NTT INDYCAR Series
Penske Duo Plagued by Tire Issues
At the 30-lap mark of the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, it looked like Team Penske had the race firmly in their grasp.
However, tire issues for their frontrunners kept the Captain’s team out of victory lane in the desert.
Helio Castroneves started on pole and led until a flat tire forced him to pit road on lap 40. He made it down pit road under green without a caution and without damage to his No. 3 REV Group Chevrolet. Castroneves fought back to finish 11th.
Team Penske officials confirmed that a cut led to the tire failure on Castroneves’ machine.
“There was never an indication there was any problem with the tire so by the time we realized it was going flat, it was too late,” Castroneves said. “We lost a lot with that. To finish on the lead lap and in the top 11 shows just how good the REV Chevy car was this weekend.”
Juan Pablo Montoya inherited the lead when Castroneves pitted and led the event until he too suffered a flat tire at Lap 96. He was able to fight back to finish ninth, slipping to third in the points.
Unlike Castroneves’ issue, Montoya’s flat was a result of a mechanical failure.
“The car kept getting a vibration and then it would settle and then would go from a three-car gap to a 15-to-20-car gap,” Montoya said. “Overall, the Verizon Chevy was pushing pretty hard and was still able to stay in the top 10. Not the finish we wanted, but we’ll look ahead to Long Beach and go from there.”
All was not lost for Team Penkse with the flats. Simon Pagenaud and Will Power came home second and third, respectively. Pagenaud’s second consecutive runner-up handed him the points lead for the first time in his career.
Power, who made his season debut after missing St. Petersburg with an inner ear infection, said he was unaware of his teammates’ specific issues, but knew tires were a problem.
“I was very nice on my tires because I knew you couldn’t pass, so why get so close,” Power lamented. “I was aware that the more you punish it, the more chance you’re going to have of a big vibration. It’s not the tire that’s the problem. It’s the amount of downforce we have here. It’s too much, and that’s why we couldn’t pass, and that’s why the tires — some of the tires had vibrations.”
Pagenaud was told of his teammates’ problems, but said he couldn’t do much with the information.
“There’s not much you can do as a driver, just keep pushing and see what happens,” he said. “So at the end of the day, you’ve just got to keep doing your job. You have it in the back of your mind when you start getting a vibration and stuff like that, but that’s part of the job.”
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