IRL: Phoenix: Chevy race notes

Chevy Powers Penske Teammates to 1-2 Finish in Phoenix PHOENIX, March 17, 2002 -- Nine years ago, Penske Racing concluded the first "Chevrolet Era" in Indy car racing with a victory in the 1993 season finale. Today a victory by Marlboro Team ...

Chevy Powers Penske Teammates to 1-2 Finish in Phoenix

PHOENIX, March 17, 2002 -- Nine years ago, Penske Racing concluded the first "Chevrolet Era" in Indy car racing with a victory in the 1993 season finale. Today a victory by Marlboro Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves in the Indy Racing League Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway signaled the start of another Chevy era of dominance in open-wheel racing.

Chevrolet engines dominated in the Arizona desert, winning the pole, sweeping the first 12 finishing positions and leading every green-flag lap. Chevy Indy V8s powered 21 of the 25 starters and extended General Motors' winning record to a perfect 6-0 at PIR.

Castroneves' closest rival proved to be his teammate Gil de Ferran, who finished second by 2.1421 seconds. Castroneves took the lead from de Ferran on a restart on lap 182 with a daring inside move in Turn 1 that produced a spirited wheel-to-wheel duel. The exuberant driver celebrated his second career IRL victory with his trademark fence climb at the finish line.

"Gil was very, very strong, but I was patient and I took it easy," said Castroneves after the Penske pair repeated their 1-2 finish in last year's Indianapolis 500. "But when I saw my chance I told myself, 'I'm going to do it!' We were racing wheel to wheel, and that's what I like.

"The Chevrolet engine was very good today and we didn't have any issues, to be honest," Castroneves added. "I was hitting the rev limiter quite a lot and kept asking the pits if everything was all right. They said, 'No problem, keep going.'"

Fast pit work by the Penske team put Castroneves in the lead on lap 145. Coming into the pits in fifth, Castroneves emerged in front with de Ferran in second. He led three times for a total of 62 laps.

"We race each other hard, but at the same time we give each other room," said de Ferran. "On that restart I hit the rev limiter in second gear, but we run under a no-blocking rule, so I kept my line and went around the outside. We went around two turns side-by-side flat-out and that was pretty incredible. The limiter event was just a pure mistake."

Team Penske's Ilmor-prepared Chevrolet engines provided the quick acceleration and instant throttle response that are essential on the fast one-mile Phoenix oval.

"Our Chevrolet engines ran flawlessly all day long and didn't miss a beat," reported Penske Racing President Tim Cindric. "That's quite an accomplishment in a race like this where the drivers are constantly accelerating and decelerating and the engines are cooling down under yellow flags. We're proud to represent Chevrolet and give them the first win with Marlboro Team Penske in many years."

Sam Hornish Jr. appeared poised to duplicate his victory last year at PIR until he was slowed by transmission problems. After starting on the front row alongside polewinner Castroneves, Hornish passed Helio for the lead on lap 23. He led the next 67 circuits, earning two championship points for leading the most laps. But a pit stop under caution on the 90th lap signaled the start of Hornish's problems as he lost first and second gears, falling to eighth in the order. He battled back to third, but could not challenge the Penske pair after sixth gear also failed.

"It was one of those days," said Hornish, who now leads Castroneves by four points (89-85) in the championship standings. "If it's our day to win, we'll do our best to win. If it's not, we'll do our best to finish as high as we can.

"I lost sixth gear with 115 laps to go, and that cost me a little bit of time on the race track," he explained. "The only problem I had was with the traffic -- there wasn't enough of it. Working in traffic was my strong point today."

The race pace was slowed by seven caution periods that consumed 56 laps. Five cars were involved in an accident on lap 88 and three cars tangled on lap 103. No drivers were seriously injured, but Anthony Lazzaro was transported to the hospital for further examination after complaining of back pain.

"Today was another significant step in the continuing development of the Chevy Indy V8 as we focus on producing a reliable and powerful engine package," said Glenn Tayler, GM Racing motorsports marketing manager. "We are proud of the efforts of our GM Racing engineers and Penske Racing to put Chevy in the IRL winner's circle for the second straight race. This has been a great weekend for Chevrolet with a sweep of the top 12 finishing positions in the IRL event and a class victory by Corvette Racing in the Sebring 12-hour endurance race."

RACE SUMMARY Track: Phoenix International Raceway, 1.0-mile oval Winner: Helio Castroneves, Marlboro Team Penske Chevrolet Dallara Margin of Victory: 2.1421 seconds Average Speed: 116.504 mph Pole: Helio Castroneves/Chevrolet, 179.888 (IRL new formula track record) Fastest Lap: Robbie Buhl/Infiniti, 170.614 mph

TOP FIVE FINISHERS Pos./Driver/Engine/Laps
1. Helio Castroneves/Chevrolet, 200 laps
2. Gil de Ferran/Chevrolet, 200
3. Sam Hornish Jr./Chevrolet, 200
4. Eliseo Salazar/Chevrolet, 200
5. Al Unser Jr./Chevrolet, 200

Laps Led: Chevrolet 190, Infiniti 10
Starters: Chevrolet 21, Infiniti 4
Running at Finish: Chevrolet 12, Infiniti 0

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after 2 of 15 events) Driver/Engine/Points (victories in parentheses)
1. Sam Hornish Jr./Chevrolet, 89 (1)
2. Helio Castroneves/Chevrolet, 85 (1)
3. Gil de Ferran/Chevrolet, 80
4. Eliseo Salazar/Chevrolet, 62
5. Jeff Ward/Chevrolet, 44

Manufacturer/Points (victories in parentheses)
1. Chevrolet, 20 (2)
2. Infiniti, 14

March 24, Yamaha Indy 400, California Speedway, Fontana, Calif.; 2-mile oval, 200 laps
TV: ESPN, 3:30 p.m. Eastern


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Eliseo Salazar , Jeff Ward , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Anthony Lazzaro , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske