IRL: Fontana: Team Penske preview

Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes September 28, 2004 MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE TURNS RIGHT Marlboro Team Penske joined the rest of the Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar Series last week at Homestead-Miami Speedway at the first road course test in ...

Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes
September 28, 2004


Marlboro Team Penske joined the rest of the Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar Series last week at Homestead-Miami Speedway at the first road course test in preparation for next year's races at St. Petersburg, Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen. On Wednesday, Helio Castroneves fulfilled driving duties, while Sam Hornish Jr. took over during Thursday's test session.

"It was great to have the opportunity to watch these guys turn right again," said Tim Cindric, President Penske Racing, Inc. "The cars performed surprisingly well for the first time out in road race configuration. This will add an interesting dynamic to the IRL championship."

For 2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves, it was a welcome return to the types of circuits that have given him so much success in the past. In 2000, Castroneves earned his first major open-wheel victory on the temporary street circuit on Belle Isle in Detroit when he was competing in the CART Series. After Detroit, the 29 year-old Brazilian earned road course victories at Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca later that season. He would go on to win again in Detroit and Mid-Ohio as well as Long Beach in 2001 before Marlboro Team Penske moved to the IRL full-time at the beginning of the 2002 season.

"I was like a kid in a candy store," said Castroneves. "I'm extremely happy to be turning both right and left again and next year's races should definitely provide an exciting new dimension to the Series. I think the IRL has done a great job with the braking and the downshifting. The car handled great all day, which is a wonderful sign for the season ahead. Hopefully Marlboro Team Penske will be able to find as much success next year as it has had in the past on road courses."

Marlboro Team Penske's Hornish Jr. has to look a little further back to the last time he competed on a road course - he drove in the Toyota Atlantic Series in 1999 and the U.S. Formula Ford 2000 Series from 1996-1998. However, next season's road course debuts will mark the first time in his Indy car career that the Defiance, OH native will be turning right.

"It's been a while since I've done the right-left thing," Hornish Jr. said. "It was helpful to get back in the swing of things and knock off all the cobwebs. I'd never been in a car of this size on a road course, so it was definitely a new experience for me. I just tried to get comfortable with the shifting and the braking points. Some of these guys have had experience in CART cars, but for me, a car this heavy will take a bit of getting used to on the road courses. For now, I just tried to get my rhythm back and hopefully the rest will come with time. I think this adds a lot to the Series and hopefully Marlboro Team Penske will be able to get a win or two on these new courses."


This weekend Marlboro Team Penske returns to the 2-mile circuit at California Speedway in search of its first win at the Southern California track. While the Team has yet to capture the checkered flag in Fontana, it has had its fair share of success there in the past. In 2000, Gil de Ferran set the World Closed Course Speed Record during qualifying for the Marlboro 500 with a lap of 241.428 mph and went on to win the 2000 CART Series title later that weekend.

"Our Team is looking forward to racing at California this year as Toyota and Marlboro Team Penske have been working hard to put together a package that will put us back on track," said Tim Cindric. "Sam and Helio have had success at this race and a win here this year would be a great boost for the Team. It's hard to believe that it has been five years since Gil set the world's closed course speed record there and it would be exciting to see Roger get his first IndyCar win at a facility in which he put so much work into developing."

Marlboro Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. is undefeated at the track having won in both starts he's made in Fontana, the only two times the IndyCar Series has competed in California. Last year, Hornish Jr. started tenth and led 30 laps on his way to his third victory of 2003 - it also marked his third win in the final five events of the year. In 2002, Hornish Jr. started fourth and led 73 laps before clinching his second victory of the season in the Series' debut in Fontana. If history is any indication of what the fans can expect this year, Hornish Jr. is clearly a favorite this weekend.

"California Speedway is special to me because I am the only Indy Racing League driver to have won there, "said Hornish Jr. "I'm looking forward to this weekend's race and going for a 'three-peat'. Toyota has been working really hard and hopefully we can run up front and get Marlboro Team Penske back to victory circle. The race is all about making the right move at the right time, getting through the first 380 miles and then fighting it out over the last ten laps."

Helio Castroneves earned his third pole of the 2003 season at Fontana and will be looking to earn his first victory of the 2004 season this weekend at California Speedway.

"I'm looking forward to competing in Fontana," said Castroneves. "There's always exciting racing at California Speedway because you can go three, maybe even four, wide. We definitely should give the fans an amazing show. It will be a long race, so the most important thing is to make sure the Marlboro Team Penske car is reliable and can last 400 miles. Last year, I won the pole so hopefully this season we can achieve similar results. We've yet to win a race at this track, so hopefully this will be my year. The only disappointment for me is that we're out of the Championship race, but Marlboro Team Penske has been working hard all year and we'll be looking to get our first win of the season in California."


Roger Penske and Marlboro Team Penske Advisor and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears have been named to a list of the fifty most famous names in auto racing in the last half-century, by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association's (AARWBA). One of these fifty will be chosen as the "Newsmaker of the Half-Century" and presented with a commemorative commissioned painting at a major race during the 2005 season. On January 15th at the AARWBA 50th Anniversary Celebration in Pomona, CA, twelve finalists from the list will be announced and those newsmakers will be put to a final vote to select the winner.


Fernandez Racing driver Adrian Fernandez led the most laps at the last IndyCar Series event at Chicagoland Speedway for the first time this season after being at the top of the leader board five times for a total of 83 of the 200 laps run on his way to winning the Delphi Indy 300 on September 12th. Fernandez earned three extra points for leading the most laps and sits in sixth place in the IRL Championship point standings with 365 points. Fernandez will be presented with his Marlboro Lap Leader Award check for $7,500 during the pre-race ceremonies at the Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway this weekend on October 3rd.

There was not a winner in the Marlboro Lap Leader Award media contest in Chicago, as no journalist selected Fernandez to lead the most laps in the race.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Rick Mears , Roger Penske , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske