IRL: Texas: Team Penske pit notes

Marlboro Team Penske Gets Geared Up For Texas This Saturday, Marlboro Team Penske will be under the lights for the first night race of the 2004 Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar® Series season. Ready to bounce back from a disappointing weekend...

Marlboro Team Penske Gets Geared Up For Texas

This Saturday, Marlboro Team Penske will be under the lights for the first night race of the 2004 Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar® Series season. Ready to bounce back from a disappointing weekend in Indianapolis; two-time Series Champion Sam Hornish Jr. and 2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves will be looking to move up in the IRL Championship point standings with a solid effort in the Lone Star State.

Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) has been very good to Marlboro Team Penske drivers. In seven appearances, Hornish Jr. has earned two wins (in the final races of the 2001 and 2002 seasons) and led 213 of 1594 laps (13%).

"It is one of my favorite tracks because it's difficult to get the car right and to gain an advantage over our competitors, plus the race usually ends in a photo finish," Hornish Jr. said. "This event has been hit or miss for me as I've come up on the winning end of close finishes, but I've also finished out of the top-ten. The Team is giving it their all to be ready for next weekend and hopefully Marlboro Team Penske will be able to bring home a strong finish."

In fact, Hornish Jr. and Castroneves battled for the IndyCar Series Championship title up to the final race at TMS in 2002. Hornish Jr. led by 12 points going into that last race and the rivalry exceeded all expectations as the two ended up finishing 1-2 in the second closest race in IndyCar Series history (the margin of victory was 0.0096 seconds) and Hornish Jr. claimed his second consecutive Series title.

Aside from the final race of 2002, Castroneves has earned two other top-ten finishes in four appearances and has led 95 laps in the 800 he's run there (12%)

"I'm looking forward to this weekend's event," said Castroneves. "I remember going into the final race of the 2002 season just behind Sam [Hornish Jr.] in the Championship and we put on a great show. We've both done well here in the past, and we've certainly raced each other hard. It will be fun to go into the race in Texas as teammates, so now maybe we can learn a little bit from each other as well as try to beat one another!"

SUCCESS AFTER DARK

With the season's first night race this weekend, Marlboro Team Penske drivers Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves will head to Texas with a proven track record after dark.

Hornish Jr. has competed under the lights ten times, during which he's scored six top-five finishes, including one win (Richmond in 2002); eight top-ten finishes, and led 196 of 2,106 laps run.

Marlboro Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves has had his share of success as well when running at night. In just six appearances in the dark, the 29 year-old Brazilian has earned three top-five finishes and five top-ten finishes.

THE #6 MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE DALLARA/TOYOTA - AHEAD OF THE GAME

While Sam Hornish Jr. may not have won the last race at Texas Motor Speedway, his #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota did. At least year's season finale, Gil de Ferran won his last major open-wheel race before retiring at the end of the season.

So how does this help de Ferran's replacement and two-time Series Champion in the race this weekend?

"It's always good to have won a race at a track on which you're competing again," said Tom German, Race Engineer for Sam Hornish Jr. and for Gil de Ferran in 2003. "A lot of the information that we recorded from Gil's race last year will translate to Sam this Saturday night. Drivers at this level have a very good feel for what's going on in the racecar and the feedback, which Gil provided can help us with Sam. Certainly, there are differences between Sam and Gil, but those differences have been fairly consistent in the first four races of the season, so we have a pretty good idea of what they will be like in Texas as well."

In addition to de Ferran's feedback for the set-up of the car, the data recorded will also be helpful in planning for the Bombardier 500 as the track will most likely have similar conditions. However, while the raw data is helpful, the Team must make sure they take into account subtle differences in the two races. With this weekend's event taking place at night, the temperature will most likely decrease as the race goes on, rather than as during a typical daytime event where the temperature rises as the race progresses. In addition, the wind is generally calmer at night, so that is another factor that the Team must consider.

Furthermore, the Team has a better sense of how the track conditions will affect the car because of the season-opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"The changes they made to Homestead this season made that track more like TMS than ever before," continued German. "We learned quite a bit racing there and how the track should affect the set-up of the car."

HORNISH SAYS "I DO"

Auto racing isn't the only thing on Sam Hornish Jr.'s mind lately as last weekend he took the "big plunge." On Saturday, June 5th at 5:30 p.m., Sam Hornish Jr. married Crystal Liechty at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis. At the wedding, Sam wore a Hugo Boss tuxedo while his groomsmen and ushers wore wearing Hugo Boss suits, while Crystal wore a custom wedding gown by Valentina and her bridesmaids wore dresses by Vera Wang.

Immediately following the ceremony, Sam and his new bride had the chance to take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of downtown Indianapolis, before meeting the wedding party for photos.

A reception, attended by about 500 guests, was held in the Cathedral's ballroom followed the wedding. Guests included Roger and Kathy Penske, President of Penske Racing, Inc. Tim Cindric and his wife Megan, Helio Castroneves and his sister Kati, President and CEO of the Indy Racing League Tony George and his wife Laura, and the Indy Racing League's Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Brian Barnhart and his wife Cindy.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Tony George , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske