IRL: Indy 500: Team Penske Pit Notes 2003-05-07

Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes May 7, 2003 ROGER PENSKE DISCUSSES POLE DAY AND BEING BACK AT INDY Marlboro Team Penske has been hard at work for months preparing for the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500. Now that qualifying is only a...

Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes
May 7, 2003


Marlboro Team Penske has been hard at work for months preparing for the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500. Now that qualifying is only a few short days away, the pressure continues to build. While the race is not for another two weeks, this Saturday will definitely be an indication of how things may pan out over Memorial Day weekend.

"Qualifying is still one of the most nerve wracking days at the Speedway because we have to insure that we get both of our drivers in the show," said Roger S. Penske. "After our 'wake-up call' in 1995 (neither Fittipaldi nor Unser Jr. qualified for the race) we've always been concerned about Pole Day. You want to qualify up front so that hopefully you're clear of any incidents early in the race."

Despite the pressure of Pole Day, there's nothing quite like racing at Indy. For Roger Penske, Indianapolis is like no other track in the world.

"Racing has always been a common thread in all of my businesses," continued Penske. "I've got 30,000 employees watching our performance each weekend so there is pressure from that end to put the numbers on the board. Also, I love the competition. If we're in the race then everyone wants to beat us and we need to uphold our reputation. I think the depth and detail in this year's field is the highest it's ever been. It's a much tighter field than I've ever seen."


While all of the other Teams are hard at work preparing their cars for qualifying, Marlboro Team Penske has other things to worry about as well. Not only is the Team working on the set-up of their cars, but they still have to select a chassis to run on Saturday.

Over the course of the 2003 Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar Series season, the Team has raced two different chassis, the Dallara and the Panoz G-Force. A main goal for Marlboro Team Penske this week is to decide which chassis they will qualify for the race. The season began with both Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran running the #3 and #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota respectively. However, over the course of the last month, the #6 car has switched chassis and run with the G-Force. Both drivers will be testing the two chassis throughout the week and will choose the one that that they feel is best suited for them.

Castroneves began the week with the Dallara, running it solely on Opening Day and for most of the day on Monday. On Monday afternoon, Castroneves switched over to the G-Force and in just a few laps was up to speed and was able to turn the 11th fastest time of the day at 226.958 mph (39.6550 seconds). Earlier that day, he turned the sixth fastest lap at 227.953 (39.4819 seconds) with the Dallara chassis. The crew for the #3 car certainly has a difficult choice ahead of them and they plan to use the rest of the week weighing each option so that they can ultimately choose the most comfortable car for Castroneves' search for a pole at the Brickyard.

De Ferran spent Sunday and Monday in the G-Force shaking down his primary car. Not only was this the first time de Ferran was back in a racecar after an accident at Phoenix sidelined him for the race in Japan, but it was also the first opportunity the two-time CART champion had to run the G-Force chassis. Clearly, he felt right at home in his new car as he recorded the fourth fastest practice time of the day on Monday with a lap of 228.417 mph (39.4016 seconds).

On Tuesday, Castroneves and de Ferran spent the day doing race simulations and long runs. The two Brazilians ran together so that they could get an idea of the race conditions and to see how the cars ran in traffic. In total, the Team ran five different cars over the course of the day. Overall, the Team was pleased with their progress as each crew got that much closer to selecting a chassis for Pole Day.

On Wednesday the Team continued their development program with a decision about their choice of chassis to be announced at Friday's scheduled press conference (see below).

"We'll probably have a decision on which chassis we're going to run by the end of the week ," said Penske. "We're letting both drivers run each chassis to give these guys every opportunity possible because flexibility is what wins races here. It is a decision, which will ultimately be made by the drivers, and if they each choose a different chassis I'm wide open for that as well. The key thing is that we've already raced both of these chassis (Alex Barron raced the G-Force for the injured de Ferran in Japan) so we should be ready to go no matter which one they choose."


While qualifying won't take place until this Saturday afternoon, the paddock has its share of estimates for what the top speed will be during qualifying. Here's a look at what some of the key Marlboro Team Penske personnel think will be the average speed needed to capture the pole: <pre> Helio Castroneves 233.3 mph Gil de Ferran 233.0 mph Rick Mears 230.6 mph Tim Cindric, President, Penske Racing, Inc. 232.2 mph Clive Howell, General Manager, Marlboro Team Penske 230.0 mph Tom Wurtz, Team Manager, Marlboro Team Penske 231.4 mph Grant Newbury, Chief Engineer, Helio Castroneves 230.2 mph Rick Rinaman, Crew Chief, Helio Castroneves 231.7 mph Tom German, Chief Engineer, Gil de Ferran 230.5 mph Matt Jonsson, Crew Chief, Gil de Ferran 232.7 mph </pre> MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE PRESS CONFERENCE

Marlboro Team Penske will hold a press conference at 10:00 a.m. CT on Friday, May 9th in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Press Conference Room at which time they'll announce their chassis selection. Roger Penske, Gil de Ferran, Helio Castroneves, Tim Cindric and Rick Mears will be on-hand to discuss their defense of two consecutive Indianapolis 500 titles as well as this year's qualifying and race preparation.


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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske