MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE PIT NOTES August 3, 2005 HORNISH JR. MOVES INTO SOLE POSSESSION OF SECOND PLACE IN POINT STANDINGS Last weekend, Marlboro Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. took outright control of second place in the 2005 Indy Racing ...
MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE PIT NOTES
August 3, 2005
HORNISH JR. MOVES INTO SOLE POSSESSION OF SECOND PLACE IN POINT STANDINGS
Last weekend, Marlboro Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. took outright control of second place in the 2005 Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar® Series Championship point standings after his effort at the Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
The two-time IndyCar Series Champion piloted his #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota from a starting position of thirteenth to bring his machine home in fifth. The result marked his sixth top-five and seventh top-ten finish of the season. The 26 year-old Defiance, OH native sits just 78 points behind Series leader Dan Wheldon and will surely be looking to close the gap at next week's event in Kentucky.
Marlboro Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves did not fare as well as Hornish Jr. as he experienced an engine failure on lap 138 ending his day and placing him 21st. As a result, Castroneves dropped to sixth in the Championship point standings but sits just five points away from Bryan Herta who is in fifth place.
DOWN THE HOMESTRETCH
Marlboro Team Penske drivers Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves sit second and sixth respectively in the points race with just six events left in the 2005 season. Does the Team have what takes to bring the first IndyCar Series Championship to Penske Racing headquarters in Reading, PA? Here's a look at what Marlboro Team Penske has been able to accomplish this season in the eleven events run to date:
*• Three wins (Phoenix, Richmond and Milwaukee) including a 1-2 sweep
*• Seven top-three finishes
* • Three poles (Japan, Richmond and Milwaukee)
* • 11 top-five finishes and 14 top-ten finishes
* 469 laps led (22% of all laps run in 2005)
*• Eleven top-five starts T he 2005 IndyCar Series will make six more stops before the Champion is crowned at Fontana in October. And historically speaking the outlook is bright for Marlboro Team Penske as they embark on the final third of the season. Next week the IndyCar Series heads to Kentucky where Hornish Jr. led his first laps in IndyCar Series competition. In addition, he has earned three top-three finishes at the speedway including a win in 2003 when he won from the pole and led a race-high 181 laps.
Marlboro Team Penske has also earned three top-ten finishes in Kentucky including two top-fives by Castroneves (he finished fifth in 2003 and 2002). Next on the schedule is Pikes Peak, where Marlboro Team Penske found Victory Lane in 2002 when former driver Gil de Ferran won from the pole and led a race-high 217 laps. Castroneves finished second at Pikes Peak in 2002 marking the Team's second 1-2 finish that season (the first came in Phoenix). Furthermore, the IndyCar Series has competed at three tracks that are one mile or shorter thus far this season and Hornish Jr. and Castroneves have combined to win all three events (Hornish Jr. won in Phoenix and Milwaukee; and Castroneves won in Richmond). Needless to say, short ovals have become a favorite of Marlboro Team Penske and they will be looking to capitalize on that success in Colorado. After Pikes Peak, the Series will head to its second and third street/permanent road course events at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen. While the Team has not competed at the tracks, historically the Team has done well on permanent road courses earning a total of 28 wins on this type of circuit. Castroneves has also done well on permanent road courses earning wins at Mid-Ohio (2001 and 2000); and Laguna Seca in 2000, when he won from the pole. In between the final two road course races, the IndyCar Series will stop at Chicagoland Speedway, the site of two of Hornish Jr.'s record 14 IndyCar wins (2003 and 2002). His win from the pole in 2002 was the closest IndyCar Series finish in history as he edged Al Unser Jr. to the checkered flag by just 0.0024 seconds.
Hornish Jr. also picked up a second place finish in 2001. The 2005 IndyCar Series season will wrap up in Fontana at California Speedway and if any of the above factors are at work, then Marlboro Team Penske will be in a position to battle for the Championship. Former driver Gil de Ferran was twice crowned Champion at Fontana for Marlboro Team Penske when he won the CART Championship in 2000 and 2001, so hopefully that will bode well for the current Team as they have their eyes on the prize. Castroneves earned the pole in California last season and went on to finish seventh, and he's earned a total of four top-ten finishes at the two-mile superspeedway. Hornish Jr. has earned two wins and three top-five finishes in as many attempts. In 2003, Hornish Jr. set the closed course record by completing the fastest race in IndyCar history with an average speed of 207.151 mph.
With a little luck and the replication of past results, Marlboro Team Penske could certainly be in a position to capture the 2005 IndyCar Series Championship. Below are thoughts on the Team's run at bringing home Penske Racing's record 12th openwheel Championship:
"We have done a great job of executing on the short ovals this season and it has kept us near the top of the points standings," said Tim Cindric, President - Penske Racing, Inc. "We are trying everything within our control to improve our performance on the Speedways and we must excel in the two remaining road course events to remain near the top."
"I think we're definitely still in contention for the Championship," said Sam Hornish Jr. "I'm really excited about the fact that we're going to some great tracks to close out the season; tracks that I've had a lot of success at like Kentucky, Chicago and California. I'm also looking forward to the road races, we learned a lot in St. Petersburg and I think we should do well in Sonoma and Watkins Glen. We've also proven our strength on short ovals this season, so we should be competitive at Pikes Peak. I look at each race with the potential to come out with a win. It's going to be a long uphill battle and we'll need to make sure we maximize our points at each race, but I think we can do it and hopefully I can earn my third Championship this year."
"We're certainly still in the hunt for the Championship," said Helio Castroneves. "There are a lot of points left in the game and we're not going to give up. It'll be a challenge to make up the points difference, but we wouldn't enjoy it as much if it were easy. Like I always say, it ain't over until the fat lady sings."
HERTA WINS MARLBORO POLE AWARD IN MICHIGAN
Andretti Green Racing driver Bryan Herta won the Marlboro Pole Award at the Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway by turning a qualifying lap of 219.141 mph (32.8556 seconds). For his achievement, Herta was presented with a $10,000 check from Philip Morris USA during a post-qualifying ceremony. There was not a winner of the Marlboro Pole Award Media Contest in Michigan as no journalist selected Herta to win the pole.