INDIANAPOLIS – It’s funny how this season has shaped up for Team Penske. It’s gone in trends. After leading just 18 total laps through the first two races of the Verizon IndyCar Series season (9-percent) they followed that up with leading 411 of the 425 laps over the next three combined races (97-percent). Then, they followed that back up with a three race stretch of just 30 total laps led over the next 340 laps (8-percent).
But, that trend could soon go back to that stretch they had in the middle again. Penske, led 186 laps last weekend at Texas, and that could spark another dominating stretch.
Next up on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is a return trip to Elkhart Lake. Last year on the 4.014-mile Wisconsin road course, Penske dominated. Three of their four cars started the race from inside the top five, and the team combined to lead 48 of the 50 laps in the race itself, with Will Power taking the checkered flag first.
Helio Castroneves finished fifth that race and Juan Pablo Montoya seventh. Also, if not for a late mechanical failure, Simon Pagenaud would have easily been on the podium to give Penske two cars on the podium and three in the top five.
Now, mix that with their strong runs on road circuits this season, and you can see why it should spell another Penske dominance this weekend in Road America.
On Friday, the Penske quartet was strong. They were 2-3-4-10 in session No. 1. then followed that up with sweeping the top four spots in the next session being 1-2-3-4.
On Saturday, they were 1-2-3-4 in practice again, and even put all four in the top six of qualifying too.
Plus, at the Barber Motorsports Park back in April, Penske drivers combined to lead 76 of the 90 laps that day and were 15 laps away from at 1-2 finish. But, Power, who started on the pole and led 60 laps at that point of the race, had a tire go down and he had an unscheduled pit stop. He’d finish 14th as a result.
His teammate Josef Newgarden pounced and led the final 14 laps en route to the win.
Pagenaud and Castroneves finished third and fourth respectively.
Then, at the IndyCar Grand Prix, another road course similar to Road America, Power started on the pole and led 61 laps en route to a dominating victory. Castroneves, led 24 laps himself, as the duo combined to lead all 85 laps that day. Pagenaud finished fourth and Castroneves fifth for three more Penske’s in the top five.
Newgarden, if not for two pit road speeding penalties, would have been in the top five too. Instead, he finished 11th. Montoya, running a fifth Penske car came home 10th.
So, with their strength last year at Road America, leading 96-percent (48 of 50 laps) of the overall laps there in 2016, mixed with their strong results on these type of road courses this season, leading 92-percent of (161 of 175 laps), it’s clear who the favorites are.