IRL: Indy 500: Race report

De Ferran takes turn as top Penske powerhouse at Indy; Castroneves falls just short of teammate in bid for historic 'three-peat' INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 25, 2003 -- Gil de Ferran continued Marlboro Team Penske's recent domination of the ...

De Ferran takes turn as top Penske powerhouse at Indy; Castroneves falls just short of teammate in bid for historic 'three-peat'

INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 25, 2003 -- Gil de Ferran continued Marlboro Team Penske's recent domination of the Indianapolis 500, edging teammate Helio Castroneves by .2990 of a second to win May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It was de Ferran's first victory in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," and it denied Castroneves' chance to become the first driver to win three consecutive Indianapolis 500s.

"I'll tell you, it's hard to describe in words what I'm feeling right now," de Ferran said. "It's just unbelievable for me. You always dream of winning a race like this. Words escape me right now."

De Ferran, 35, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., averaged 156.291 mph in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone. His victory -- the third of his IRL IndyCarTM Series career and first this season -- came just eight weeks after he suffered a lower back fracture and a concussion in the Purex Dial Indy 200 on March 23 at Phoenix.

The scintillating finish was the third closest in Indianapolis 500 history and continued an impressive streak of success at Indianapolis by the team owned by Roger Penske.

A Penske driver has won every year the team has qualified a car in the race since 1993. Emerson Fittipaldi won in 1993 and Al Unser Jr. in 1994. Castroneves won in 2001 and 2002. No Penske cars qualified in 1995, and the team didn't participate in the race from 1996-2000.

Tony Kanaan finished third today in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, just 1.2475 seconds behind de Ferran in the closest 1-2-3 finish in Indy 500 history.

The tight finish was set up by a late caution period that included a crash and a bizarre twist.

Rookie Dan Wheldon crashed after losing control in Turn 3 on Lap 187. His No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone hit the SAFER Barrier and turned upside down before sliding to a stop in Turn 4. Wheldon was unhurt.

The field was under caution when rookie Scott Dixon hit the inside retaining wall on the front straightaway while running ninth on Lap 191. Dixon was weaving in his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, trying to keep his tires warm, when the car brushed the inside wall on the front straight and then turned hard into the inside wall. Dixon was unhurt.

That incident extended the caution period until a Lap 194 restart with de Ferran and MBNA Pole winner Castroneves in the first and second positions, respectively, at the start of the six-lap shootout for the victory.

Castroneves pulled to within .2610 of a second of de Ferran after Lap 195, but it was the closest he would get in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. Still, Castroneves kept the pressure on de Ferran, staying within three-tenths of a second until the end.

But this time it was de Ferran earning a place on the Borg-Warner Trophy in a reversal of the 2001 finish, when Castroneves outraced his fellow Brazilian to victory.

"We finished one and two, just like we did in 2001, so it's just incredible," Castroneves said. "I'm a little disappointed, which is part of the game, but I'm actually happy because the team is the one that's winning.

"Wow, that was so close."

De Ferran, who started 10th, took the lead for good on Lap 170. He used the lapped car of rookie A.J. Foyt IV to box in Castroneves and take the lead on the backstretch of the historic 2.5-mile oval.

But it wasn't easy. De Ferran never led by more than one-half second over Castroneves during a green-flag lap for the rest of the race. De Ferran hung on to deliver Toyota its first victory at Indianapolis.

It was the first time Castroneves has been defeated in an Indianapolis 500. He won in his first two starts. His finishes of first, first and second, respectively, are the best three initial finishes by a driver in Indy 500 history.

"I tried, but Gil did it, so let's go celebrate anyway," Castroneves said. "Unfortunately, it wasn't my day. Excellent result for Team Penske. What a result. So close to being there, but I cannot be disappointed. This month has been amazing, starting from the pole position and finishing second here."

While Castroneves missed his chance for a historic "three-peat," team owner Penske became the second owner to win the race three straight times. Lou Moore won three consecutive races in 1947-49 with Mauri Rose in 1947-48 and Bill Holland in 1949. This was Penske's 13th victory at Indy, extending his event record.

Tomas Scheckter led the most laps, 63, in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone. It was the second straight year Scheckter was the top lap leader, but he finished fourth.

Tora Takagi rounded out the top five in the No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone. He was the top finishing rookie, leading three rookies in the top 10.

Rookie A.J. Foyt IV, grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, finished 18th in the No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. Foyt turned 19 today and is the youngest starter in the history of the race.

Michael Andretti placed 27th in the No. 7 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone in his final start as a driver. Andretti dropped out after 94 of 200 laps with throttle-linkage problems after leading twice for 28 laps.

"I just lost power," Andretti said. "I'm disappointed, yes, but happy, too. I really appreciate all the support of everybody out there all these years. You know, it just wasn't meant to be. Maybe it's meant to be as an owner."

Andretti now will focus on his role as co-owner of Andretti Green Racing, which fields cars in the IndyCar Series for Kanaan, Wheldon and Dario Franchitti.

Robby Gordon finished 22nd in the first leg of his "daily double" in the No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone. He dropped out after 169 laps with gearbox problems and then flew to Charlotte, N.C., to drive in the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600.

The next IndyCar Series race is the Bombardier 500 on June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway. It's the first of three night races on the 16-event schedule this season.

-ims-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Robby Gordon , Al Unser Jr. , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , A.J. Foyt IV , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Dan Wheldon , Emerson Fittipaldi , Chip Ganassi , Roger Penske , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing