Penske Racing driver Helio Castroneves looks to improve his Pocono run from last year in next Sunday’s Pocono IndyCar 500.
The Brazilian-born driver wheeled his No. 3 Chevrolet to an eighth-place finish in last year’s Pocono IndyCar 400. The Chevrolets seemed to struggle on fuel mileage as Hondas took six of the first seven spots.
“I feel that Chevy has been working very hard to have better fuel mileage,” Castroneves said during Wednesday’s teleconference. “Hopefully, we’re able to. Honda also changed their engines to top speed turbo, used to be single turbo, and we (Chevrolet) were very close at all the races.”
With the top speed twin turbo engines in IndyCar this season, the competition has been closer than in years past. There have been six different winners in the first eight races this season.
“It seems to be they’re (Honda) not going any further than anybody or any of us except you start saving a lot of fuel,” Castroneves added. “Hopefully we won’t have any surprise, but the fuel is very difficult to protect.”
Castroneves and the entire Penske Racing organization tested last Tuesday at Pocono Raceway to gear up for the July 6 IndyCar race. His teammate Will Power was the highest finishing Penske driver in last year’s race with a fourth.
“Track seems to be good,” Castroneves said about last Tuesday’s test. “Looks like the curbing in turn two seems to be taken away, which is still very challenging. The Triangle of Pocono is very challenging.”
With the curbing in turn two now gone, no Sprint Cup Series drivers tried to pass on the strip of asphalt in the June 8 Pocono 400.
NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin gave his take about trying to cut the corner in the Cup car.
“It’s a cool idea, but the new asphalt is like two inches higher than the old asphalt,” Hamlin pointed out after winning the Pocono 400 pole on June 6. “It’s not a smooth transition, so it will rip your splitter … literally, you’re going to just tear your whole front end right off the car if you try to cut that corner.
It may change during the Pocono IndyCar 500 as the lighter-weight IndyCar doesn’t have a front splitter to deal with and a brave driver might test out the asphalt where the curb used to be in turn two.
“Our series is always unpredictable,” Castroneves said. “I guarantee someone is going to try it. Might be me.”
Pocono isn’t named the Tricky Triangle for nothing, as drivers have to maneuver three different turns around the 2.5-mile track.
The IndyCar drivers can run nearly wide-open at Pocono with Marco Andretti setting the best example last season. The Andretti Autosport driver shattered the qualifying record with a two-lap average of 221.273 mph.
An extra 100 miles has been added to this year IndyCar race at Pocono as last year’s 400-mile race had to fit in a three-hour time window for ABC.
The July 6 Pocono IndyCar 500 will air live at noon on NBC Sports Network, with IndyCar qualifying and the Indy Lights race taking place on July 5.