CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Penske Mid-Ohio preview

Marlboro Team Penske returns to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the defending champion - Helio Castroneves and last year's runner-up - Gil de Ferran. The Team's front row sweep in 2000 (de Ferran on pole and Castroneves second) marked the second...

Marlboro Team Penske returns to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the defending champion - Helio Castroneves and last year's runner-up - Gil de Ferran. The Team's front row sweep in 2000 (de Ferran on pole and Castroneves second) marked the second time that season that the red-and-white cars made up the front row of the starting field (the first was in Portland). They would go on to capture the front row once again in Laguna Seca (Castroneves on pole and de Ferran second).

After leading the first 28 laps of last year's Miller Lite 200, defending CART FedEx Series Champion de Ferran lost the lead to teammate Castroneves who led the remaining 55 laps to give Marlboro Team Penske every lap led in the race. The Team's 1-2 finish marked the first time they took the top two spots that season, but not the last. They would go on to repeat these results later in the season at Laguna Seca where Castroneves won, followed by de Ferran. It also marked the Team's first 1-2 finish since 1994 in Nazareth when Paul Tracy won and Al Unser Jr. finished second.

Last year's victory marked the fourth for the Team that season (Nazareth, Portland, Detroit) and the second for Castroneves. It also gave Castroneves the opportunity to continue his traditional fence climb, which he started with his inaugural win in Detroit and continues to do after each victory.

Now is the time for Marlboro Team Penske to close the gap in the FedEx Championship Series points standings as the Team approaches three consecutive road/street courses - the type of tracks where traditionally the Team has performed the strongest. Heading into this weekend's race, Castroneves is second in the points, 22 behind series-leader Kenny Brack and de Ferran is fifth - 32 points behind Brack.

Last year on the road/street circuits:

* Marlboro Team Penske captured four of their series-high five wins - Portland, Detroit , Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca.

* The Team scored six of their series-leading eight poles - Long Beach, Portland, Toronto, Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca and Houston.

* The Team led 399 out of 960 laps (41%) with Castroneves leading the series with 245 laps led (25%) and de Ferran second with 154 (16%).

* The Marlboro Team Penske teammates scored 209 points with Castroneves scoring 110 out of his season total 129 (85%) and de Ferran tallying 99 of his series-leading 168 (58%) points.

To date this season on the road/street circuits:

* The Team has scored more points than any other two-car team in the series -- 102 -- with de Ferran scoring 52 of his 72 and Castroneves tallying 50 of his 82 points.

* Marlboro Team Penske has scored three of their four poles - Long Beach, Detroit and Toronto.

* Castroneves has scored both of his wins - Long Beach and Detroit. He also started from the pole at both races and led every lap in each event, marking the first time a driver has accomplished this feat twice in one season since Michael Andretti in 1992 (Toronto and Laguna Seca).

* The Team has led a series-high 218 laps out of 503 (43%), with Castroneves leading with 169 laps (33%).

CASTRONEVES ON MID-OHIO

"I'm looking forward to returning to Mid-Ohio after my win and the Team's 1-2 finish last year. I like the circuit because it's very technical. It's also a very physically demanding race because of the elevation changes, high and low speed corners and the hot, humid weather. To prepare for the race I do endurance training, however, once I'm on the track I forget about being tired because I'm completely focused on the race. We're entering the event second in the championship -- 22 points behind the leader, Kenny Brack. Since the Marlboro car performs well on road courses, hopefully we can close the gap."

DE FERRAN ON MID-OHIO

"Marlboro Team Penske had a very good showing at Mid-Ohio last year with Helio (Castroneves) and I finishing 1-2. We've been running well on road and street courses this season which is a good sign for us at Mid-Ohio. This is one of the most physically demanding races on the CART circuit and temperatures can be very high which makes it even tougher. The track is unique in the sense that there are a lot of elevation changes. Some of these changes are mid-turn which makes it even more challenging to find a good set-up."

CRAFTSMAN PIT CREW CHALLENGE

With their second place finish in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge in Chicago, the pit crew of Castroneves' #3 2001 Marlboro Honda Reynard took a commanding lead of the competition with a 24 point advantage over second place Patrick Racing (#20 car). The crew of teammate de Ferran's #1 2001 Marlboro Honda Reynard is currently in fourth place with 65 points.

CART FEDEX SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS

1 Kenny Brack 104 2 Helio Castroneves 82 3 Dario Franchitti 81 4 Michael Andretti 73 5 Gil de Ferran 72 6 Scott Dixon 69 7 Cristiano da Matta 67 8 Paul Tracy 53 9 Patrick Carpentier 51 10 Jimmy Vasser 50 11 Christian Fittipaldi 49 12 Max Papis 44

-MTP

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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske