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Team Penske doesn't fare well in Indianapolis 500

Roger Penske's team has won 15 times in the Indianapolis 500, and the drivers were favorites Sunday. Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe finish 14th, 17th and 27th, respectively.

May 29, 2011|By Jim Peltz
  • Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe (6) and Townsend Bell of Sam Schmidt Motorsports hit the wall together during the Indy 500 on Sunday.
Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe (6) and Townsend Bell of Sam Schmidt Motorsports… (Randy Ballinger / Reuters )

Reporting from Indianapolis

What happened to Team Penske?

Roger Penske's team has won an unprecedented 15 times in the Indianapolis 500 and his current drivers were favorites again Sunday, but Indy's 100th anniversary race was one for them to forget.

Helio Castroneves, seeking his fourth Indy 500 victory, finished 17th after a tire came off his car at one point. "We were trying to get back on the lead [lap] and then we had that flat tire" that shredded, Castroneves said.

Will Power lost a wheel coming out of the pits early in the race and finished 14th. And Ryan Briscoe finished 27th after being involved in a crash with Townsend Bell.

"At the first pit stop, the wheel came loose … and had to fix that, got a lap down and that was it for the day," Power said.

Race winner Dan Wheldon neatly summed up the team's day: "I don't think I saw a Penske [car] in front of me once in the race," he said.

No double trouble

The Indy 500 got its initial taste of the controversial "double-file restarts" being used for the first time in the Izod IndyCar Series this season and, while hair-raising to watch, the feared rash of crashes didn't happen.

The cars formerly restarted single file after a caution period. Now they line up two by two when they retake the green flag, which some critics have said raises the danger of wrecks.

Bunched-up racing did occur in the first lap or two after a restart under the new format, with the cars often then spreading out three wide as they tried to gain position.

There was one incident after a restart early in the race in which E.J. Viso spun and hit the wall, but otherwise the restarts were fairly clean.

"I thought the restarts were great," said Graham Rahal, who finished third. "There were a lot of passing opportunities, plenty of excitement. The excitement was incredible inside of the car."

Tagliani's day

Canadian Alex Tagliani, who sat on the pole, stayed in contention and led 20 laps until he spun and hit the wall on lap 147, ending his day. He finished 28th.

"It's a shame, because early on the car was so good I thought we had a shot at it all race long," he said.

"But we kind of lost the [the handling of] the car at some point," Tagliani said. "I don't know exactly why the car became loose. We were struggling with a very nervous car."

De Silvestro's Woes

Simona De Silvestro, who qualified 23rd despite suffering burned hands in a hard crash during practice, finished 31st after the 23-year-old Swiss driver hit the wall and damaged her car.

"I made contact with the wall in Turn 1," said De Silvestro, who drives for HVM Racing and drew one of the loudest cheers during the driver introductions. "The car felt really good until I made that little mistake."

james.peltz@latimes.com

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