IRL: Motegi: Team Penske preview

Team Penske Pit Notes April 17, 2007 TEAM PENSKE HEADS ACROSS THE SEA Team Penske made the grueling trip to Japan this week as they prepare for the Indy Japan 300, the third race of the 2007 IndyCar® Series season on Saturday afternoon. With...

Team Penske Pit Notes
April 17, 2007


Team Penske made the grueling trip to Japan this week as they prepare for the Indy Japan 300, the third race of the 2007 IndyCar® Series season on Saturday afternoon. With just two races in the books thus far, Team Penske is batting .500 with a win in St. Petersburg earlier this month. In addition, the Team has earned one pole and a second-place finish. If 2006 is any sort of indicator for this weekend's event, Team Penske should fare well again this year, as the Team heads into Japan once again off the strength of a victory. Last season, Castroneves led a race-high 40 laps in St. Petersburg and then led 184 laps in Japan on his way to back-to-back victories. This season, Castroneves started on the pole in St. Petersburg and led a race-high 95 laps on his way to a second consecutive win on the temporary street course.

Aside from earning his 18th career Indy car victory in Florida, Castroneves broke Rick Mears' Penske Racing record of consecutive years with a win for the Team. Mears won at least one race for seven consecutive seasons from 1979-1985; Castroneves has won at least one race every year since 2000. Hopefully this bodes well for Team Penske as they look to repeat last year's win in the "Land of the Rising Sun."

"Japan is one of the most unique tracks that we run on all year because the turns are all so different from each other," said Castroneves. "Last year, I couldn't have asked for any more from the Team Penske crew. They gave me a fantastic car that allowed me to start on the pole, lead a majority of the laps and bring home my first victory in Japan. It was one of my favorite memories of last season."

While Castroneves has found victory in Japan, the 1.5-mile oval represents the only circuit of that length on the 2007 IndyCar Series circuit at which teammate Sam Hornish Jr has never won. The 27 year-old Defiance native has found victory on every other 1.5-mile oval on which the IndyCar Series competes, so you can bet this year he will head to Japan with his sights set on crossing Twin Ring Motegi off of his list.

"I'm looking forward to going back to Japan this year," explains Hornish Jr. "We haven't really done particularly well there in the past, but we managed to make progress last year with a fourth-place finish. With Helio's (Castroneves) win there and how strong we've been on ovals recently, we're pretty optimistic heading into the race. Hopefully we'll be able to put the Team Penske car at the front."


This weekend, the crew for the #3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda will be missing one key ingredient: its chief mechanic. Rick Rinaman, chief mechanic for Helio Castroneves' car, will not be making the trip to Japan, as he is recovering from recent surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. Rinaman, who injured his leg over two months ago, was told he had a tear in his calf muscle. However, when his injury did not heal he got a second opinion and as it turns out, had a tear in his Achilles tendon. The injury compounded as Rinaman walked on it for seven weeks after being misdiagnosed.

On Thursday, April 5th Rinaman underwent surgery to put a permanent suture in the tendon. The procedure was successful and he is currently in a soft cast, but will move to a hard cast later this week in the final stages of his recovery.

As a result of the procedure, Rinaman will miss his first race with the Team in more than 23 years. He will be out for this weekend's Indy Car 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. Depending on his recovery, Rick is striving to return to his familiar post as chief mechanic while changing Castroneves' right front tire for the month of May in Indianapolis.

"I haven't missed a single race in my 23 and a half-year tenure with Team Penske, so clearly I'm very disappointed to not be making the trip to Japan," said Rinaman. "I wish the Team all the best overseas and I can't wait to get back over the wall in Indy."

Sean Hanrahan, will be filling in for Rinaman as he makes his recovery at home in Mooresville, NC. Hanrahan joined Team Penske earlier this year and has been overseeing various other projects for the Team over the past few months. Sean has more than 13 years of experience as an IndyCar mechanic and served as chief mechanic for the Ganassi organization in 2005.

"It certainly won't be the same without Rick in Motegi. He has been the "goto" guy for this Team for so many years, but I'm confident that everyone will step up in his absence. We are fortunate to have someone with Sean's experience to help fill the void." said Tim Cindric, President Penske Performance, Inc.


Last Thursday evening, Helio Castroneves attended a reception at Miami's Havana Club for the launch of Florida International Magazine's annual "Power Players" issue, which recently hit newsstands. The April issue recognizes Floridians who are at the top of their game or making a difference in arenas as diverse as entertainment, business, real estate, media, sports, art, politics, fashion, and many others. Castroneves was featured among many other notable Floridians including Billy Joel, Andy Roddick, Vera Wang, Donald Trump, Alex Rodriguez, Ricky Martin and Rosie O'Donnell.

"It's a great honor to be recognized by a magazine that is read by such a diverse group of people. Anytime an IndyCar Series driver is included in this sort of list, we're able to raise the awareness of our sport," Castroneves said. "My fiance, Ali, and I had a great time at the event and were able to meet a lot of great people."


Miami resident Helio Castroneves is currently featured in Ocean Drive en Espanol in their "12 Placeres" section of the April issue.

The piece highlights the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner's favorite things (12 Pleasures), which range from his house, to his favorite hotel, to his Indy 500 winner's rings and his dog Tuggy.

-credit: tp

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Rick Mears , Sam Hornis
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske