IRL: Kansas: Penske Racing earns two top-three finishes

Marlboro Team Penske earns two top-three finishes for Penske Racing's 999TH and 1,000TH Starts Marlboro Team Penske drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves made Roger Penske's historic 999th and 1,000th starts respectively this past weekend...

Marlboro Team Penske earns two top-three finishes for Penske Racing's 999TH and 1,000TH Starts

Marlboro Team Penske drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves made Roger Penske's historic 999th and 1,000th starts respectively this past weekend at the Kansas Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway, where they earned two top-three finishes giving the Team ten top-three finishes in the eight races run to date.

Since joining the Indy Racing League (IRL) full time in 2002, Marlboro Team Penske has struggled on the 1.5-mile ovals such as Kansas Speedway. However, the Team had been working around the clock since the Texas race to improve their performance on these types of tracks and it paid off, as the pair of red and white Dallara/Toyotas were competitive all weekend. 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner de Ferran was able to qualify fourth matching his best start of the 2003 IndyCar=AE Series season (he also started fourth at Pikes Peak), while teammate Castroneves was just two places behind in sixth.

Castroneves gained two spots during the start and ran in the top-five for the first two-thirds of the race until developing a gearbox problem on lap 132, which looked as though it might end his day. Luckily, he was able to regain speed and finish second in the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota, marking his second consecutive top-two finish and his fifth top-three finish of the year.

De Ferran had a great start jumping from fourth to second on the first lap. He ran in second behind Dixon for the first stint biding his time and preparing to mount his attack to take over the lead. De Ferran came in out of sequence (on lap 61) on his second pit stop and after that round of stops was completed, the 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner found himself at the top of the field in first place (on lap 79). De Ferran would lead most of the way from there racking up the most laps led (93 laps). Conserving fuel during the second half of the race enabled Bryan Herta and Castroneves to finish the race first and second respectively. Both drivers completed one fewer pit stop than de Ferran, who finished in third place for the second consecutive race.

DE FERRAN LEADS SEVENTH INNING STRETCH AT WRIGLEY FIELD

Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran was in Chicago on Monday, July 7th to lead Cubs fans at Wrigley Field in one of the most storied traditions in all of sports - the Seventh Inning Stretch. De Ferran led the crowd in singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at the legendary ballpark where they beat his home team, the Florida Marlins, 6-3. Going into the evening de Ferran said that he, "was more nervous to sing at Wrigley Field than to start the Indianapolis 500," but he led the crowd in a rousing rendition of one of the most famous songs in sports joining the ranks of well-known celebrities and athletes who have sang at the ballpark including boxing legend Muhammad Ali, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and actor Mel Gibson. De Ferran was on the field during the Cubs' batting practice where he spoke to right fielder Sammy Sosa, shortstop Alex Gonzalez and first baseman Eric Karros. De Ferran was also invited into the Cubs' clubhouse where he met with recently named All-Star pitchers Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.

"I always enjoy meeting athletes from different sports," said de Ferran. "As a professional athlete myself, I definitely have an appreciation for the dedication these guys have to be at the top of their game. I've only been to one other baseball game in my life, so this was a perfect opportunity to come out and learn about this American pastime; and I got to teach them a little bit about auto racing as well. Plus, I got to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," which was a great experience; I can't believe how much these fans love the Team here in Chicago."

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE IN MUSIC CITY FOR MEDIA DAY

The Brazilian duo of Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves got a bit of "country culture" yesterday as they were in Nashville for a media day to prepare for the Firestone Indy 200 on July 19th at Nashville Superspeedway.

While they were in town, the two had a busy schedule getting the full "Music City" experience. The highlights of the day were a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame where they saw Elvis Presley's gold-plated 1960 Cadillac Eldorado and country music legend Webb Pierce's silver dollar-studded 1962 Pontiac Bonneville. In addition, the pair of Indy 500 winners had the opportunity to try their hand at recording as they visited RCA's Historic Studio B where Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and the Everly Brothers, among others made musical history.

Newly discovered crooners de Ferran and Castroneves recorded their versions of the timeless classics "Wake Up Little Susie" (Everly Brothers) and "Can't Help Falling in Love" (Presley). While they might not have been up to par with legends that have laid tracks down in the studio before, they certainly had a great time experiencing Nashville's history.

"What a thrill to be able to record in the same studio in which Elvis Presley recorded," said de Ferran. "It was great to learn about Nashville and its cultural history. I haven't had much exposure to American country music, so it was quite a unique day for me. I've done a lot of singing this week, and while I really enjoyed myself, I think Helio and I should stick to auto racing. I'll work on setting my records on the track. "

"Man, I had so much fun in Nashville," said Castroneves. "It's great to come to a city where we race and get the chance to check it out. Usually, we spend the entire time in the car on the track, so it was fun to learn about the country music industry that has made Nashville famous."

GIL DE FERRAN WINS SECOND MARLBORO LAP LEADER AWARD OF THE SEASON

Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran led the most laps this past weekend for the second time of the season after being at the top of the leader board for 93 of the 200 laps run on his way to a third place finish at the Kansas Indy 300. De Ferran earned two extra points for leading the most laps and is fourth in the IRL Championship point standings, just 40 points out of first place. De Ferran will be presented with his Marlboro Lap Leader Award check for $7,500 during the pre-race ceremonies next weekend at the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway on July 19th.

There was not a winner in the media contest, as no journalist selected de Ferran as their guess for the lap leader in the race.

2003 IRL CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS

Driver Name Points
Tony Kanaan 279
Scott Dixon 248
Helio Castroneves 247
Gil de Ferran 239
Kenny Brack 217
Al Unser Jr. 203
Scott Sharp 176
Sam Hornish Jr. 167
Tomas Scheckter 159
Felipe Giaffone 159

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Felipe Giaffone , Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Roger Penske , Alex Gonzalez , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske