IRL: Michigan: Penske Racing preview

Gil De Ferran earns second victory of 2003 in Music City Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran earned his second victory of the season this past weekend at the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. The 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner...

Gil De Ferran earns second victory of 2003 in Music City

Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran earned his second victory of the season this past weekend at the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. The 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner earned his fourth consecutive top-three finish and sixth overall as he vaulted into second place in the IndyCar® Series Championship point standings with 289 points, just 14 points shy of leader Tony Kanaan. De Ferran has now scored more points than any other driver on the circuit since returning to the cockpit after missing the race in Japan (due to injuries sustained in Phoenix). He has earned 231 Championship points compared to Scott Dixon (213), Tony Kanaan (201) and teammate Helio Castroneves (199).

De Ferran was competitive all weekend in Nashville as he posted his second consecutive fourth place qualifying effort on Friday. He would then go on to run in the top-five for the first two stints of the race before encountering a problem with the air jack on his second pit stop, which put him back to 13th place. With the help of a fantastic final pit stop (lap 131 - fuel only), de Ferran was able to take the lead on lap 173 and never looked back. Over the course of the race, de Ferran led 49 laps before bringing the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota to Victory Lane for the second time this season.

Marlboro Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves qualified second for the second consecutive race and was able to bring the #3 Marlboro Team Penske home in third place marking his third consecutive top-three finish and his sixth of the season.

With nine of the 16 races in the 2003 IndyCar Series season complete, Marlboro Team Penske drivers de Ferran and Castroneves sit second and fourth in the Championship point standings. Following is a look at some of the Team's accomplishments to date:

Two victories (Indianapolis and Nashville)
Seven consecutive top-three finishes
12 total top-three finishes
Nine top-five starts and three front row starts including one pole (Indianapolis)
448 laps led


Marlboro Team Penske will join the IndyCar Series at its tenth stop of 2003 at the Michigan Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway (MIS) this weekend. While the IndyCar Series will be making its sophomore run at the two-mile superspeedway, de Ferran and Castroneves will be making their eighth and fifth starts in Brooklyn respectively.

Both drivers finished strong in their IndyCar Series debut at MIS in 2002 with de Ferran earning a fifth place finish and teammate Castroneves right behind him in sixth. This weekend, de Ferran and Castroneves will be looking for Penske Racing's 10th victory at MIS to join the list of prestigious drivers who have won at MIS for the Team. Since 1991, six different drivers -- Danny Sullivan, Rick Mears, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Tom Sneva and Mark Donohue - have combined for nine victories at the Speedway.

"I've been racing at Michigan International Speedway since 1995 and have always enjoyed myself there," said de Ferran. "Its just a great track for racing - there are lots of grooves so you can go two or three wide. It's a different type of track from where we've been competing lately, we'll be drafting all day and it will be difficult to break away. There will be plenty of close racing and it should be a great event for the fans with the winner being decided in the final laps. Marlboro Team Penske's performance has been improving on the superspeedways and hopefully we'll have another competitive weekend."

"I'm really looking forward to this weekend's race in Michigan," said Castroneves. "Superspeedways are always fun and make for lots of exciting action. We're coming off of the Nashville race, where there was only one groove so passing was very difficult. Now we're headed to a track that will have three lines so there should be a lot of passing and close wheel-to-wheel racing. Michigan International Speedway has a lot of tradition; it's a "great American racetrack" where open-wheel cars have been competing for a long time, so we always have a good time out there. Marlboro Team Penske has built up a lot of momentum in the past few races (Castroneves has earned three consecutive top-three finishes), and we need to carry that into this weekend's event and hopefully finish strong again."


On August 2, 1992 Marlboro Team Penske advisor Rick Mears made the final start of his career at MIS. After sustaining what he thought was a severely sprained wrist during a practice session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Mears was forced to drive with a splint for the rest of the season. During his race in Michigan, the car became increasingly loose and with his splint, Mears was having trouble controlling the car. The Team decided to pull the car into the pits and end Mears' day. After the race he had his wrist reexamined at which time it was determined to be fractured with some torn cartilage and ligaments. Mears would undergo wrist surgery forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. His start at MIS would be the last time Mears would ever get into a racecar as he officially announced his retirement in December 1992.


Penske Restoration, where each retired Penske Racing car is restored and refurbished, has recently moved to Auburn Hills, MI after maintaining its operations at MIS since 1994. The inventory includes video footage, newspaper clippings, trophies, helmets, race programs and other memorabilia accumulated over the past four and a half decades dating back to 1958, when Roger Penske first climbed into a racecar. In addition, the facility boasts one racecar from each of Penske Racing's years of competition since 1976, with the exception of each of the years that the Team won the Indy 500. All of the winning Indianapolis 500 cars (with the exception of this year's car) are on display at the Penske Racing Museum located at the Scottsdale 101 Auto Collection, which is operated by United Auto Group and is located in North Scottsdale, Arizona.


For the third time this season, Team 7-Eleven driver Tony Kanaan won the Marlboro Lap Leader Award for leading 55 of the 200 laps run on his way to a ninth place finish at the Firestone Indy 200. As the lap leader, Kanaan earned two extra points for and is currently first in the IRL Championship point standings with 303 points. Kanaan will be presented with his Marlboro Lap Leader Award check for $7,500 during the pre-race ceremonies next weekend at the Michigan Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on July 27th.

There was not a winner in the media contest, as no journalist selected Kanaan to lead the most laps in the race.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Tom Sneva , Danny Sullivan , Roger Penske , Mark Donohue
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske