FONTANA, Calif. – When Will Power and Helio Castroneves converged on the Verizon IndyCar Series championship trail, both were persistent in insisting that team goals trumped personal aspirations.
No. 1 was delivering a 13th Indy car title for the man who has everything -- team owner Roger Penske -- who also holds a record 15 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race wins. Either Power or Castroneves, both of whom had been runner-up three times, would be the beneficiary, too, with their first series championship.
“The goal for this year was to bring a title to Team Penske because it hadn't happened since 2006,” Power said of the season in which Sam Hornish Jr. won the Indianapolis 500 en route to series honors. “I think as a team we work really well together to have good cars and be in this position.”
The 33-year-old Aussie wrapped up the title Aug. 30.
Added Castroneves, who has won three of those Indy 500s for Team Penske since 2000: “It's an amazing organization. I believe any driver would love to be part of it, and for sure when you come there you understand because you want to win as bad as anybody. Wearing the shirt of the team you're becoming part of the team, and you want to make sure the team succeeds. Over the years that's what I've been seeing.
“We're so proud to be part of the organization, whether it's myself or Will or Juan Pablo (Montoya). Roger deserves it more than anybody.”
An hour before the hotly-contested MAVTV 500 on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway that he opened in 1997, “The Captain” and Penske Racing president Tim Cindric gathered personnel from all three teams under the Team Penske banner for a brief message that reinforced Castroneves’ views.
“I always tell our guys if one driver wins the team wins,” Penske said. “We got here because it was a team effort. There’s always some disappointment, but I think the fact that we have these three great drivers and dedicated people builds for the future that they are committed to the sport and we are committed to them.”
Tom Sneva in 1977 was the first of the eight drivers to provide an open-wheel racing title for Team Penske, and this season’s championship is the second since the team moved full time from CART to INDYCAR in 2002. Penske, as competitive as anyone on pit lane, hasn't been dismayed by the gap between titles.
“It just shows you the level of competition in the series and maybe our poor execution over the last few years that left the door open and let the competition drive through it,” Penske said. “It's a great, competitive environment. When you see the number of cars that can run quick, and every single weekend the reliability, the quality of the teams, I think the sport has come a long way.
“This (title) means a lot. I’ll take the wins and the poles, but the championships are special.”
Team Penske championships by sanctioning body
USAC National Championship: 1977 - Tom Sneva; 1978 - Tom Sneva
CART: 1979 - Rick Mears (teammate Bobby Unser runner-up); 1981 - Rick Mears (teammate Bill Alsup runner-up); 1982 - Rick Mears; 1983 - Al Unser; 1985 - Al Unser; 1988 - Danny Sullivan ; 1994 - Al Unser Jr. (teammate Emerson Fittipaldi runner-up); 2000 - Gil de Ferran; 2001 - Gil de Ferran
INDYCAR: 2006 - Sam Hornish Jr.; 2014 – Will Power