IRL: Gateway: Chevy race report

De Ferran leads Chevy sweep at Gateway. MADISON, Ill., Aug. 25, 2002 -- Chevrolet driver Gil de Ferran, who is known as "The Professor" for his scholarly approach to racing, taught a textbook lesson in short-track driving today at Gateway ...

De Ferran leads Chevy sweep at Gateway.

MADISON, Ill., Aug. 25, 2002 -- Chevrolet driver Gil de Ferran, who is known as "The Professor" for his scholarly approach to racing, taught a textbook lesson in short-track driving today at Gateway International Raceway as he won the Gateway Indy 250 by 2.1 seconds over his Penske Racing teammate Helio Castroneves. De Ferran started on the pole, led 81 of the 200 laps and moved to second in the IRL championship, one point behind Castroneves. He tallied Chevrolet's 12th victory in 13 IRL events.

Alex Barron finished third in Blair Racing's Rayovac Chevrolet Dallara to give Chevrolet its 11th podium sweep of the season. Defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr. was fifth across the stripe and now trails Castroneves by seven points.

De Ferran was elated with his second win of the season on a short track. Although his victory appeared effortless, he worked hard in the cockpit to master the tricky egg-shaped 1.25-mile oval.

"It was one of the hardest races I have driven," said de Ferran. "The pace was incredible. Helio was driving 100 percent, and to stay up with him I had to drive at ten tenths. The advantage we had was that our car was really well set up, and as the stint went on I was able to catch up in relation to him."

De Ferran's decisive move came on lap 184 when he passed his teammate in traffic coming onto the front straight.

"I started to catch him in traffic and saw an opportunity in the middle of Turns 3 and 4," de Ferran reported. "He got stuck behind a guy, so he had to get out of the throttle. I went around the outside, the front end stuck, and I was able to squeeze between him and the backmarker on the front straight . . . and that was that."

Castroneves agreed with de Ferran's take on the asymmetrical oval: "It's a tough circuit. You have to lift at one end and on the other end go flat out. It's very challenging for the engineers and the drivers.

"Today was a good race; I'm happy and disappointed at the same time," continued Castroneves. "As a race car driver you want to lead everything, and unfortunately that never happens. We were going really fast, side-by-side, with a lot of passing. It's a great day for Marlboro Team Penske to finish first and second."

Alex Barron was poised to repeat his earlier victory in Nashville when he drove from 14th on the starting grid to the lead on lap 119. He led 29 circuits, surrendered the lead to Castroneves on a yellow-flag pit stop, and then attempted to retake the point on the restart. As he challenged Castroneves in the first turn, his car went wide into the marbles and he lost momentum. Barron battled back to finish third, scoring his second podium finish.

"Our big breakthrough this year was when we signed a deal with Chevrolet," said Barron. "Rayovac came on board and we've been running strong ever since. It's a lot easier to race when you have power.

"When you have a car like that you just enjoy yourself," he continued. "You're going fast and it's easy. I've been looking to drive a car like that for a long time and fortunately this year I have that opportunity. We had incredible power today; I haven't been in a race in a long time where I had that kind of power. I thought we had the car to beat."

With two rounds remaining on the schedule, the championship race is coming down to a three-way battle between Chevrolet drivers de Ferran, Castroneves and Hornish. After a two-week break, the IRL series will return to Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 8 for the Delphi Indy 300. The 200-lap race on the 1.5-mile oval in Joliet, Ill., will be televised live on ABC at 1 p.m. EDT.

-chevy-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Alex Barron , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske