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Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 Notebook

Penske discusses Chevy dominance

When fans think of the Verizon IndyCar Series, there is one name associated with dominance in the sport and that is Penske.

Team owner Roger Penske’s team has a lengthy history of winning championships and numerous races. Everyone was reminded of that recently when his driver Juan Pablo Montoya became the 11th driver to win one of the organization’s record 16 Indianapolis 500 titles.

This year on the circuit is really no different as his four drivers occupy four of the top nine spots in the championship standings heading into this weekend’s Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Montoya leads the standings and is followed by teammate Will Power, who sits 21 points back in second. Helio Castroneves is fifth and Simon Pagenaud is ninth. Montoya has two wins this season and Power another to account for Penske’s three wins this season.

The combination of the best drivers and the best cars has kept Penske at the top of the series.

Chevrolet, led by Penske, has been dominating the series this season with six wins in eight races while Honda, the other manufacturer in the series, managing just two victories.

Chevy's early-season domination has everyone talking about the new aero-kit package the series is using on road courses and ovals. Those same aero kits that led to one of the best Indy 500’s in recent memory will be on display at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend as the series competes on its second oval track of the season.

Chevy’s big advantage over Honda has some wondering why such a large difference.

"I think there's a lot of speculation as to what the advantage for Chevy is right now,” Penske said. “Is it the cars or the aero kits?"

Penske agreed that perhaps it was time for INDYCAR to look at the lead Chevy has accumulated to this point.

"I think the series has the ability at some point to take the cars and put them in a wind tunnel and the engines and put them on a dyno," Penske said. "Let's find out where we are. That's going to be the true test, and if there is going to be an equalization based on the rules package, they'll have to do it.

"We knew this when we came into the series. If you have two different manufacturers working on aero and engine package, there could be a difference. I think right now, based on the results, I can't say it is all engine or all aero. I don't know what the plans are … the series, I think they have the ability to take a look at performance and data that's available. I think the manufacturers should go and look at the data and not hide it so it's a transparent process and each of us can get on with racing."

Former TMS winner Briscoe In For Hinchcliffe At Firestone 600

Ryan Briscoe has been tabbed by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to sub for the injured James Hinchcliffe at this weekend's Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. Briscoe finished 12th in the Indianapolis 500 filling in for Hinchcliffe, who had surgery May 18 after crashing during practice for the race. The team had Conor Daly step in Hinchcliffe’s seat last week at Belle Isle for the street-course doubleheader.

Briscoe could be a threat at the Firestone 600 given his past success at Texas Motor Speedway driving for Team Penske. He won the 2010 Texas race from the pole, finished second to Helio Castroneves in '09 and was third three times (in '08, '11 and '12).

Co-owner Ric Peterson says he doesn't know when Hinchcliffe will be back, but the team is hoping he'll be able to race by Aug. 1.

In other driver news for this weekend's Firestone 600, Dale Coyne Racing announced it will field Pippa Mann in its No. 18 car and Tristan Vautier in its No. 19. Both were among the team's 500 participants.

Munoz proves youth can be served

While much is made about the experience of the leaders in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, one of the young guns had his breakout last weekend.

Flash back to May of 2013 when Carlos Munoz, a then-21-year-old Colombian, was the talk of motorsports at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by qualifying and finishing second in his first Indianapolis 500.

Munoz’s results reminded many of his countryman Juan Pablo Montoya, who conquered the 2.5-mile oval in winning in his first visit in 2000. He was 24 years old.

Munoz went on to compete in two other Verizon IndyCar Series races that season and joined Andretti Autosport full time for 2014, earning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award and eighth place in the championship standings.

Now he is a Verizon IndyCar Series race winner. In his 28th career start, Munoz was the leader when Race 1 of the Dual in Detroit was red flagged because of lightning in the area and checkered after 47 of the scheduled 70 laps.

“I wanted to win it 100 percent, running all the laps, but this is racing,” Munoz shrugged. “My team did a great job in the strategy, and I think I also did a great job on the slick tires when the track was still a little bit wet. Really nice – my first victory in IndyCar.”

Jakes to make appearance at Children’s Medical Center

Verizon IndyCar Series driver and Racing For Kids representative James Jakes will visit patients at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas on Thursday, beginning at 10 a.m. Also attending will be Robbie Buhl, Racing For Kids national spokesperson, and Matt Ache, president of the iRex Group.

Jakes, who will drive the #7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry in the Firestone 600, will spend time with youngsters in the playroom handing out Racing For Kids caps and coloring books, signing autographs and posing for photos. 

Racing For Kids is a Detroit-based national charity that uses the popularity of motorsports to focus public awareness and funding on the health care needs of children

Gas 'N Go

Will Power, the defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion, is enjoying a solid season as he returns to Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 600. Power, who enters the race second in the point standings, has enjoyed success at the 1.5-mile oval, winning in 2011 and finishing second in last year’s race. With all of his success after arriving on the INDYCAR scene in 2008, Power is still adjusting to driving on the large ovals. "I am definitely more comfortable now on those tracks," Power said. "I feel I'm competitive anywhere I go now, and that's a good feeling. You just keep rolling and rolling."…The LED indicators that were supposed to be affixed to each Indy car to allow viewers to see what place they were in still have not made their official debut. It was thought the lights would make their debut at the Indianapolis 500, but did not. They will not make their debut until the technology is functioning at 100 percent and will probably not be ready for Saturday’s Firestone 600.

 

About the author

The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway. 

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