IRL: Pikes Peak: Radisson Indy 225 postscript

Late conversation with Barnhart helps de Ferran; Cheever finds silver lining. FOUNTAIN, Colo., Monday, June 17, 2002 -- Conversation between drivers and their respective teams is pivotal during a race, as the on-the-fly strategy decisions often...

Late conversation with Barnhart helps de Ferran; Cheever finds silver lining.

FOUNTAIN, Colo., Monday, June 17, 2002 -- Conversation between drivers and their respective teams is pivotal during a race, as the on-the-fly strategy decisions often decide the difference between victory and defeat.

But an in-race conversation with Indy Racing League Vice President of Operations Brian Barnhart might have been all that Gil de Ferran needed to secure his dominant victory in the Radisson Indy 225 on June 16 at Pikes Peak International Raceway.

de Ferran led 217 of 225 laps in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone for his first career IRL victory.

While it appears de Ferran cruised to victory, the numbers are misleading. He held off teammate Helio Castroneves by just 1.4385 seconds at the finish, and de Ferran also had other pressing concerns with less than 20 laps to go: the weather.

A caution period started on Lap 201 when Greg Ray suffered an oil pressure problem in his No. 11 A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. That caution was extended into the seventh and final caution period of the event when light rain started to fall on Lap 207, with de Ferran leading It was the second time that bad weather struck the race, as competition was halted for 51 minutes on Lap 34 due to rain and hail.

During the final caution, Barnhart called directly to de Ferran on the race control radio frequency through which drivers receive official instructions when necessary during the race. Barnhart asked de Ferran for his report on the condition of the track, seeking driver input before deciding to let the field go for a late dash to the checkered flag.

"I told Brian on the radio, I said, 'Look, Brian, the problem is, I cannot afford to be conservative and check the track out as we are going green," de Ferran said. "I've got to restart the race and go flat to Turn 1. Otherwise I'm going to be overtaken.'"

Barnhart factored de Ferran's opinion into his decision, and the field was unleashed on Lap 211 for a final dash to the finish with no incidents.

"It's a matter of trust," de Ferran said. "I trust his judgment, and he was spot-on every time. Brian Barnhart is such a smart guy. He knows what's going on. I think the way he conducts his races is very, very professional. It's amazing. He makes the calls. I have to say that every time we went green, the track was 100 percent."

This wasn't the first time that Barnhart has called de Ferran during a race for an opinion on track conditions. He also radioed de Ferran during the Firestone Indy 225 in April at Nazareth, Pa.

"I thought I was getting a call from God," de Ferran said with a "laugh. "I think it's good. Certainly, he doesn't go in there for no "purpose. He's talking about green and the ability of the track to stay "green-flag racing. I'm fine with him doing that."

***

Moral victory: Red Bull Cheever Racing didn't enjoy the strongest day at the Radisson Indy 225, as owner-driver Eddie Cheever Jr. finished eighth in the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, and rookie teammate Tomas Scheckter was 16th in the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

But there was a silver lining for the team: It was the first race this season in which both cars were running at the finish and the first event in which neither Cheever car was involved in an accident.

"That was a long race," Cheever said. "We have to be pleased to be leaving Pikes Peak with no crashed cars in our transporters. It will give us more time to be better prepared for Richmond.

"At least we finished, and the Infiniti engines ran well."

***

de Ferran rounds out strong weekend for GM: General Motors' strong weekend ended with Gil de Ferran's victory at Pikes Peak in a Chevrolet-powered car.

Corvette Racing finished first and second Sunday morning in the GTS class at the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours. Former Indianapolis 500 starter Johnny O'Connell was a member of the winning Corvette team.

"This was a great weekend for Chevrolet around the world, with Corvette Racing finishing first and second in class at Le Mans, and Gil de Ferran scoring Chevy's seventh straight IRL victory," said Dick Amacher, GM Racing project engineer. "Whenever Chevrolet goes into a racing program, our intention is to win, not just to participate."

***

Fike, Carpenter eye Infiniti Pro Series test: Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series drivers Aaron Fike and Ed Carpenter finished fourth and 13th, respectively, in the USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Series event shortly before the Radisson Indy 225 at PPIR.

Fike, 19, will drive for 2000 Indy Racing League champion team owner Ron Hemelgarn in the Infiniti Pro Series. Carpenter, 21, will be behind the wheel of the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Sinden Racing Service entry when the new development series makes it debut July 7 at Kansas Speedway.

Fike and Carpenter will join numerous other Infiniti Pro Series drivers at open tests scheduled for June 22 at Gateway International Raceway and June 24 at Chicagoland Speedway.

"The test on Saturday at Gateway should be a good deal," Fike said. "I'm with a good team. I haven't been in the car yet, so I don't really know what to expect. I'm looking forward to it and am a little anxious to get in the car."

***

Facts and figures: Facts and figures from the Radisson Indy 225:

*Gil de Ferran won from the MBNA Pole. The last driver to accomplish that was de Ferran's Marlboro Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, in March for the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix.

*Marlboro Team Penske teammates de Ferran and Castroneves finished first and second, respectively. The last time teammates finished 1-2 was in March at Phoenix when Castroneves won and de Ferran finished second.

*This is the first time in Indy Racing League history that teammates have finished 1-2 in at least two races in one season.

*de Ferran led 217 of 225 laps, the second-highest total by a race winner in Indy Racing League history. Buddy Lazier led 224 of 250 laps en route to victory in the SunTrust Indy Challenge in June 2001 at Richmond International Raceway.

*de Ferran led the final 186 consecutive laps of the race, the second-highest total in Indy Racing League history. Buddy Lazier led 187 consecutive laps during the SunTrust Indy Challenge in June 2001 at Richmond International Raceway.

*Castroneves, who finished second, is the only driver to have finished in the top five in every race this season.

*de Ferran has led 340 laps this season. He moved from fifth to first on the season lap-leader chart after his dominant victory at PPIR.

*de Ferran won the MBNA Pole, with teammate Castroneves starting second. This was the second time this season that Marlboro Team Penske has swept the front row. de Ferran started on the MBNA Pole in April at Nazareth Speedway while Castroneves started second.

*This was the third time this season that teammates have swept the front row. In addition to Marlboro Team Penske at Nazareth, Red Bull Cheever Racing, with Tomas Scheckter and Eddie Cheever Jr., qualified 1-2, respectively, for the Boomtown 500 earlier this month at Texas Motor Speedway.

*This was the 138th career pole for Penske Racing in Indy-style racing.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Johnny O'Connell , Aaron Fike , A.J. Foyt , Brian Barnhart , Ed Carpenter
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske , Corvette Racing