CHAMPCAR/CART: Marlboro Team Penske Laguna Seca preview

With his wire-to-wire win at this past week's Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston, Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran captured the maximum amount of points available during a race weekend - 22 - and re-took the lead of the CART FedEx...

With his wire-to-wire win at this past week's Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston, Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran captured the maximum amount of points available during a race weekend - 22 - and re-took the lead of the CART FedEx Series Championship. The defending Series Champion's win on the downtown streets of Houston marked his 7th career race victory and his first ever win from the pole. In addition, his second consecutive win this year (the first came at the Rockingham 500) also sets a milestone for the Brazilian driver by marking the first back-to-back wins in his CART career. De Ferran has now finished on the podium in five of his last seven races and scored the pole in three of the last six.

"As we get to the end of the season, every race takes on extra importance and I was very aware of that going into Houston. I knew if we had a good weekend, we could put ourselves in a better position for the final stretch, which is what makes this win so important," said de Ferran. "In the second half of the season, we have been able to translate speed from practice into good qualifying results and race finishes. We cannot take anything for granted, however, or underestimate the competition. It was a great weekend for Marlboro Team Penske but we're already thinking about Laguna Seca."

CASTRONEVES MOVES TO THIRD IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Helio Castroneves' fifth place finish in Houston gave him an additional ten points in the battle for the CART FedEx Series Championship and moved him ahead of Michael Andretti for third position in the standings - 20 points behind second-place Kenny Brack and 30 points behind de Ferran. He has now scored points in seven of his last eight starts this season.

FAST FACTS * Marlboro Team Penske has led every lap in three races this season - Castroneves led wire-to-wire in Long Beach and Detroit and de Ferran in Houston; and has led most laps in ten races. * De Ferran leads the CART FedEx Championship Series with seven podium finishes in 17 starts (41%) and Marlboro Team Penske leads the Series with 11 podium finishes. * De Ferran's 15th pole position moved him into second place among active drivers (Michael Andretti has 32) and seventh place among all CART drivers. His seventh career win ties him with Adrian Fernandez and Dario Franchitti for 14th place on the all-time CART list. * De Ferran's win at Houston marks the first time a Marlboro Team Penske driver has scored consecutive race wins since Paul Tracy in 1997 when he won three races in a row - Nazareth, Rio and St. Louis. * Marlboro Team Penske leads the series with seven pole positions (qualified for six) and is tied with Team Rahal for most wins this season (5). * Marlboro Team Penske has eight podium finishes in the ten temporary/road courses run this season (80%) - including three wins - Detroit, Mid-Ohio and Houston. * Marlboro Team Penske drivers have led a total of 424 out of 829 laps (51%) on temporary/road courses this season. * Marlboro Team Penske has started in the top-three in eight of the ten temporary/road courses this season.

CASTRONEVES TO DEFEND TITLE AT LAGUNA SECA
Marlboro Team Penske continues on its quest for their second consecutive CART FedEx Series Championship as they travel to the permanent road course at Laguna Seca Raceway this weekend. Last year, Helio Castroneves captured his first win from the pole as he scored his third victory and third pole of the season on the 2.238-mile course. Teammate de Ferran finished second marking the Team's second 1-2 finish of the season (the first came at Mid-Ohio); his second place start gave Marlboro Team Penske their third front row sweep of the year.

Marlboro Team Penske has captured the pole four times in their ten years of racing at Laguna Seca and won the race four times - three times from the pole (Sullivan - 1990; Tracy - 1994; and Castroneves - 2000).

RICK MEARS DONATES TO TWIN TOWERS FUND AND ALEX ZANARDI FOUNDATION
Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART Champion Rick Mears has announced that he will contribute up to $100,000 to the Twin Towers Fund and the Alex Zanardi Foundation based on Marlboro Team Penske driver's Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves and nephew Casey Mears' on-track performance. Whichever Marlboro Team Penske driver completes the most laps in the last four races of the season (possible total of 498 laps) - Houston, Laguna Seca, Australia and the Marlboro 500 - Mears will contribute $100 per lap to the Twin Towers Fund.

"Like many Americans, I want to honor the victims and heroes of the tragedy that occurred in New York less than one month ago," said Mears. "I know many within CART's organization have already made contributions, but we need everyone to pitch in and we won't cross the finish line until we have 100% commitment from the entire racing community."

For every lap Casey Mears completes while substituting for the injured Zanardi on the Mo Nunn Racing Team, Mears will contribute $100 to the Alex Zanardi Foundation.

"Because CART's Safety Team was instrumental in saving the life of Alex, the monies raised based on Casey's performance will go directly to the Alex Zanardi Foundation and will be donated in the name of the Safety Team - the unsung heroes of our sport."

To date based on the results of this past weekend's race; Mears will contribute $10,000 to the Twin Towers Fund and $9,800 to the Alex Zanardi Foundation.

-MTP-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Casey Mears , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Kenny Brack , Rick Mears , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske