INDIANAPOLIS – Entering the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, Team Penske had all the momentum. Them plus Chip Ganassi Racing had combined to lead 93-percent of the laps in 2016 as that comes after leading 97-percent of the laps in last year’s Indy 500 as well. Mix that with them winning every pole this year and 20 of the last 23 poles, and you would see why this was likely their race to lose.
Furthermore, Simon Pagenaud had a wide points lead as he won the last three straight IndyCar races and two poles entering the ‘500.
But, none of their drivers even qualified in the top five last weekend, and only one finished in the top 10 on Sunday.
Helio Castroneves was their lone bright spot on the day as he worked his way to the front and took the lead on Lap 90. He would stay in the hunt the rest of the way as he led 24 laps as a whole today. But, contact with J.R. Hildebrand in the closing stages damaged his rear wheel guard and forced him to pit under caution.
He would try to stretch his fuel but could only muster an 11th place finish.
Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the race last year was the first one out this year. Montoya, lost control of his No. 2 Verizon Wireless Chevy in Turn 2 on Lap 64 and would crash into the outside SAFER barrier.
He’d finish with his worst career open wheel result in 33rd place.
Pagenaud had a ho-hum day as he was penalized on Lap 66 for an “unsafe pit release.” He would never rebound and come home 19th.
That allowed guys to catch up to him as Indy paid double points. A 19th place finish hurt his cause and erased a big lead.
The fourth and final Penske member Will Power also had a rough day as he too was penalized for an “unsafe pit release” on Lap 50. He would hang around midpack the whole day before rebounding to a 10th place finish.
Yes, Power in 10th was the top Penske finisher.
So, Lap 50 Power was penalized on pit road. Lap 64 Montoya crashes. Lap 66 Pagenaud penalized for the same thing Power was penalized for.
By the midway marker, they were already out.
10, 11th, 19th and 33rd for the Penske group for the 100th Indy 500.
That comes off of sixth, eighth, ninth and 17th starting spots and low on the speed charts all month in practice. The writing was on the wall for these results for them and it’s unfortunate.