Marlboro Team Penske - Optimistic for Gateway. This weekend's Gateway Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis on Sunday, August 25th will mark one of the rare times this season that Marlboro Team Penske will be racing on a track...
Marlboro Team Penske - Optimistic for Gateway.
This weekend's Gateway Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis on Sunday, August 25th will mark one of the rare times this season that Marlboro Team Penske will be racing on a track where they have previously competed. Throughout the summer, the Indy Racing League (IRL) has been competing on tracks at which the Team has never raced. The last six of seven races have provided the unique challenge of marking both Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves' inaugural run at each track. While the Team will be making its IRL debut at Gateway International Raceway, they certainly have had plenty of experience at the track when it competed in the CART Series (1997-2000). Marlboro Team Penske has competed at the 1.25-mile oval four times, including Paul Tracy's win at Gateway's inaugural open-wheel race in 1997 when Tracy won his third consecutive race of the season and scored the Team's record setting 99th victory.
In addition to the Team's experience at Gateway, both 2000 & 2001 CART Champion de Ferran and 2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 Winner Castroneves have raced in St. Louis a number of times. During the four years CART raced there, de Ferran was able to earn three top-ten finishes including a third place result in his inaugural run in 1997. Teammate Castroneves has raced at Gateway three times including the best race of his sophomore season when he started third and finished second in 1999.
THOUGHTS ON GATEWAY
Despite the fact that St. Louis is a familiar track to Marlboro Team Penske, the race on the 25th will mark the first time de Ferran and Castroneves have competed there with the IRL racing package, which should bring a new set of challenges to the Brazilian duo. However, after a successful three-day test at the track last week, the Team remains confident of their prospects this weekend as they look to regain their lead in the IRL Championship point standings. Castroneves and de Ferran are currently 2nd and 3rd in the Championship respectively and just 4 and 13 points behind series-leader Sam Hornish Jr.
"I'm looking forward to racing at Gateway again," said Castroneves. "I think this type of track suits my style and Marlboro Team Penske's prior experience at the track (in Champ cars) may help us on race weekend. Gateway is a challenging track in that the turns are very different; turns one and two are very sharp while turns three and four are flat out. We had a successful two-day test there last week. The weather was cloudy on the first day and it was a little windy the second day, but we did long runs and worked on both race and qualifying set-ups. Overall, I'm happy with the results. Given the tight points battle for the IRL Championship, the main thing now is to keep our focus and execute."
"We're certainly looking forward to racing in St. Louis this weekend," echoed teammate de Ferran. "We've been doing well at this type of track all season and we've gotten some of our best results on the short ovals like Gateway International Raceway. I'd say we've got a very good chance for a successful weekend. It's important that Marlboro Team Penske does well in St. Louis so that we can go into the final two races in a strong position in the Championship."
CASTRONEVES MAKES TENNIS DEBUT AT RCA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Last Friday, Castroneves was in Indianapolis for the RCA Championships where he had the opportunity to play in a pro-celebrity match against the top doubles players on the ATP Tour. Castroneves who was teamed up with former star John Lloyd played against the top team of Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor. Castroneves has always loved tennis - as a player and a fan - and competed in tennis tournaments in his native Brazil until the time he was 14 years old. One of the highlights of his day was getting the chance to meet former and current ATP stars Jim Courier and Tim Henman, before taking the court for his match.
"I had a great time at the RCA Championships last week," said Castroneves. "I am a huge tennis fan - it's actually my second sport. It's a great way to train and I use it for my mental focus. Last year, I went to the Nasdaq-100 and the U.S. Open finals where I saw Serena play Venus and Pete Sampras take on Lleyton Hewitt. I wanted to go to the Cincinnati tournament a few weeks ago (while in town for the recent race at Kentucky Speedway), but I couldn't fit it into my schedule. It was really fun coming to Indianapolis to play with these great players, plus the fans there are always so wonderful!"