CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Penske Houston preview

Marlboro Team Penske's Gil de Ferran heads to Houston this weekend with hopes of extending his first place position in the FedEx Championship Series Point Standings. Going into the 18th race of the season, de Ferran has an eight point lead over...

Marlboro Team Penske's Gil de Ferran heads to Houston this weekend with hopes of extending his first place position in the FedEx Championship Series Point Standings. Going into the 18th race of the season, de Ferran has an eight point lead over second place Roberto Moreno (129 points). With two temporary street courses (Houston and Australia) next up on the schedule and a strong performance history on "the streets" this season, things are looking good for de Ferran in the final stretch.

In the five street courses run this season (Long Beach, Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto and Vancouver), de Ferran has started in the top-five four times including the pole in Long Beach and has finished in the points four times.

Currently in seventh place in the Series Points Standings, just 30 points out of first place, Helio Castroneves is still in the running for the FedEx Series Championship. He currently sits atop the Series standings in race wins with three (tied with Paul Tracy and Juan Montoya) and is second in laps led with 330. His 245 laps led on road/street courses is tops in the Series.

Castroneves has three top-five starts in this season's five temporary street circuits including the pole in Toronto. In addition, Castroneves has two podium finishes on "the streets" including his first CART career victory at Detroit and a second place finish at Long Beach.

Marlboro Team Penske spent much of last week on the 2.029-mile Superspeedway in Fontana during a three-day test session in preparation for the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota. Helio Castroneves tested on Tuesday and Wednesday and ran more than 500 miles over the two-day period. The Marlboro car was fast and consistent, and Castroneves ran laps in the 234-235 mph range.

Gil de Ferran tested his #2 2000 Marlboro Honda Reynard on Thursday, September 21, but was delayed by rain until about 11:30 a.m. He was able to get in a few long runs and also had a chance to work on his qualifying set-up. He ran laps in the 234 mph range.

"The Marlboro car was running very well over the past two days. It was very fast and we were able to work on a number of things to prepare for the Marlboro 500. We ran more than 500 miles over two days and the car performed very consistently. We ran well at Michigan earlier this season, so I'm looking forward to another good 500-mile race at Fontana."

"We had a fantastic test, unfortunately it rained in the morning and we weren't able to get in a full day. But nevertheless, we were able to do a lot of long runs and try to simulate the race conditions as best we could. In a 500-mile race you never really know what's going to happen, but I feel very confident that we made progress with the Marlboro car and were able to improve on its set-up from the Michigan race. Overall we are very satisfied with the results and I think it bodes well for the Marlboro 500."

Marlboro Team Penske will be holding Pit Stop Practice at the street course in downtown Houston on Thursday, September 28 to prepare for the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston from 1:30 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. in the Marlboro Team Penske pits. For more information, or to schedule an interview please call Jeremy Riffle at 310-274-7800.

The Drive Away Hunger Program donates leftover food from race weekend to local charities in each city where CART races. This weekend the Drive Away Hunger Program headed up by Marlboro Team Penske and Newman Haas Racing will benefit Target Hunger in Houston. For more information, please contact Katherine Bennett at 310-274-7800.

Marlboro Team Penske Team Advisor Rick Mears recently donated a set of hand-made dice to the Pacific Coast Charity Ride, an annual motorcycle ride in which many past and present CART drivers, including Rick, participate for various charities. The dice, which Rick made himself out of aluminum, were featured in a live auction and sold for $1,100.00

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Roberto Moreno , Paul Tracy , Rick Mears
Teams Team Penske