Team Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves entered the weekend on two different sides of the championship spectrum but found themselves fighting for second place in the closing laps of Saturday's Milwaukee IndyFest.
Castroneves is championship points leader and Power is outside of the top-10 in what has become the worst start of his career. But Power hasn't relented and was giving Castroneves his best shot with less than 10 laps to go.
At one point, Power even touched the grass in turn two trying to get around Castroneves and nearly made contact on several other occasions. Ultimately, Power was unable to take the spot and settled for third, remarkably the first podium of his season.
Power believes he had enough to get around Castroneves but didn't want to risk taking out his teammates and the championship leader, thus a more conservative approach. Power says he never intended to go so low to pass Castroneves but was forced down there when the two teammates got bottled up behind lap traffic.
"I was very mindful coming on Helio," Power said during the postrace press conference. "He's leading the championship. For Penske, it's all about the team. I didn't want to do anything desperate or anything.
"I want to make sure that he maintains the points lead but if I could have passed him easy, I would have."
Castroneves joked that Power was good enough to could race on grass and Power agreed, noting that he was a "dirt-tracker from back in the day."
Helio says that never intended to push Power so low either, admitting that he gave Power a look at the inside when he ducked high to find grip to get around the lap traffic.
"It was never my intention to put the guy in the grass," Castroneves said. "That was my line basically. I was running low, high, basically everything, trying to find grip, especially when I had traffic in front of me. I was trying to find a way to stay ahead of that traffic."
At the end of the day, neither driver made contact with each other and they finished 2-3, a pretty good day for the Penske duo. Castroneves maintained most of his championship lead — 16 points over Ryan Hunter-Reay — and drives into next Sunday's race at Iowa Speedway with momentum.
"Great performance for both of us," Castroneves said. "We're very happy. We wanted to be first and second, but unfortunately the yellow car (Hunter-Reay) got first."
Complete 2013 IndyFest Race Results can be found here.