Click above image for high-res gallery of Grand Prix of Sonoma
Motor racing is, of course, highly competitive, and the logistics highly complicated. The higher the level of racing, the more competitive and the more complicated. But racing fans expect to see it duked out on the track, not on the way there. That's why it was so disappointing when the transporter carrying Penske's Indy racing team to Infineon (formerly known as Sears Point) in Sonoma, California, went up in flames on the interstate.
For any other team, even a lesser incident would have called the curtain on their race weekend. But as we reported on Thursday, Penske has a history of turning adverse circumstances like these into victory. Was the team able to perpetuate the legacy, or did it succumb to the circumstances? For the sake of those who have this past weekend's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County cued up on TiVo, we'll keep the results after the jump. Follow along to read on.
In short, the boys at Penske managed to turn their tragedy into triumph by commanding a 1-2 finish at Infineon. Not only did they take the front row in qualifying, but Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe crossed the finish line at the end of the long race distance one after the other to take the top two spots.
Castroneves and Briscoe managed to pull off the command performance with ostensibly sub-par equipment. With the truck carrying their race-prepped cars left smoldering in rural Wyoming, the Penske team pieced together a pair of competitive cars from test vehicles - one missing an engine - that were already in Sonoma from a previous session and the oval speedway-prepped cars that, thanks to Penske's advanced preparedness, were ready to go a few weeks ahead of time.
Although both Castroneves and Briscoe clearly performed at their peak, they gave the lion's share of the credit to their crew. "As soon as I jumped in the car, it was fantastic. It was exactly the same way we've always prepared the cars, " said Castroneves, while Briscoe echoed: "It's a huge testament to the team. It's any team's fear that something like that could happen. Hats off to the team. It's not like we were around the corner here from North Carolina. It wasn't an easy turnaround."
They seemed to have taken all the luck away from Scott Dixon this past weekend. Dixon came to Sears Point with a seemingly insurmountable 78-point lead in the championship, but Castroneves had closed the gap down to a more manageable 43 points by the time the day was over. But with just three races to go, Helio and the Penske team will need to carry their resurgent fortunes through the end of the season in order to secure the title.
With or without the championship in hand, Castroneves managed to secure a title of a different kind. By logging his first victory the season (Helio has scored seven second places so far), Castroneves took the record for the most consecutive seasons with race wins, now eight seasons running. And come what may, Penske has secured its place in the history books of motor racing for this near-miraculous turnaround.