IRL: Richmond: Penske Racing preview

Marlboro Team Penske heads to Richmond for second night race of the 2003 season Marlboro Team Penske will be joining the 2003 Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar Series this weekend at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night at the...

Marlboro Team Penske heads to Richmond for second night race of the 2003 season

Marlboro Team Penske will be joining the 2003 Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar Series this weekend at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night at the SunTrust Indy Challenge. Last year, Marlboro Team Penske earned its second front row sweep of the 2002 IRL season at the ¾-mile oval at Richmond with Gil de Ferran capturing the pole (marking his third pole of the season) while shattering the previous track record by more than 8 mph with a lap of 168.705 mph. Teammate Helio Castroneves started the race second for his fifth front row appearance of 2002.

De Ferran, who was coming off a dominating win the previous race at Pikes Peak, led 168 of the 250 laps giving him his third Marlboro Lap Leader Award of the year in just the eighth race of the season. It was looking as if de Ferran would be able to hold on and take the checkered flag marking his second victory of 2002, however, with two laps to go, Sam Hornish Jr. was able to get past him and take the win, relegating de Ferran to a second place finish marking his fifth top-three finish of the year.

Castroneves encountered some trouble at last year's race when he spun in Turn 2 on lap 8. He made a great save and kept the #3 Marlboro Team Penske car from hitting the inside wall. His pit crew repaired the car and got him back out on the racetrack where he would go on to finish the race in seventeenth place.

With four night races under their belts since joining the IRL full time in 2002, Marlboro Team Penske will head to Richmond this weekend looking for their first Saturday night win. Following is a look at how the Team has done while racing under the lights:

Two top-three finishes in four night races (de Ferran finished second last year at Richmond and Nashville)

Six top-ten finishes

Three front row starts (De Ferran won the pole last year at Richmond; Castroneves started second at Richmond and Nashville)

During qualifying for last year's race in Richmond de Ferran set the track record (168.075 mph)

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE ON THIS WEEKEND'S RACE IN RICHMOND

"Richmond is a real driver's track where handling is important and horsepower plays less of a role, which is why I like racing there," said de Ferran. "The track is a challenge for both the drivers and the engineers because it is almost like a high-speed road course. It is a tough track to get around. The bumps and g-forces pulling us in the turns make it physically demanding. If your car is handling well, you'll probably be running up front. Marlboro Team Penske tested at Richmond at the end of May so hopefully we'll have a good baseline set-up for race weekend."

"Richmond is a tough, unforgiving track," said Castroneves. "We're working with a new engine and chassis this year, so we've thrown away our notes from last season. We tested here at the end of May and overall, I think we've got a good baseline set-up for the Marlboro Team Penske car. It will be a handling race so we'll need to fine-tune the set-up once we arrive for race weekend. Everything happens very fast here because it is such a small track. When you're turning 16-second laps, it's difficult to find even an extra one-tenth of a second anywhere. The track is also fairly bumpy which makes it challenging not only for the drivers but for the engineers as well. I think it'll be an exciting race and I'm really looking forward to coming back to Virginia. We're heading to Richmond tied for third in the championship point standings (Castroneves has 167 points and is 50 points out of first place) so we need to stay focused and add to our point total."

DE FERRAN VISITS BRAZIL FOR THE FIRST TIME AFTER INDY

Gil de Ferran is currently in his native country of Brazil making his first visit since winning the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500. De Ferran became just the third Brazilian to win the Indy 500, joining fellow countrymen Helio Castroneves and Emerson Fittipaldi in the record books. Not only will de Ferran be visiting with family and friends in order to properly celebrate his victory, but he also completed a number of interview requests as well as met with the First Lady of Sao Paulo.

De Ferran was recognized for his Indy 500 win by Maria Lucia Alckmin earlier today at the Palacio dos Bandeirantes, the official residence of the Governor of Sao Paulo. While there, he donated memorabilia from his win to the charity Campanha do Agasalho, which will auction it off to raise money for the poor in Brazil.

In addition, de Ferran fulfilled interview requests for Istoe Magazine, Brazil's leading news magazine, and O Estado de Sao Paulo, the largest newspaper in Brazil. De Ferran was also featured on "Mais Voce" on TV Globo, the nation's largest television network.

2003 IRL CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS

Driver Name     Points

Tony Kanaan 217
Scott Dixon 168
Gil de Ferran 167
Helio Castroneves 167
Al Unser Jr. 167
Kenny Brack 161
Scott Sharp 149
Tomas Scheckter 125
Felipe Giaffone 123
Sam Hornish Jr. 122

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Felipe Giaffone , Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Emerson Fittipaldi , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske