IRL: Team Penske Pit Notes 2004-08-03

Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes August 3, 2004 MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE GEARS UP FOR ROAD COURSES IN 2005 With the announcement of the 2005 Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar® Series schedule today, Marlboro Team Penske will prepare itself to ...

Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes
August 3, 2004

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE GEARS UP FOR ROAD COURSES IN 2005

With the announcement of the 2005 Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar® Series schedule today, Marlboro Team Penske will prepare itself to get back out on road courses next season. After a three-year hiatus, the Team is anxious to return to the style of track that has brought them such success over the years. Of the Team's record-120 Indy car wins, 49 have come on road/street courses.

2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves has always liked racing on road/street circuits, in fact the Brazilian earned his first Indy car victory at the temporary street course in Detroit in 2000 during his first season with Marlboro Team Penske. From there the Brazilian went on to earn five more of his eleven Indy car wins on road/street circuits (Mid-Ohio - 2001 & 2000; Laguna Seca - 2000; Detroit - 2001 & 2000; Long Beach - 2001). In addition, Castroneves earned nine top-five finishes, 19 top-ten finishes and five poles in 45 road/street course starts.

"I'm excited to be racing on road courses again," said Castroneves. "When I competed in the CART Series, I found a lot of success on the road and street circuits, so I'm thrilled and I'm sure that a lot of our fans, teams and drivers share this same sentiment. I've never been to Infineon Raceway, but I know from what I've watched on TV that it will be a lot of fun going through the hills of Sonoma. Watkins Glen is steeped in tradition so I also think that will be a strong addition to next year's schedule. I can't wait to turn right again. I'm looking forward to testing the new road course package as soon as we can get the chance."

While Marlboro Team Penske teammate, Sam Hornish Jr. may not have any Indy car experience on road/street courses, he has his fair share of experience on them as he competed in the Toyota Atlantic and Formula Ford Series before being called up to the IndyCar Series in 2000. While racing in the Toyota Atlantic Series in 1999, Hornish Jr. competed on several road/street courses and was named Rookie of the Year. In addition, Hornish Jr. also drove in the U.S. F2000 Championships from 1996-1998 where he competed in several road/street course including top-ten finishes at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio.

"I'm excited to see how the Indy Racing League package works on road courses," said Hornish Jr. "I think racing on road courses will play to my strengths as it will be important to keep up your momentum and time your passes. They will be very challenging for the drivers, and if you make a mistake on these types of circuits it is really amplified. What most people don't realize is that before joining the IRL I did most of my racing on road courses, and I actually raced at Watkins Glen."

In addition to the abundant road/street course experience that Marlboro Team Penske's drivers bring to the table, Penske Racing also has experience at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen. The Team earned three consecutive victories at Watkins Glen (Rick Mears in 1981 and Bobby Unser in 1980 and 1979) and the first pole in the history of Penske Racing was won by Mark Donohue at Sonoma in 1970.

For most of the current Team, the trek to Watkins Glen and Infineon Raceway will be a first time experience. However for Team Advisor Rick Mears and General Manager Clive Howell, it will be a little different. The last time Mears and Howell competed at Watkins Glen they celebrated in victory circle as Mears won in the final Indy car race at the track in 1981.

"Watkins Glen is a fun race track," said Marlboro Team Penske Advisor Rick Mears. "It has a good combination of high speed and low speed corners, long straightaways and there are opportunities for passing. It also is a track with a lot of history. I ran Indy cars there (Mears won the last Indy car race at Watkins Glen in 1981), an endurance race and the Toyota Celebrity Race. I remember having a great battle with Parnelli Jones during one of the Toyota Celebrity events - there wasn't a straight corner left on either car by the end."

"What stands out most about the win was that when we were taking the car in for the tech inspection after Victory Circle, the car came to a grinding halt," explains Howell, who was a mechanic for Mears at the time. "A piece of the gear box had come loose and jammed up the rear end of the car and we had to put it on the jack and drag it over for inspection. I'm looking forward to going back to Watkins Glen next season - the track is very challenging and it will be nice to compete there once again."

"I think it is great that the Indy Racing League is adding road courses to its schedule," continued Mears. "From a driver's standpoint, one of the things I always enjoyed about racing Indy cars was the variety of tracks including short ovals, superspeedways, road and street courses. The drivers really needed to be well-rounded and versatile to win the Championship."

"Road Racing will add another dimension to what it takes to be an IRL champion," added Tim Cindric, President of Penske Racing, Inc.

TONY KANAAN WINS MARLBORO LAP LEADER AWARD

Team 7-Eleven driver Tony Kanaan led the most laps at the Michigan Indy 400 this past weekend at Michigan International Speedway after being at the top of the leader board for 183 of the 200 laps on his way to a second place finish. Kanaan earned three extra points for leading the most laps and leads the IRL Championship point standings with 400 points. Kanaan will be presented with his Marlboro Lap Leader Award check for $7,500 during the pre-race ceremonies at the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway on August 15th. His performance also marked the third time this season and sixth time in two years Kanaan has won the Marlboro Lap Leader Award, bringing his total earnings to $45,000.

In addition, Anne Proffitt of Motorsport.com was the 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 that driver will lead, in a given race. Proffitt, who guessed that Kanaan would lead 123 of the scheduled 200 laps in the race, won a MOMO Design Essenziale Watch.

-mtp-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Tony Kanaan , Rick Mears , Bobby Unser , Parnelli Jones , Mark Donohue , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske