Pit Notes July 9, 2002 Marlboro Team Penske maintains points lead after Kansas. Marlboro Team Penske competed at their fourth new track of the season at Kansas Speedway this past weekend. 2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 Winner Helio Castroneves...
July 9, 2002
Marlboro Team Penske maintains points lead after Kansas.
Marlboro Team Penske competed at their fourth new track of the season at Kansas Speedway this past weekend. 2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 Winner Helio Castroneves and teammate, 2000 & 2001 National Champion Gil de Ferran, met the challenge in typical fashion with both drivers earning top-five finishes. With his third place-finish, Castroneves maintains his lead in the Indy Racing League (IRL) Championship point standings with an eight-point lead over de Ferran and a 19-point lead over Sam Hornish Jr.
This weekend's results were particularly satisfying for Marlboro Team Penske since both drivers battled throughout the race to finish ahead of their starting positions. Each of the Brazilian drivers struggled during their qualifying runs. Castroneves waived off his first run before he took the green flag, and returned at the end of the session for one qualifying lap (as opposed to the two allowed on the first attempt). He posted his fastest lap of the weekend and put his car on the inside of row four to start seventh - marking his seventh top-ten start of the 2002 IRL season. Teammate de Ferran, who also faced handling problems in his Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet, completed his first run and qualified 21st.
However, Marlboro Team Penske came back to form on the day that counts. De Ferran was able to move up, running as high as second, before bringing his car home in fifth - allowing him to maintain his second place standing in the Championship. Castroneves ran another solid race and led laps for the eighth time this season on his way to a third-place finish. Marlboro Team Penske will now begin to prepare for their fifth new track of the season next week at Nashville. The race will also mark the third time either driver will compete under the lights.
MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE SEASON IN REVIEW
More than halfway through the 2002 IRL season, Castroneves and de Ferran sit one and two in the Championship point standings, a position they've held since the Indianapolis 500. Not only has Marlboro Team Penske had to adjust to a brand new Series with new equipment, but in the first nine races alone, the Team has raced at four new tracks (Texas Motor Speedway, Pikes Peak International Raceway, Richmond International Raceway and Kansas Speedway). While the Team prepares for Nashville Superspeedway, here's a look at what the Team has achieved to date:
* Three wins - Phoenix, Indianapolis and Pikes Peak
* Two 1-2 finishes (Phoenix and Pikes Peak) - the most 1-2 finishes by an IRL Team in one season
* Seven top-two finishes; ten top-three finishes; and 15 top-five finishes
* Castroneves leads the IRL in races led (8), de Ferran is tied for second (7) with Sam Hornish Jr.
* Castroneves and de Ferran are the only two drivers to have been running at the end of each race
* Castroneves leads the Series with eight top-five finishes; de Ferran is second with six
* De Ferran leads the IRL in poles (3); Castroneves is one of two drivers with two poles (Tomas Scheckter also has two poles)
* Three front row sweeps - Phoenix, Pikes Peak a Richmo nd
* De Ferran leads the IRL in laps led with 508 and Castroneves is the only driver to have led laps in eight of the nine races run to date
* Marlboro Team Penske drivers have led each of the races for a total of 25 times for 669 laps
* De Ferran has completed 98% of the 1,900 laps run to date while Castroneves has completed 92%
MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE'S THOUGHTS ON THE SEASON
"So far it's been a good season, but it isn't over until the last checkered flag drops. Everyone involved with Marlboro Team Penske has been putting forth a great effort to make the season a success," said Castroneves. "Overall I'm happy with how things are going; we've been able to score two wins and we are leading the Championship. While we've raced at several of the tracks we're running on this season, we were in different equipment so we need to approach them pretty much as they are new tracks. We just need to continue to stay focused and keep working hard for the rest of the season."
"I'd say the first half of the year has been successful," said de Ferran. "We've been competitive at all of the races and managed to bring one of them home at Pikes Peak. Heading into the second half of the season, we go to a number of tracks we don't know much about which is always a challenge for Marlboro Team Penske given it's our first year in the IRL. But that's what we're up against. We're running 1-2 in the IRL Championship, which is pretty good, but it is very competitive and by no means decided. We're going to approach the second half of the season like we've been doing which is to stay focused and work hard knowing that it is not going to be an easy ride and things can go up or down from here."
"With six races remaining in the Championship, we must focus on one race at a time," said Tim Cindric, President of Penske Racing. "For the most part, we are proud of what we have accomplished to this point, but we must execute at every race to be in a position to win our first IRL Championship. It is a long way from being over."
MARLBORO LAP LEADER AWARD
Tomas Scheckter won this past weekend's Marlboro Lap Leader Award, which goes to the driver leading the most laps in each 2002 IRL event. After leading 101 of the 200 laps at this weekend's Ameristar Indy 200 at Kansas Speedway, Scheckter earned his third Marlboro Lap Leader Award of the season. He will be presented with a check for $5,000 at the Firestone Indy 200 pre-race ceremony next weekend at Nashville Superspeedway. In addition, Cesare Mannucci of Autosprint 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 laps that driver will lead, in a given race. Mannucci, who guessed that Scheckter would lead 89 of the 200 laps in the race, won a Maurice Lacroix Siras watch.
CASTRONEVES AT THE ESPY'S
Helio Castroneves will be on-hand at tomorrow night's 10th Annual ESPY Awards, hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Both Castroneves and de Ferran were nominated for an ESPY Award in the Best Driver category at tomorrow's awards. Other nominees include Sam Hornish Jr. (IRL), John Force (NHRA), Jeff Gordon (NASCAR), Kevin Harvick (NASCAR) and Michael Schumacher (Formula One).
DE FERRAN TO TEST AT NASHVILLE SUPERSPEEDWAY
While Castroneves is rubbing elbows with some of the biggest names in sports at tomorrow night's ESPY's, teammate de Ferran will be hard at work turning laps at Nashville Superspeedway in preparation for the upcoming Firestone Indy 200 on Saturday, July 20th. While testing at the Superspeedway, de Ferran will be participating in the Firestone media lunch from 12:00 p.m. -1:00 p.m. where journalists will have the opportunity to talk with him about the upcoming race as well as the 2002 IRL season. For further information, please call Sean Dozier at 615-547-7500.