CHAMPCAR/CART: Marlboro Team Penske Houston preview

This weekend, the CART FedEx Championship Series heads to Texas for the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix through the downtown streets of Houston. Last year, Marlboro Team Penske earned a pair of top-five finishes with Gil de Ferran and Helio...

This weekend, the CART FedEx Championship Series heads to Texas for the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix through the downtown streets of Houston. Last year, Marlboro Team Penske earned a pair of top-five finishes with Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves finishing third and fifth respectively. De Ferran set the pace in qualifying by taking his fourth pole of the 2000 season and Castroneves started on the second row in fourth.

Marlboro Team Penske has historically done well on temporary/road circuits and will look to perpetuate its performance this weekend in the tenth temporary/road circuit of the season. In the 2001 CART FedEx Championship to date, Marlboro Team Penske has earned the following results on temporary/road circuits:

* Three victories - Long Beach, Detroit and Mid-Ohio. * Four out of nine poles -- Long Beach, Detroit, Toronto and Mid-Ohio. * De Ferran and Castroneves have swept the front row twice -- Toronto and Mid-Ohio (both times de Ferran earned the pole with Castroneves qualifying second). * De Ferran has earned eight point-paying finishes including four podium finishes -- 2nd at Mexico, Mid-Ohio and Vancouver; and 3rd in Long Beach. * Castroneves has earned six point-paying finishes, including three wins -- Long Beach, Detroit and Mid-Ohio. * Castroneves has led 237 of the 729 laps raced (33%) - nearly three times more than any other driver in the Series. * De Ferran has led the second most laps (87). * Marlboro Team Penske has led a total of 324 laps - more than three times that of any other Team in the Series.

Gil de Ferran
"With a lot of ninety degree corners, Houston is a place where you cannot make a mistake. The street course is a little bumpy in places as well, which makes it difficult to drive and to get the right set-up. I knew last year's race would be a key to the Championship and it was important for Marlboro Team Penske to take the pole and finish on the podium (de Ferran finished third after starting on the pole). Once again, with the points battle so close (de Ferran is six points out of first), Houston will play an important role in the fight for the CART Championship."

Helio Castroneves
"The Houston street circuit is tough on brakes and equipment. There is only one straightaway with a top speed of about 175 mph which does not allow for a lot of air to cool the brakes so we have to make sure they don't overheat. The track is bumpy at the braking points, which makes it a challenge for both the driver and the engineers to find the right set-up.

Marlboro Team Penske has been doing relatively well on street circuits so we are hoping for a good result this weekend. Last year, I had a good run for the pole but got held up in traffic on the last turn of my final qualifying lap. During the race, we lost time in the pits when the Team had to recock the fuel valve, which cost us track position. We were able to bring it home in the points (Castroneves finished fifth) which we need to do again this year to stay in the hunt for the Championship (Castroneves is 24 points out of first)."

As a result of a solid effort from the pit crew of Gil de Ferran's #1 2001 Marlboro Honda Reynard in England, they now sit in first place in the 2001 Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. The crew for the #1 car, led by crew chief Matt Jonsson, has 139 points, three more than the crew of Helio Castroneves' #3 2001 Marlboro Honda Reynard, and has taken the lead after moving into second place after Mid-Ohio. The pit crew for the #3 car, led by crew chief Rick Rinaman, had taken the lead in Nazareth and led up until the race in England.

-mtp-

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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske