Addition by subtraction for The Captain

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on January 16, 2013 1:49 pm

They say all good things come in threes. The Three Wisemen, the Three Musketeers, and even the Three Stooges had their moment in the spotlight. Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti both have their likenesses on the Borg-Warner Trophy three times, and Helio’s car is – you guessed it – number three.

For Helio and teammate Will Power though, two may be even better.

Last Friday was the deadline for Leaders Circle applications. INDYCAR received 22 entries with Team Penske yet again filing for three. Ryan Briscoe is obviously the odd man out this year, but why did Roger submit a third entry when Tony Stewart confirmed weeks ago that he would not be getting behind the wheel for The Captain in May? After all, teams have to submit $50,000 to continue the application process.

We have to assume that Roger is playing the better-safe-than-sorry game in regard to being prepared for the option of running a third car at Indianapolis and possibly Detroit.

It’s a smart move, but fielding just two full-time drivers next year could be the best move he’s made in recent memory.

For Castroneves, his obvious goal is to capture that elusive fourth glass of milk at IMS. Even though he still hasn’t won a championship in his lengthy career, one more win at Indianapolis would cement his legacy among the all-time greats even without a title.

For Power, it might be quite the opposite. He has clearly been one of the best drivers in the series (some would say the best) over the last three years. Despite finishing as runner-up in the championship in each of those three seasons (there’s that number again), he is the overwhelming favorite nearly every weekend.

Is this a case of killing two birds with one stone?

By concentrating their efforts solely on two cars for the entire year, Team Penske might just be able to do the unthinkable. If they are able to get Helio his fourth ‘500’ and Power his first championship, what else is there left to do? That’s a dream scenario for Roger and both drivers — a dream that just may come true in 2013.

Unfortunately for these guys, luck always seems to have a say. Indianapolis is wildly unpredictable. Anything can (and probably will) happen over the course of 800 turns and 500 miles. We’ve also seen how Power’s luck has played out in the last couple of races of the season in each of the three years he ended up playing second fiddle.

We know that this team is the standard and that they set the bar for everyone else. There will no doubt be plenty of competition from Ganassi and Andretti, and don’t count out guys like Hildebrand, Kanaan, Rahal, or Pagenaud, to name a few. But concentrating on two cars instead of three will significantly increase Team Penske’s odds of success.

Perhaps in the case of The Captain, that old adage should be revised: all good things come in pairs.

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