IRL: Kentucky: Team Penske preview

Marlboro Team Penske earns second victory in three races Marlboro Team Penske had another successful weekend at the Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway during the 2003 IndyCar® Series' 11th event of the season. 2001 & 2002 ...

Marlboro Team Penske earns second victory in three races

Marlboro Team Penske had another successful weekend at the Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway during the 2003 IndyCar® Series' 11th event of the season. 2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves climbed the fences once again on Sunday after making his way to Victory Lane for the tenth time in his career and gave Marlboro Team Penske its second win in three races (de Ferran won in Nashville). Castroneves led a race-high 96 laps on the 1.25-mile oval after starting from the pole for the second time this season (he also won the pole at Indianapolis). His win marked the fifth time the Brazilian has won from the pole and the second time he has done so driving in the IndyCar Series full time (the other came at Phoenix in 2002).

Not only did Castroneves score his first win of the 2003 season on Sunday, but he also moved into third in the Championship point standings, putting him just ten points out of the lead. Furthermore, his win also marked his seventh top-three finish of the season.

Marlboro Team Penske teammate Gil de Ferran also had a successful weekend as he finished the race in third giving him his second consecutive top-three finish in St. Louis (he won the event last year). De Ferran moved into second place in the Championship point standings and is just seven points behind leader Tony Kanaan. De Ferran's performance marked his fifth top-three finish in the last six races and his seventh of 2003.

De Ferran and Castroneves have been the most consistent drivers in the IndyCar Series since Indianapolis earlier this May. De Ferran has scored more points than any other driver on the circuit since returning to the cockpit after missing the race in Japan (due to injuries sustained in Phoenix). He has earned 292 Championship points and Castroneves has earned 264 compared to Scott Dixon (258) and Tony Kanaan (255).

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE DRIVERS THROW FIRST PITCH IN ST. LOUIS

Marlboro Team Penske drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves had the opportunity to throw out "the first pitch" at the St. Louis Cardinals/Atlanta Braves game this past Friday night while in town for the Emerson Indy 250. Both drivers attended Cardinals batting practice where they met Major League Baseball's batting average leader Albert Pujols as well as Cardinals coach Tony LaRussa. De Ferran and Castroneves each received a personalized Cardinals jersey from Pujols and they presented him with a Penske Racing jacket.

On Sunday, de Ferran and Castroneves hosted Pujols at Gateway International Raceway where they had the chance to talk before the warm-up. Pujols toured the Marlboro Team Penske garage and watched practice from the Team's scoring stand with Roger Penske. During the warm-up, Penske gave Pujols a "crash course" in IndyCar Series racing.

Apparently this meeting was a good omen for the Teams in red and white as Castroneves went on to win the race that afternoon and Pujols hit the game winning home run against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday night.

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE HEADS TO KENTUCKY

This weekend, Marlboro Team Penske will join the IndyCar Series for its 12th event of the season at Kentucky Speedway for the Belterra Casino Indy 300. Last year, Castroneves started fourth and finished the race fifth, marking his ninth top-five finish of the season (he had a total of 12 in 2002). Unfortunately, de Ferran had a bit of bad luck on race day as he made contact with the #20 car (Richie Hearn) and damaged his right front top wishbone. The Team was able to repair the damage and he would go on to finish the race 21st.

Both drivers are coming off of solid performances in St. Louis and will look to carry that momentum into this weekend's race in the Bluegrass State.

"Our performance on mile-and-a-half ovals has improved and we had a good test at Kentucky last week so Marlboro Team Penske should be in good shape for the race," said de Ferran. "They have made some changes to the track surface since we tested there, but that will be a new factor for everyone and the data we gathered should still be beneficial. We are entering the final stretch of the Championship with five races to go so it is important we have a strong finish."

"Kentucky is a tough race because it's tricky to find the right line to go flat out, but once you get there it's very fast," said Castroneves. "I'm sure we'll see a lot of side by side racing on Sunday, which will be really exciting for the fans. We've been doing well at these types of tracks all season, so hopefully we'll be competitive again this weekend. We're coming off of a win in St. Louis which is great for the Team's motivation, so hopefully we'll carry it through to Kentucky and keep up the good results."

HELIO CASTRONEVES WINS FIRST MARLBORO LAP LEADER AWARD OF THE SEASON

Marlboro Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves won the Marlboro Lap Leader Award for leading 96 of the 200 laps run on the way to his first victory of the season at the Emerson Indy 250. As the lap leader, Castroneves earned two extra points and is currently third in the IRL Championship point standings with 347 points. Castroneves will be presented with his Marlboro Lap Leader Award check for $7,500 during the pre-race ceremonies at the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway on August 17th.

In addition, Larry Vancil of St. Louis Motor Racing News was this week's winner of the Marlboro Lap Leader Award Media Contest. During each IRL event, journalists have the opportunity to enter an on-site contest to predict who will lead the most laps, and how many that driver will lead, in a given race. Vancil, who guessed that Castroneves would lead 95 of the 200 laps in the race, won a Maurice Lacroix Swiss Watch.

2003 IRL CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS

Position        Driver  Points

1. Tony Kanaan 357
2. Gil de Ferran 350
3. Helio Castroneves 347
4. Scott Dixon 333
5. Kenny Brack 268
6. Al Unser Jr. 259
7. Sam Hornish Jr. 256
8. Tomas Scheckter 246
9. Scott Sharp 245
10. Tora Takagi 229

-tpr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Kenny Brack , Richie Hearn , Roger Penske , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske