INDIANAPOLIS: Roger Penske’s team won each of the first four IndyCar races this season and won the pole at Indianapolis, too.
By Sunday, it looked like just another race team.
Points leader Will Power finished 28th after being involved in the first crash of the day, hitting Mike Conway, who spun right in front of the Australian. A bouncing wheel from that crash hit the right front tire of Helio Castroneves’ car and he immediately started losing positions.
But that wasn’t the only problem the three-time winner had.
“First, we chose the wrong lane [on restarts], or second, it would never get the draft,” Castroneves said. “It was very weird. We tried high downforce, we tried low downforce. Certainly it was not what I was expecting.”
The Brazilian wound up 10th in his latest bid to become the fourth four-time 500 winner.
Penske’s other Aussie driver, Ryan Briscoe, did manage to finish fifth after winning the pole.
Josef Newgarden’s first Indy start did not go as planned.
First, he struggled out of the gate. Then his No. 67 car stalled on lap 164, knocking him out of the race with mechanical problems. Newgarden finished 27th, completing 161 laps.
“It’s just unfortunate that we didn’t get to finish the race,” Newgarden said. “There were drivers who were crazy at the beginning and others were taking it easy. It was similar to what I was expecting.”
Hot, hot, hot
Forecasts calling for the hottest day in 500 history proved to be wrong. It was only the second hottest, though few at the track realized that.
At one point during Sunday’s race, the track’s internal video system showed a graphic that the outdoor temperature was 93 degrees and the track temperature was 133, an image that prompted the public address announcers to tell fans they were part of history.
The hottest 500 came in 1937, when it was 92 degrees.
But after the race, speedway officials announced that the National Weather Service had recorded the day’s high temperature as 91 degrees, tying the temperature from 1919 and 1953.
Pete Rose attended his first 500 on Sunday.
Baseball’s hit king grew up in Cincinnati, about a two-hour drive from Indianapolis, and played and managed in his hometown before receiving a lifetime ban from the commissioner’s office in 1989 following an investigation of his gambling.
Until USAC official Dick Jordan invited Rose to join him at the track this year, Rose never had time to make the drive from Cincinnati to Indy.
“This is one of two sports deals you never get to participate in as a baseball player, this and the one in Louisville,” Rose said, referring to the Kentucky Derby.