FOUNTAIN, COLO (June 16, 2002) - Gil de Ferran dominated the Radisson Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway this afternoon, taking the victory after leading the final 186 laps of the race. "I have to say a lot of the credit goes to my ...
FOUNTAIN, COLO (June 16, 2002) - Gil de Ferran dominated the Radisson Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway this afternoon, taking the victory after leading the final 186 laps of the race.
"I have to say a lot of the credit goes to my engineer, Tom German," said de Ferran, who led 217 of the 225 laps. "The guys did a great job in the pits. We've been knocking on the door since the beginning of the year, and I'm glad to get one under my belt."
Team Penske drivers, de Ferran and Helio Castroneves, who finished first and second for the second time this season, didn't knock on the door when they arrived at PPIR, they kicked it in.
Both drivers were fast as soon as they took to the one-mile oval. In the first practice session, de Ferran was nearly four miles an hour faster than his nearest competitor. In qualifying, both drivers started from the front row with de Ferran taking his second pole of the year.
When the green flag dropped, de Ferran sped away with the lead until a caution period on lap 28 sent the front-runners to the pits three laps later.
Billy Boat, who started from the rear of the field after his car failed a post qualifying inspection, stayed on the track and assumed the lead.
Before the track returned to green flag conditions, the skies opened dropping huge raindrops mixed with hail. The field was led onto pit lane until the storm passed and the track was dried. Although totally drenched, the track rebounded quickly under the bright sun that followed the storm and on track activities resumed after a 51-minute delay.
Boat, who led 6 laps, all of which were under yellow, lined up at the point for the restart followed by Castroneves and de Ferran. When the green was shown, Boat was immediately passed by Castroneves going into turn one. Castroneves led two laps before de Ferran took the lead on lap 40 and never looked back.
"Obviously it's teamwork," said Castroneves. "Everybody really did a fantastic job. I'm happy for him. He's always been right there, being strong. Today he definitely was very strong. He deserved it, and second is good."
Castroneves retains his lead in championship points 267-235 over his teammate. Sam Hornish, who finished third today, is third in points with 206.
"We'll have to work on that for the next race," said Hornish when asked about the points battle.
Hornish pressured Castroneves for much of the race. The pair ran side by side with Hornish taking second place for a while but he was never able to mount a serious challenge for the lead.
"We had it for them a couple of times, but we just couldn't get it there. You wouldn't think that when you go to a mile track you've got guys running for second and third running wheel to wheel the whole time, but it definitely happens."
The relatively flat one-mile track, located in the shadow of Pikes Peak, places a premium on handling. Many drivers found their car handling well after a pit stop but, as the fuel load decreased, the handling went away.
"My car was fast, but by the end of a stint right before I pitted, the car would get a bit loose," said Felipe Giaffone, who finished fourth. "We had to make many changes during the race. I believe that fourth place was good under these conditions.
"During the last pit stop, we found that the car handled better when we reduced the tire pressures, but by that point, it was too late. The handling improved, but it was not enough to catch the leaders."
Giaffone was nearly eleven seconds behind the leader when he took the checkered flag.
Scott Sharp finished fifth, followed by Al Unser Jr. and Laurent Redon in seventh. Eddie Cheever, Airton Dare and Alex Barron rounded out the top-ten.
The Indy Racing League moves to the Richmond International Raceway in two weeks time for the SunTrust Indy Challenge on Saturday night, June 29.
Notes from the Radisson Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International:
The length of the Indy Racing League event at Pikes Peak grew by 25 laps after the last two races were run in 90 minutes. Not only did the length of the race grow, the field grew from 21 to 23 starters this year.
Pikes Peak International Raceway announced today that NetZero would be the primary sponsor of their Busch Grand National race on July 26-27. NetZero is also the primary sponsor of the No. 24 Chevrolet driven by current points leader Jack Sprague.