IRL: Chicagoland: Team Penske Pit Notes

Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes September 5, 2006 MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE'S CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT Six months of work comes down to only one Championship point -- that's all that separates two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves from his ...

Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes
September 5, 2006

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE'S CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT

Six months of work comes down to only one Championship point -- that's all that separates two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves from his teammate 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. heading into the Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 on September 10th at Chicagoland Speedway.

With the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing tandem of Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon only 19 and 21 points behind respectively, the question is, after leading the Championship since the second race of the season, can one of the Marlboro Team Penske drivers earn the Cup to go with the milk that the Team won back in May?

And if so, which driver will have the honor of bringing Marlboro Team Penske its first IndyCar Series Championship?

Hornish Jr. has had the most success at the 1.5-mile oval track, winning two races in five starts and never finishing lower than sixth. Chicagoland Speedway also has been the site of two of the five closest finishes in IndyCar Series competition, and Hornish Jr. was involved in both, emerging victorious on both occasions. In 2002, Hornish Jr. edged out Al Unser Jr. by .0024 sec. in the Series' closest finish. Of his 18 race wins, 11 (61%) of them have been decide by less than one second, including three this season (Indianapolis, Kansas and Kentucky).

"Chicagoland Speedway is a track where I've always been strong, so I feel like we have a great opportunity to do well here," said Hornish Jr. "With only a one-point deficit in the Championship, a win takes all, so that's what we're shooting for this weekend. To be honest, with some of the problems we've had at a couple of the races this year, I feel that we could've been a lot farther behind; so I'm happy with where we are heading into the final race. It should be a great show for the fans, and hopefully we'll be able to bring home Marlboro Team Penske's first IndyCar Series Championship."

Castroneves is still searching for his first victory in Chicago after scoring a careerbest second at the track last season. The finish between Castroneves and Wheldon was the eighth-closest finish in Series history (.0133 sec. margin).

"In previous years, Marlboro Team Penske has had difficulty on the 1.5-mile ovals like Chicagoland, but this year we seem to be consistently strong, so we're definitely looking forward to getting out there and fighting for the Championship," said Castroneves. It's going to be a very exciting race with four guys, who all seem to do well on this type of track, fighting for the title. I feel as though I need to win this race to win the Championship, so we're going to give it our all. I've been chasing an Indy car championship my entire career, and have never been able to accomplish this goal, so winning it would be a dream come true. Plus, it would mean a lot to me to be able to give Roger and Marlboro Team Penske their first IndyCar Series Championship."

Penske Racing has won 11 Indy car national championships, but the Team has yet to win an IndyCar Series Championship in its four previous seasons of competition.

However, it has certainly been in the hunt before. In 2002, Castroneves finished second in the Championship standings, 20 points behind Hornish Jr., who was competing for Panther Racing that year. Retired driver, Gil de Ferran also finished second in 2003. Since the Team began competing in the IndyCar Series in 2002, it has placed at least one driver in the top four in the points standings. The Team's last open-wheel racing series Championship came in 2001 when Gil de Ferran claimed the CART title.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO BRING HOME THE TITLE?

There are several scenarios where a Marlboro Team Penske driver will walk away with the IndyCar Series Championship, but not all of them require a victory at Chicagoland Speedway. Here's a brief look at how things would need to play out this weekend in order for Castroneves or Hornish Jr. to take the title:

• If Castroneves or Hornish Jr. wins the race, the title is theirs.

• If Wheldon wins at Chicagoland and leads most laps, Castroneves or Hornish Jr. must finish third or better to win the Championship.

• If Wheldon wins, but does not lead the most laps, either driver can finish as low as fourth.

• If Castroneves leads the most laps and Wheldon wins the race, he can finish as low as sixth.

• If Hornish Jr. leads the most laps and Wheldon wins the race, he can finish as low as fifth.

• If Scott Dixon wins and leads the most laps, Hornish Jr. must finish third or better; and Castroneves must finish fourth or better.

• If Dixon wins the race, but does not the lead most laps, either driver could finish fifth or better and still win the Championship.

• If Dixon wins the race, but Castroneves leads the most laps, all he would need to do would be to finish seventh.

• If Dixon wins the race and Hornish Jr. leads the most laps, he would need to finish sixth or better.

• If Wheldon and Dixon both finish fifth or lower, whichever Marlboro Team Penske driver finishes higher will win the Championship.

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE THIS SEASON

After six months, 13 races and 2,310 laps during the 2006 IndyCar Series season, Marlboro Team Penske has accomplished the following:

• Season-leading eight victories (23 total Series wins -- tied with Andretti Green Racing for the lead)

• Season-leading eight poles

• Five 1-2 starts, including four front-row sweeps (the team started 1-2 at Indianapolis)

• 16 top-five finishes

• 21 top-ten finishes

• Led 1,097 out of 2,310 laps, nearly 50% of all laps run in competition

• Led laps in 12 out of 13 races (every track except Infineon)

-credit: mtp

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske