INDIANAPOLIS – As Team Penske Competition Director, Kyle Moyer is in charge of a Team Penske record five entries in the 101st Indianapolis 500.
One thing Moyer and the team must find prior to Sunday’s race is more speed. The teams showed a lack of speed during qualifying last weekend, surprising many teams in the paddock.
More Honda horsepower combined with a better superspeedway aero kit on the big tracks have helped the Honda teams claim a decided advantage in speed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. So the Chevrolet teams, led by Team Penske, must make sure its cars are better suited for race conditions in Sunday’s 101st Indianapolis 500.
There were only three Chevrolets in Sunday’s Fast Nine that determined who would start from the Indianapolis 500 Pole. The slowest car out of that nine was Team Penske’s Will Power, who had a four-lap average of 230.200 mph.
That was much better than his four teammates, who didn’t even make the Fast Nine.
The next Team Penske driver was two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, who timed in 18th at 229.565 mph. He was followed by four-time Indianapolis 500 pole winner Helio Castroneves, who had the worst qualification effort of his Indianapolis 500 career – 19th at 229.515 mph. Josef Newgarden was 22nd at 228.501 mph and defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud was 23rd at 228.093 mph.
Pagenaud and Castroneves made up for that lack of speed in Monday’s practice session with Pagenaud running 95 laps with a fast lap of 226.998 mph on lap 80. Castroneves was sixth at 226.705 mph on the 16th lap of the 121 he ran on Monday.
“I think race time it will be a typical Penske situation with the five cars,” Moyer told SPEED SPORT. “I think we race great. We didn’t have the qualifying speed we wanted but I think we will race fine. We raced great the last couple years here so I don’t see that changing.
“We’ve got great drivers. We had a good day Monday with our five cars so I think we have a good chance at this.”
Moyer believes that a poor qualification performance does not eliminate the team from doing well in the Indianapolis 500. But, “we have to do our homework before we show up at Pocono.”
In addition to overseeing the entire Team Penske lineup, Moyer is the man on the timing stand that calls the strategy for Pagenaud. He believes Pagenaud can win on Sunday.
“If I was in Vegas, I’d bet on it,” Moyer said. “He races great here; he always runs good here. We have the same car as last year that ran so well here.”
That confident look returned to Pagenaud’s face after Monday’s practice had concluded.
“We didn’t have the speed in qualifying, we haven’t had the speed last week at all to compete,” Pagenaud explained. “It was unfortunate and a bit of a mystery. I said the mysteries of Indianapolis sometimes is what makes this place legendary.
“We made a lot of changes Sunday night, mostly on bodywork, because it’s a different package than qualifying, and a new engine to go for the race. It’s a weapon, that engine, to put in there. They put a new engine that’s really strong. Chevy did a tremendous job with calibration.”
Pagenaud is believes that the Chevrolet cars can race and race hard.
“I felt like my race car was very good last week, and we showed it Monday I think in the heat,” Pagenaud said. “It actually gets really good in traffic. It can run with people.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting race. There’s definitely a big competition between Honda and Chevy. Honda’s done a very strong job, bringing a strong engine and aero. But we have what we need, I think, to have a strong race.
“Again, it’s 500 miles so a lot can happen.”
Then there is Montoya, who returns to the Indianapolis 500 for only his second race of the season. He has stepped aside from full-time duty in the Verizon IndyCar Series to focus his efforts on the one big race that happens every Memorial Day Weekend.
“He is relaxed,” Moyer said of Montoya. “Juan has come in here for one purpose and that is to win the race. He doesn’t have to worry about anything after, he doesn’t have to worry about points, he doesn’t have to worry about anything but win the race. When Juan is in that position it’s hard to bet against him.
“And Will Power is driving the best since I’ve been here.”