Penske Racing transporter goes up in flames en route to Infineon

Penske's Indy racing team suffered disaster early this morning when their transporter truck – en route from the team's headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina, to Sonoma, California – caught fire at 4 a.m. on Interstate 80 outside Cheyenne, Wyoming. The two Penske personnel on board managed to escape unharmed, but could not extinguish the fire, believed to have been caused by a faulty bearing in one of the trailer's wheels. They detached the truck cab from the burning trailer and could do nothing more but watch as an estimated $2 million worth of equipment – including two Dallara-Honda race cars – went up in flames.

The truck was bringing the cars and other necessary equipment to the Infineon Raceway at Sears Point for this weekend's race, where Penske's Helio Castroneves hopes to close the 78-point gap on rival Scott Dixon in the third to last race of the season. However Castroneves' car was completely destroyed by the fire, along with that of team-mate Ryan Briscoe. Fortunately the team already has two test cars at the track where they were practicing earlier this week, which will now be converted to race duty. The team has also dispatched another transporter truck from North Carolina carrying two additional cars – useable only for spare parts as they're already set up for the oval-track race in Chicago – along with additional personnel and equipment, which will pick up the two stranded staffers in Wyoming and drop off four more to sift through the wreckage.

Penske has a history of turning adverse circumstances into victory, having won at Kansas Speedway in 2006 shortly after the team's headquarters were decimated in a flood. At the 1987 Indianapolis 500, the team had to replace injured driver Danny Ongais with Al Unser Sr, and ditched its own car in favor of a retired March chassis that was sitting on display in a hotel lobby, which Unser drove to victory at the Brickyard. By the end of the weekend we'll know if Penske's penchant for overcoming disaster will carry through at Sears Point.

[Sources: Indianapolis Star and, photo courtesy of Penske Racing/IMS Photo]

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