Day 3: Could a Penske ‘rabbit’ strategy work at Indy 500?

Penske team driver Will Power and his crew won the Pit Stop Challenge at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday but it will take more than quick pit stops to win the 101st running of the Indy 500 on Sunday.

Watching the timing/scoring sheets last week might give the impression that all five Penske teams weren’t completely happy with their qualifying position and I was curious to how they may convert their slightly slower but arguably more reliable Chevy engine and chassis combination to victory on Sunday.

In the Penske garage, it seemed to me that the car of Juan Pablo Montoya might be a key factor to the Penske strategy. Now I could be completely wrong and it must be said that no Penske employee shared any strategy with me and I wouldn’t even ask such a banal question ahead of the race but as I surveyed Juan Pablo’s car in the garage and his pace and setting in practice, I was chatting with some of the folks at Shell who have graciously invited me to join them this weekend at the Indy 500. We were talking specifically about how the Chevy-powered Penske’s might tactically approach this race.

Our discussions arrived at a theory of making Juan Pablo Montoya the rabbit as this is a one-off race for him and he knows how to win here and he’s very fast. If you trim him out and let him run, he’ll be amongst the leaders and it could put pressure on the Honda-powered cars causing reliability issues if they cover his strategy leaving the Penske team to try and pick up the win over stricken Hondas. If they don’t take the bait, then they could risk simply being out ran but a lot hinges on if a trimmed-out Chevy-powered Penske can run at the front in the hands of JPM.

As I say, I could be wrong here but regardless, it has been terrific to be a guest of Shell V-Power NiTRO+ here at Indy and I can say that it has been equally impressive to see their technical relationship with Penske with lubricants and a passion for racing.

The world of motorsport is always evolving and my conversations with Shell’s Global Sponsorship Manager, Kai- Uwe Witterstein, has be illuminating and very enjoyable. I can share with you that Shell is committed to motorsport and as the multiple series evolve, Shell is making interesting new relationships to find the best associations and technical partnerships they can.

Recent conversations between Shell and Formula 1’s new management have gone very well and revealed some interesting opportunities. Shell’s commitment to teams and individual series is an exercise in reaching particular markets at particular levels. Take DTM, WRC or MotoGP and think about how they are associated. It’s not random, it’s all be design.

So what will happen Sunday? Can Penske find the top stop through strategy? Certainly they are hoping so and as an F1 guy, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want Alonso to do well but there is a lot to like about the Penske lineup and with Shell’s partnership, perhaps they can get those Chevy-powered cars back toward the front.


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The weather forecast doesn’t look too promising. What happens if they have to stop the race? Is it like F1 where the time gaps from part one are added to the gaps in part two, or do they just count the final result from the shorter part two?


The forecast is looking better, and I think we’ll get this race in today, maybe even turn a full 200 laps. If they turn 101 laps, then the race is official. If they start, but rain halts the race sooner than Lap 101, then they’ll resume from the last completed lap on Monday with a single file restart as if resuming from a yellow (which is what they’re doing). If they do not start today, they’ll start tomorrow with the traditional 3×11 configuration.