Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes August 7, 2002 Marlboro Team Penske prepares for Kentucky as season draws to a close With only four races left in the 2002 Indy Racing League (IRL) season, Marlboro Team Penske still leads the IRL Championship...
Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes
August 7, 2002
Marlboro Team Penske prepares for Kentucky as season draws to a close
With only four races left in the 2002 Indy Racing League (IRL) season, Marlboro Team Penske still leads the IRL Championship point standings with Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves sitting 1st and 2nd respectively. 2000 & 2001 CART Champion de Ferran assumed the points lead three weeks ago after his second place finish in Nashville and was able to increase his total to 377 points with his fifth place finish in Michigan. Marlboro Team Penske teammate and 2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves remains in second place in the points race, just 12 points behind de Ferran. Castroneves, who relinquished his lead to de Ferran in Nashville, led the point standings for four races after he overtook Sam Hornish Jr. with his victory at the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
While Marlboro Team Penske has led the IRL points Championship for the past six races, the Championship is by no means wrapped up. With 208 points remaining (50 points for the next four race wins and two points for most laps led in the next four races), there are fifteen drivers with a mathematical possibility to win the 2002 IRL Championship. Furthermore, the top four places in the standings are separated by a mere 47 points. With the season coming to an end, it's anybody's guess who will be crowned the 2002 IRL Champion.
Marlboro Team Penske certainly has its work cut out for them as they look to the final four races of the season, beginning this weekend in Kentucky. The home stretch is sure to provide some unique challenges to the Team as they will be racing on two new tracks in Kentucky and Chicago and under different circumstances at St. Louis and Texas. While they've competed previously at Gateway International Raceway (St. Louis) this will be the first time they are racing the IRL cars on the track, which should prove to be a much different experience from past CART events. The season will conclude at Texas Motor Speedway, marking the first time de Ferran and Castroneves will run at the 1.5-mile tri-oval during the day (the first race in Texas was under the lights).
"This Championship is going to come down to staying focused and taking one race at a time," said Tim Cindric, President, Penske Racing, Inc. "Reliability and execution will continue to be our top priority."
THOUGHTS ON KENTUCKY
The Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway on August 11th will mark the sixth time Marlboro Team Penske will be racing at a track at which they've never competed. However, the Team did complete a valuable test session last week in order to prepare for the 1.5-mile tri-oval. With this test, Marlboro Team Penske had the opportunity to get to know the track over two days, which should prove to be a helpful head start for this weekend's event.
"Last week's test was Marlboro Team Penske's first experience at Kentucky Speedway and I have to say I'm quite impressed with the facilities," said de Ferran. "The track has a lot of grip and the quality of the asphalt is very high, plus it's very wide, which will allow for some excellent racing. It was very important to get that test in before we race there this week because it gave us a feel for the track. Since it's only a two-day event, we'll want to be about 90% ready to go when we unload the trucks and hopefully the data we obtained at the test will allow us to start with a good set-up. As the 2002 season draws to a close, each race gains importance and having a good race here in Kentucky will be vital to our Championship hopes."
"Last week, Marlboro Team Penske tested at Kentucky Speedway for the first time," said Castroneves. "Testing on these new tracks is always important because it gives us a chance to get a base set-up and try things that we don't have time to do on a race weekend. I really liked the layout, the track is very wide and smooth, and turns three and four remind me a bit of Kansas Speedway. It was good to have my teammate, Gil (de Ferran), there because it allowed us to simulate race conditions to some degree by seeing how the car handled when passing and running in traffic. All of the Indy Racing League events have been very exciting this season and the Kentucky race should be a great show for the fans."
GIL DE FERRAN - MR. CONSISTENCY IN THE POINTS BATTLE
Over the past three years, Gil de Ferran has been the benchmark for consistency and steadiness. In his three seasons with Marlboro Team Penske, de Ferran has earned five wins, thirteen poles, 28 top-five finishes and 39 top-ten finishes. With two CART Championships under his belt, de Ferran has his sights set on a third title in his first year in the IRL. While other drivers are climbing fences or doing donuts, de Ferran has quietly been in the Championship hunt the entire season. Not only is de Ferran one of only two drivers to have been running at the conclusion of each event thus far (the other is Castroneves), he also leads the Series in top-five finishes (9), top-ten finishes (10), laps led (520) and laps completed (2261). De Ferran defines grace under pressure - he has been the model for cool-headed performance all year and he'll certainly be looking to wrap-up the Championship in the next four races.