When Ryan Briscoe crossed the finish line for his first victory of the season, the accolades from his car owner meant as much as the trophy and trademark cowboy hat he got for winning in Texas.
"Briscoe really resumed when I saw him as a great driver, this was a terrific race," Roger Penske said moments after the Australian driver captured the IndyCar Series' last race and joined both his teammates as winners this season.
"Racing for this team, there's no better feeling than coming into Victory Circle and getting congratulated by the captain," Briscoe said. "To receive compliments from him, it's a great feeling. I want to get many more of them this year."
Through the first seven races, Penske has been able to give out plenty of "attaboys" to his expanded three-car team.
Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Briscoe are all in the top five in IndyCar season points, and each has already won a race this season. Power won the first two.
The Penske team has started from the pole in six consecutive races, including Briscoe at Texas the week after the Indianapolis 500 and before the series took last weekend off.
"Certainly adding a third car has upgraded everybody, is pushing everybody," said Castroneves, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and team constant. "All three cars are very competitive."
Since Penske made its IndyCar Series debut in 2001, Castroneves is the only driver to be part of the team every season. The Brazilian has won at least once each year, and has 17 wins overall in 137 IRL starts.
This is the first time since 1994 that Penske has fielded three full-time open-wheel teams. Power was only a substitute and part-timer last season.
"Not that Helio and I were snoozing at all, (but) I think when Will came aboard, and is as quick as he was on the street courses, it drives everyone to keep working harder and harder," Briscoe said. "It's a good dynamic. We're all a little bit different personality, but we work well together."
Power opened this season by winning on street courses in Brazil and St. Petersburg, claiming the IRL points lead. He stayed on top until a 14th-place finish at Texas dropped him to No. 2, a mere three points behind Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti.
Scott Dixon, Franchitti's teammate at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, is third, while Castroneves and Briscoe round out the top five.
Franchitti and Dixon finished 1-2 last season, when Briscoe won three races and was the runner-up eight times to finish third, only 12 points behind Franchitti and one behind Dixon. Castroneves was fourth despite missing a race.
Power's debut for Penske came as a fill-in when Castroneves missed the start of last season while on trial for federal tax-evasion charges. Castroneves returned to the No. 3 car at Indy and won, while Power was fifth in the No. 12 that Penske entered into three more races after that. Power won at Edmonton before he broke his back in a practice crash at Sonoma in August.
"I always thought that I could get back to full health to drive. It was question of whether I'd have a full-time ride," Power said. "When I was lying in the hospital, the worst-case scenario was we'd do the same as what we did last year, which was selected races."
But Penske got enough backing for the third full-time team, and Power quickly got back up to speed.
"The only thing in my head was will I be as quick as I was, and will there be a lack of confidence," Power said. "As soon as I got back in the car, I knew that everything was the same, and I haven't given it a thought since. If anything, I feel more confident, just the fact I've been with the team two years in a row, and just the continuity there."
After this weekend's race in Iowa, the IRL has five consecutive races on road courses, where Power is at his best.
Briscoe's breakthrough in the Lone Star State helped ease the sting for the team after the disappointment at Indianapolis, where things had gone predictably well for Penske until race day.
Castroneves gave the owner a record 16th Indy 500 pole, and Power started beside him on the front row. The team won the pit contest again, but didn't win its 16th race at the Brickyard.
Briscoe crashed soon after coming out of the pits late in the race and Power overcame two mishaps to finish eighth, a spot ahead of Castroneves after the defending Indy 500 champion stalled his car on the final stop.
At Texas, Briscoe led 102 of 228 laps and regained the lead for good when he pushed past Danica Patrick after his final pit stop.
"A huge win, just to get the championship rolling for the No. 6 car," Briscoe said. "I don't want people to forget what we were able to do last year. But it's been a really difficult start for this part of the team. ... We've got to keep our heads down. It's a long way to go."