I was so honored to be a part of that family. I am very fortunate to say that I drove with the red and white colors. Unfortunately, there is an end to everything, and that era of one of the sport’s most iconic sponsorships is over.

But with that comes new opportunities for new companies to become a part of Team Penske and be associated with Roger Penske’s great history in racing. Now we have several new partners: Shell/Pennzoil, GuidePoint Systems, AAA/Auto Club of Southern California, Izod and PPG will all be primary sponsors on the Team Penske cars this season, to go along with Verizon, and we also have new associate sponsors like Meijer stores and Coca-Cola. We have so many new partners that I have to practice remembering them all, and I’ve been doing a lot of training to understand their products, which has been quite an amazing experience.

I’m very fortunate to be entering my 12th year with Team Penske, because not every driver is able to maintain such a long and productive partnership. It’s tough for several reasons when you see drivers like Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon struggling to find a ride. First, Tony, especially, is a good friend. Second, you never want to see anybody in that position, including yourself. Third, they are very talented drivers who should be able to find good rides and continue in the series. It just shows that we are still feeling the effects of the tough economic climate, but we still have one of the most talented fields we’ve ever had in the IndyCar Series.

I believe that the teams and the league need to continue working together to build up the IndyCar brand. We’ve definitely seen some growth, but the TV ratings still need to improve. We have a good television package, but compared to other series — especially NASCAR — there is a lot of work to be done to improve the ratings. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard has been doing some terrific things to increase exposure, like the $5 million bonus if a driver from outside IndyCar wins the season finale at Las Vegas. They have adjusted the rules to make the racing more exciting for the fans, and we’re doing everything in our power to increase the interest.

Overall, I’m really excited to start another season with Team Penske. I’m pumped, because I think our three-car Team with Ryan Briscoe and Will Power as my teammates is going to be stronger than ever. Will has brought a lot to the team, and that has been very good for me. It made me change my style of racing a little bit; he taught me to be more aggressive and try some different lines through corners that I maybe wouldn’t have thought of or didn’t expect would work. I thought we had a very positive atmosphere last year, and we want to have all three Team Penske drivers fighting for race wins and the championship again.

Certainly the goal this year is for the team to win as many races as possible, naturally including the Indianapolis 500. If we can do that — especially on the 100th anniversary of the first Indy 500 — that would be a dream come true. They say records are made to be broken, and I really hope to emulate my hero, Rick Mears, with a fourth Indianapolis 500 win. If it happens, we can celebrate on the radio, because Rick is my spotter, and I know he will be cheering for me. I remember when I won my first Indy car race in 2000, Bobby Rahal told me, “Welcome to the club.” So hopefully Rick will have the chance to welcome me to the four-time Indy winners club.

[Source: ESPN]

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