Avondale, AZ – Team Penske were the obvious favorites to land in victory lane for this weekend’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (9 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network). They put two cars in the top three of the starting lineup in last year’s race at the Phoenix International Raceway, and if not for two cut tires to Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, each while leading, they would have likely ended up in victory lane.
Instead, Scott Dixon capitalized and led 155 laps en route to the victory.
Now, the Chip Ganassi Racing camp has since switched to Honda engines, and Penske returns as the top dog in the Chevy camp without much competition. With that being said, it was widely known within the paddock that the Chevy cars would have the biggest advantage on the short ovals still this season.
Last year, they led all 250 laps in a dominating race here. Without much difference between last year and this one, why would anything change?
Chevy’s were the premiere manufacturer in the test here two months ago, and after practice as well as qualifying on Friday, it showed that they’re still king.
Team Penske had four cars in the top five of practice earlier this afternoon, with Josef Newgarden leading the way of everyone. Then, in qualifying two hours later, the Penske camp once again shined.
Penske, put all four cars in the top five again, including shattering the track record. Helio Castroneves earned his 49th career Verizon IndyCar Series pole, while Will Power will start alongside of him in second.
Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud will start fourth and fifth respectively to give Penske all four cars in the top five in qualifying too.
In the last race at Barber, Penske shined there as well. They combined to lead 76 of the 90 laps last weekend, and if not for a Power cut tire while leading, they would have had all four cars finish in the top five. Instead, they had three in the top four.
Penske, consistently put all four cars in the top five of the practice sessions last weekend, and even swept the top three starting spots.
This weekend, it’s once again the same.