CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Penske heads for Nazareth

Marlboro Team Penske will head to Nazareth Speedway to defend its title at the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix this Sunday, May 6. Last year, Gil de Ferran led the final 68 laps on the 0.946-mile oval en route to earning his fourth CART career victory -...

Marlboro Team Penske will head to Nazareth Speedway to defend its title at the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix this Sunday, May 6. Last year, Gil de Ferran led the final 68 laps on the 0.946-mile oval en route to earning his fourth CART career victory - his first on an oval - and Roger Penske's historic 100th Champ car win.

"You have no idea how meaningful that victory was," said de Ferran. "It's hard to put into words what it meant to me. It was really a big day in my life. When I first had the contact with Roger (Penske) and we started to do this deal it was a very emotional time for me. After that, though, you kind of get on with your work. It's only when you get out of the car at the end of the day that the whole feeling hits you. Joining Marlboro Team Penske was the first step and to capture the 100th win together was indescribable."

With his victory at Nazareth Speedway, de Ferran joined the ranks of some of the best drivers ever to sit in a Champ car including Danny Sullivan (1998), Emerson Fittipaldi (1989, 1990 and 1995) Nigel Mansell (1993), Michael Andretti (1987, 1996) and Paul Tracy (1994 and 1997). De Ferran will no doubt be looking to earn Penske's second consecutive victory in the final CART race at Nazareth Speedway. The only driver to win back-to-back races at Nazareth was Emerson Fittipaldi (1989, 1990).

In addition, Team Penske is the winningest Team at Nazareth Speedway, taking the checkered flag six times in the past 14 races. With the Team headquarters based in nearby Reading, PA, the event is considered to be their "hometown" race, with many team members' family and friends in attendance each year.

This year, Marlboro Team Penske returns to Nazareth with de Ferran and Castroneves sitting in second and third place respectively in the CART FedEx Series point standings. De Ferran has earned two podium finishes in as many races in 2001 with a second place finish in Mexico and a third place finish in Long Beach, while his teammate, Helio Castroneves is fresh off of his fourth CART career victory which he earned in the downtown streets of Long Beach.


Roger Penske, who revived the Nazareth Speedway facility 15 years ago when he took the dormant dirt track and turned it into a state-of-the-art facility, will serve as the Grand Marshal for the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix presented by Toyota on Sunday, May 6, 2001. As Grand Marshal, Penske will give the drivers the command to start their engines and participate in the special pre-race festivities.

On Friday night Penske will be honored at a trackside dinner. Among the speakers will be Mario Andretti, Gil de Ferran, Helio Castroneves and Rick Mears.


Although Rick Mears, Team Advisor to Marlboro Team Penske, never won the Sunday race at Nazareth Speedway in his five years competing there, he did win the All-Star Marlboro Challenge on the track in 1990. His strong qualifying and finishing positions in each of his five starts were enough to give him the record for best average starting position (2.3) and best average finishing position (5.8). Mears is ranked fifth on the all-time laps led list with 196.

"Nazareth is the site of my first oval win last year and the 100th win for the Team, a great day for all concerned. It is a tough track, very mentally demanding -- there's never a second when you're not fully occupied. Racing at Nazareth is an entirely unique experience and I hope we can repeat what we did there last year. It is also close to the Team race shop in Reading so a lot of the shop-based guys and their families come to the race, and it's close to New York so it's an important race for Marlboro. From that point of view, this is a big race for everyone at Marlboro Team Penske. Because of all these reasons, it's really a shame that this year will be the last race at Nazareth."

"Unfortunately, I haven't had much luck at Nazareth. But this year, especially since it's the last year CART is scheduled to race there, I hope to turn my luck around. Nazareth is actually one of my favorite tracks because I really enjoy the challenge of short oval racing. My teammate (Gil de Ferran) won this event last year so Marlboro Team Penske should be in a good position to perform well this weekend."


The pit crew of Gil de Ferran's #1 2001 Marlboro Honda Reynard has earned 24 points in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge after two races, tying them for first place with the #6 car (Cristiano da Matta). The pit crew of Helio Castroneves' #3 2001 Marlboro Honda Reynard sits in third place with 22 total points. Points are awarded based on cumulative pit stop time during each event.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Paul Tracy , Nigel Mansell , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Danny Sullivan , Emerson Fittipaldi , Roger Penske , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Team Penske