Power looks to get back on track in Edmonton

Team Penske racer Will Power. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency file photo)

Team Penske racer Will Power. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency file photo)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:33 AM ET

EDMONTON - What’s wrong with Team Penske?

And why hasn’t Will Power won lately?

Roger Penske’s IndyCar team is headed to Edmonton this week without having a driver leading the IZOD IndyCar Series standings and without a driver having won the Indianapolis 500 or any race since.

Helio Castroneves won the first race of the season in St. Petersburg, Fla. and Will Power the next three. But Penske hasn’t had a win since.

What’s going on?

“It’s been a bad, bad, really bad team slump,” said Power, the defending Edmonton Indy champion who lost the series lead in the last race.

“It’s not from a lack of speed at all. We can’t keep having bad weekends,” he said in a telephone interview Monday.

Power is coming off one of those bad weekends at the Toronto Indy.

Power lost the series lead, which Penske has been in possession of all season with Castroneves winning the first race, because of a yellow caution situation in Toronto leaving him and eight of the top running cars on the track.

“Basically, if they’d left the pits open, we would have come out in the lead.”

But there was more.

“Losing my front wing — these front wings are very fragile — and having it break off to give me a flat tire and losing a lap … that was on me.”

Stuff keeps happening.

And some of that stuff is built in with the new cars 0this year.

“It has a lot to do with the competitive field we have this year. If you’re winning races, you’re doing a bloody good job.”

And Ryan Hunter-Reay with Andretti Racing, who has won three straight races, he said, is doing a really good job.

Hunter-Reay has taken the series lead from him.

“Obviously you are in good position if you’ve just won three in a row. The team has confidence in you and you have confidence in yourself,” he said of RHR.

But, hey, this is Penske Place.

Edmonton is where Penske first came with Mark Donohue to run in the Can-Am back in 1968 and won a pair of Can-Ams and Trans-Ams.

He’s won more Indy 500s than any other owner, with 14, and more auto races overall than anybody, with 358.

Penske will be in Edmonton this year to call the race in the pits.

And this may be the perfect place to break the slump for his drivers Power, Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe.

There must be a document at City Hall to prove it. Roger Penske owns the Edmonton Indy.

Team Penske has been dominant at the Edmonton Indy since merger in 2008.

Led by Will Power, who won 2009 and 2011, Penske drivers have six podiums, eight top fives and 10 top 10 finishes in 11 combined starts in the four races here so far, not to mention three of the last four pole positions, two by Power and the other by Briscoe.

Power’s average starting position of 2.3 leads all active IndyCar drivers at Edmonton and he’s won two and finished second in his three races for Penske here.

“I like both tracks,” said Power. “I liked the previous one best. It was the ultimate driver’s track. The new one still a bit of a drivers track and makes good racing. It’s definitely less physical. You have three long straights to rest on.”

Castroneves has had an average starting position of fourth and has managed to lead at least one lap of all four of his Edmonton races for Penske. In 2008 and 2009 he qualified and finished among the top three. After qualifying second in 2010 Castroneves appeared to be finally headed for a win in Edmonton before the controvercial late-race blocking penalty on teammate Power. Last year he had his third second place finish in his four Edmonton Indys.

“He’s been the most consistent in the last few races. I know he’s really looking forward to this race.”

Briscoe has never finished outside the top 10 in Edmonton and this year’s Indy 500 pole sitter has had two front row (including the 2008 pole) starts in this race.

With the new cars, the suggestion is that Penske has lost the so-called “unfair advantage” he’s always in search of finding.

“That unfair advantage they talk about is hard work,” said Power.

“You want to talk about unfair advantage look at the small teams that cheat week in and week out and don’t get any real penalties, that’s the real unfair advantage. All you have to do is read the papers, there’s one every week. Like the last one with the oversized fuel cell,” he said of A.J. Foyt’s team getting caught and then, in his opinion, wrist-slapped for the violation.

With the new cars, there’s not as much you can do compared to the ones they’ve run for the last four years here, he said.

“It’s really restricted. You can hardly develop anything. You could definitely do more with the old car in terms of moving weight distribution and things like that. We’re all pretty much running the same. It ultimately comes down to engine package and driver.”

Put Will Power in exactly the same car as anybody else and he’s going to win more than his fair share of races. Put him in that car in Edmonton, where his grandmother from Brandon, Man., who was working here when she met his grandfather, an Australian pilot who was based here in World War II, makes the place extra special.

“I’ve always enjoyed going there. I like the city and I really enjoy the track. It’s a nice place.”

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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