IRL: St. Pete: Toyota preview

TOYOTA LOOKS FOR THIRD WIN IN LAST FOUR RACES -- Fresh off a one-two finish at the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 at Phoenix, Toyota will look for its third win in the last four races at the inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this weekend. In ...

TOYOTA LOOKS FOR THIRD WIN IN LAST FOUR RACES -- Fresh off a one-two finish at the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 at Phoenix, Toyota will look for its third win in the last four races at the inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this weekend. In addition to Sam Hornish Jr.'s win at Phoenix, Helio Castroneves earned the top honors at the 2004 season-ending race in Texas. Overall, Toyota-powered entries have won 14 of the 34 IRL races since joining the IndyCar Series in 2003.

ON THE ROADS AGAIN -- The race in St. Petersburg will be the first road course event in IRL history, but certainly not the first for Toyota in open-wheel racing. In fact, the manufacturer won its final road course event in Champ Car racing when Target Chip Ganassi Racing was victorious in Mexico City in 2002. Half the cars in this weekend's field will be campaigned by teams that competed in that race.

SAM'S THE MAN -- Sam Hornish, Jr. (Marlboro Toyota) has kicked off the 2005 season as the hottest driver on the IndyCar Series circuit with a second at the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 and a victory in the most recent event in Phoenix. The IRL's all-time winningest driver currently leads the series point standings by six points heading into St. Pete. He will have one additional obstacle to overcome this weekend. St. Petersburg will be Hornish's first course event since he won the Toyota Atlantic Championship Rookie of the Year honors in 1999.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT? -- Heading into the series' first road-course event, many of the drivers competing this weekend will be forced to polish off their road racing skills after racing in the previously all-oval IRL. One thing is certain, nobody in the series has logged more miles on road courses over the past few years than rookie Ryan Briscoe (Target/Pioneer Toyota). The 23-year-old Aussie spent the past two seasons testing for the Toyota Formula One team. In the process, he's logged thousands of testing miles. Prior to beginning his testing role, Briscoe won the 2003 Euro F3 championship with eight wins. He also won the 2001 Italian Formula Renault title and was signed to the Toyota Driver Academy that season. Briscoe also won karting Formula A titles in both North America (1998) and Italy (1999). Briscoe is one of four current Toyota-powered drivers to have tested in Formula One with Darren Manning (BAR), Scott Dixon (Williams) and Helio Castroneves (Toyota F1) all having seen seat time in the world's most prestigious road racing series.

GETTING COMFORTABLE -- Despite the adjustment to a new team in a new series, Patrick Carpentier (Red Bull Toyota) has climbed into seventh-place overall after two races. The affableFrench Canadian placed seventh at Homestead and then registered an impressive ninth at Phoenix, despite having to start the race from the back of the field after missing qualifying due to a practice crash. Heading into St. Petersburg, Carpentier holds the distinction of being the most recent driver in the field to win a road course event as he earned the top honors at the Laguna Seca Champ Car race last year. He won a total of four Champ Car races on road courses.

FOUR TOYOTA-POWERED DRIVERS RANK IN TOP SEVEN -- Four Toyota drivers currently rank in the top seven in points after the season's first two races. Sam Hornish Jr. sits on top with 90 points, while Marlboro Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves is third with 70. Darren Manning (Target Toyota) is fifth and Patrick Carpentier is seventh.

TOYOTA ATLANTIC GRADS OFF TO FAST START -- A pair of Toyota Atlantic Championship graduates have earned the first two victories of the IndyCar Series season as Dan Wheldon won at Homestead and Sam Hornish Jr. at Phoenix. The duo currently sits one-two in the point standings with Hornish holding the advantage. A year ago, TAC grads won seven of the 16 races run. In total, seven TAC grads are expected in the field at St. Petersburg.

-toyota-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Helio Castroneves , Patrick Carpentier , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Williams , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing