IRL: St. Pete: Team Penske preview

LOOKING FOR ANOTHER WIN AT ST. PETERSBURG After placing both cars in the top 10 (Hornish -- 3rd / Castroneves -- 9th) at the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend, Team Penske has turned its sights to preparing for ...

LOOKING FOR ANOTHER WIN AT ST. PETERSBURG

After placing both cars in the top 10 (Hornish -- 3rd / Castroneves -- 9th) at the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend, Team Penske has turned its sights to preparing for this weekend's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After a difficult run at the track in 2005, Team Penske found success at the 14 turn, 1.8 mile temporary street circuit in 2006 with Helio Castroneves claiming victory and Sam Hornish Jr. placing eighth. Castroneves won the race after leading a race-high 40 laps, which gave Team Penske its first road course win since joining the IndyCar Series in 2002.

"I didn't have fond memories of St. Petersburg after the 2005 race, but I definitely made up for it in 2006," said Castroneves. "In 2005, I was so excited at the prospect of the first IndyCar Series road race that I crashed on the 14th lap. I used that disappointment as motivation for last year's event. I was determined to make it to the final laps of the race and make it worth it. It turned out to be a great day. We had some issues on pit road, but we bounced back and made it to victory circle. It felt fantastic."

The Team expects the 2007 race to bring new challenges as a result of a new Honda engine package, which will give the cars additional power in the lower gears, requiring a modified car set-up. Nonetheless, the drivers are optimistic heading into this weekend's race as a result of the spring road course test at Daytona, which found both drivers consistently among the leaders.

"St. Petersburg is one of my favorite races on the schedule because the track is a lot of fun and the race weekend has a great atmosphere," said Castroneves. "The fans love this race, and it's always great to go to places where there is strong fan support. The circuit is very challenging because of the long straightaways and the tight turns. This makes the car difficult to set up because you want to have as little downforce as possible on the straightaways, yet enough to get you through the corners quickly. Plus, the new engine package gives us more low-end power, which will also pose some engineering challenges. Obviously, I have great memories from last year's win and hope to remain at the top come race day."

After a dream season in 2006, which saw Hornish Jr. capture both the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series Championship, he has his sights set on a new target.

"One of my goals heading into this season is to win on a road course, and of all of the road/street courses that we run on in the IndyCar Series, St. Petersburg is the one that seems to suit my driving style the best," said Hornish Jr. "We should have had a top-five finish here in 2005 (Hornish Jr.'s day ended early when he was hit from behind by the #2 car of Tomas Enge), and had we not had brake problems at the end of the race here last year, we feel we would have finished in the top three. The consensus is that this circuit is the one road/street course where we'll have the best opportunity to win or be in the top three. The main thing for us is to concentrate on improving where we finished last year, and I think that the road-course experience I've gained in spring testing and at the Daytona 24 will allow us to do just that and hopefully bring home a solid result."

RACER MAGAZINE HONORS HORNISH JR.

Sam Hornish Jr. was named "Oval racer of the Year" in Racer Magazine's SPEED Performance Awards, marking the first time since 2002 that an openwheel driver has received the honor (Hornish Jr. also won the award in 2002). He received 32% of the votes in this category, topping NASCAR drivers Jimmy Johnson (28%) and Tony Stewart (18%).

In addition, Hornish Jr.'s performance at the 2006 Indianapolis 500 was named "Best Finish". His .0635 second margin of victory over Marco Andretti was the second closest in the history of the Indianapolis 500, and his last lap pass marked the first time in the 90 year history of the race that the winner has made the winning pass on the final lap. The awards were based on fan voting via SpeedTV.com.

IN THE NEWS

When not at the race track, Sam Hornish Jr. can often be found at his 5,400 sq. ft. garage in Defiance, OH working on his car collection, which includes a 2006 Acura RL, a 2005 GMC Sierra, a 2003 Chevrolet Silverado, a 1955 Chevrolet Del Ray, a 2007 Cadillac Escalade ESV, a 1977 Kenworth W900-A semi truck, and a 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z-06 which he received for winning the 2006 Indianapolis 500. This collection recently caught the eye of DUB Magazine, an automotive style publication, which is featuring him and his cars in its April 2007 issue, currently available on newsstands.

No stranger to style himself, Helio Castroneves is also being featured in Florida International Magazine's "Power Players" issue. Each year, the magazine scours the state to select Floridians who are at the top of their game or making a difference in arenas as diverse as entertainment, business, philanthropy, media, sports, art, politics, fashion, and many others to include in this issue. The April issue is on newsstands now.

Team Penske is also prominently featured on Forbes.com. In celebration of the Web site's 10th anniversary, more than 60 great achievers, including actors, athletes, artists, politicians and executives were asked, "What is the American Dream?" Hornish Jr. and Team Penske Advisor, Rick Mears were invited to answer the question.

Other contributors include Colin Powell, Buzz Aldrin, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump, Tom Brokaw, Oliver Stone, Maya Angelou, Jesse Jackson, Mel Brooks and Madeleine Albright.

TEAM PENSKE DRIVERS TO PROMOTE DETROIT INDY GRAND PRIX

Castroneves and Hornish Jr. will be special guests at the Downtown Detroit Partnership's Annual Luncheon this Thursday, March 29th. The Team Penske drivers will join Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick at the annual gathering of more than 700 business and civic leaders to celebrate a year of achievement for the downtown Detroit organization. Roger Penske, Chairman of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, will join the Governor and Mayor in addressing the strategic vision of downtown Detroit. The drivers will be on hand to help promote the Detroit Indy Grand Prix taking place at the Raceway at Belle Isle on September 2.

-credit: tp

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Tomas Enge , Helio Castroneves , Rick Mears , Roger Penske , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske