Pit Notes July 23, 2002 De Ferran takes over IRL championship points lead in Nashville. Marlboro Team Penske left Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday night still one and two in the Indy Racing League (IRL) Championship point standings, but...
July 23, 2002
De Ferran takes over IRL championship points lead in Nashville.
Marlboro Team Penske left Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday night still one and two in the Indy Racing League (IRL) Championship point standings, but with the drivers in different positions. 2000 & 2001 National Champion Gil de Ferran captured the number one spot after his second place finish, giving him a ten-point lead over teammate and 2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 Winner Helio Castroneves. De Ferran also leads reigning IRL Champion Sam Hornish Jr. by 14 points.
In just his third time competing under the lights, de Ferran scored his second top-two finish (the first was at Richmond), to take the lead in the points race. De Ferran started the race 13th and was able to make his way through the field to run as high as second before being forced to pit under green flag conditions after sustaining a puncture in the right rear tire of his #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. De Ferran battled back to run in the top-three before perfect timing on the last restart of the race allowed him to pass Scott Sharp to take his fifth top-two finish of the season (50% of the races run).
While teammate Castroneves started second and ran in the top five for most of the race, he suffered the same fate as he encountered a cut to his right rear tire and had to pit under green flag conditions on lap 161 while running second. When he went back out on the track he was in 13th position and two laps down. By the end of the race, he had moved up four places to finish ninth and earn valuable points to maintain his second place standing in the points.
MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE PREPARES FOR MICHIGAN
Marlboro Team Penske will head to Michigan International Speedway (MIS) this weekend for the Michigan Indy 400 on Sunday, July 28th. This will mark just the third time this season that Marlboro Team Penske will have competed on a track that is two miles or longer (the other two being California Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway). Here's a look at how the Team has fared on these tracks this season:
* One win (Castroneves at Indianapolis)
* Three top-five finishes (Castroneves - 1st at Indianapolis, 5th at California; de Ferran - 4th at California)
* Both drivers have led laps at California and Indianapolis for a total of 47 laps
* Both drivers have completed each of the 400 laps run
* 132 total points earned
While neither de Ferran nor Castroneves have scored a victory at the historic Michigan International Speedway, Penske Racing has visited victory lane nine times since 1971 with six different drivers including: Danny Sullivan, Rick Mears, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Tom Sneva and Mark Donohue. Rest assured, both de Ferran and Castroneves will be looking to add their name to the list and join some of the most famous drivers in motorsports history who have won for Penske Racing at the track.
THOUGHTS ON MICHIGAN
"Michigan is the superspeedway that I have the most experience with as I have been running there since 1995," said de Ferran. "This will, however, be the first time I will compete there in the Indy Racing League, so it will provide a whole new challenge. The layout of the racetrack is such that you can have two or three cars running side-by-side in the middle of the turns. There's plenty of room to go racing at Michigan, so I am 100% confident that this will be an exciting event. I'm certainly looking forward to racing there and hopefully Marlboro Team Penske will be competitive."
"This will be the first time we've raced the Indy Racing League cars at Michigan Speedway," explains Castroneves. "Like Marlboro Team Penske has learned at other tracks, prior Champ car experience at a track doesn't give us an advantage. The race is 400 miles long so it will be very demanding on both the drivers and the equipment. I think there will be two grooves so there should be a lot of side-by-side racing. It's going to be a horsepower race and it will actually be easier to go flat out here than at California Speedway because there is more banking. We need to be patient and make sure we're there at the end. Championship points is what we're after so we have to bring it home."
"Marlboro Team Penske will approach its preparation this weekend in Michigan as if the race were 500 miles," said Tom Wurtz, Team Manager, Marlboro Team Penske. "Most of the races we've had this season have been right around 300 miles, so we'll have to take into consideration that extra 100 miles (the race is 400 miles) in order to make sure our equipment withstands the demands of the weekend. Furthermore, the event will be three days, so we'll most likely be putting more wear on the cars as well. We'll start with fresh gearboxes and uprights on Friday so they'll be able to withstand the extra mileage Gil and Helio will be putting on the cars. In addition, with a longer race, attrition plays a larger role in strategy - we want to make sure our equipment is in good shape so we are running at the end."
MARLBORO LAP LEADER AWARD
Sam Hornish Jr. won this past weekend's Marlboro Lap Leader Award, which goes to the driver leading the most laps in each 2002 IRL event. After leading 95 of the 200 laps at this weekend's Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway, Hornish Jr. earned his fourth Marlboro Lap Leader Award of the season (he's won $20,000 to date). He will be presented with a check for $5,000 at the Michigan Indy 400 pre-race ceremony this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. In addition, Patrick Stephan of TrackSide Live was this week's winner of the Marlboro Lap Leader Award Media Contest. Stephan, who guessed that Hornish Jr. would lead 86 of the 200 laps in the race, won a Maurice Lacroix Siras watch.