IRL: Phoenix: Race report

Castroneves Leads One-Two Penske Punch At Phoenix PHOENIX, Sunday, March 17, 2002 - Helio Castroneves led a one-two Marlboro Team Penske sweep of the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 on March 17 at Phoenix International Raceway, winning by...

Castroneves Leads One-Two Penske Punch At Phoenix

PHOENIX, Sunday, March 17, 2002 - Helio Castroneves led a one-two Marlboro Team Penske sweep of the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 on March 17 at Phoenix International Raceway, winning by 2.1421 seconds over teammate Gil de Ferran.

It was a mirror-image finish of the 2001 Indianapolis 500, the last time teammates took the top two spots in an Indy Racing League event. This was Marlboro Team Penske's first victory as a full-time IRL team.

Defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr. finished third in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 3.7688 seconds behind Castroneves. Eliseo Salazar finished fourth in the No. 11 A.J. Foyt Racing/Banco Chile Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, with two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. fifth in the No. 7 Corteco/Bryant Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Castroneves performed his exuberant trademark climb of the safety fencing along the front straightaway, saluting the fans after his victory. He paved the way for the fence climb by taking the lead from de Ferran on Lap 183 of the 200-lap race.

de Ferran and Castroneves ran side by side in their matching cars for more than a lap on the restart after the final caution period of the race ended on Lap 181. Finally, MBNA Pole winner Castroneves was able to duck under his teammate and steadily pulled away over the final 17 laps. His winning average speed was 116.504 mph in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

"I waited for the right moment, and when the right moment came, it was mine." Castroneves said.

The team dedicated the victory to Gary Buckner, a Marlboro Team Penske crew member who died unexpectedly March 8.

"It was a great afternoon for us," de Ferran said. "I passed Helio in traffic. He was able to get by me on the restart when I hit the (rev) limiter. Overall, this was a great day for Marlboro Team Penske. I want to take this opportunity to dedicate this result to Gary Buckner and his family. He was a very important guy to me and to the whole team.

"I wanted to bring a victory for his family because he worked in my crew, but Helio did a fantastic job today. This one is in (Gary's) honor."

Meanwhile, de Ferran faced a stern challenge with less than 10 laps remaining from Hornish, who darted up to the gearbox of de Ferran after de Ferran was slowed by lapped traffic on the tight, 1-mile oval. But de Ferran was able to pull away from Hornish after clearing the traffic but lacked enough time left in the race to make a final run at Castroneves.

It wasn't the first time that Hornish made a run on the Penske duo late in the race. With 23 laps remaining, Hornish closed to within a car length of both Penske drivers in traffic, but the final caution period of the race started on the next lap due to debris.

Gearbox problems hampered Hornish during the race. He lost first gear in the first half of the race and lost fifth and sixth gear in the second half.

"Second, third and fourth, I think, were the ones (gears) that were working," Hornish said. "It's one of those days. It's a long day when you lose a gearbox.

"The Pennzoil Panther guys did a great job getting me in and out of the pits. We had a real fast race car. It's a shame we lost the lead because they couldn't pass us on their own. I ran fast, but if you don't have your two top gears, it's kind of hard to get around them."

The Marlboro Team Penske cars dominated the final quarter of the race, as either Castroneves or de Ferran led from Lap 146 to the finish.

Both drivers were put into position to reign over the closing stages of the race by superior work in the pits by Marlboro Team Penske during their final stops under yellow on Lap 145. Salazar led the field into the pits for service, but Castroneves and de Ferran exited the pits first and second after both of their pit stops were in the 7.5-second range.

Caution periods played a major role in race strategy, the yellow flag either enhancing or ruining certain teams' pit service plans. There were seven caution periods for 56 laps, with four cautions caused by accidents.

Every driver involved in the incidents was evaluated and released without injury at the track except for rookie Anthony Lazzaro, who was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix for precautionary X-rays after complaining of lower back pain suffered in a multi-car accident on Lap 104. Lazzaro was awake and alert while being transported to the hospital via ground transportation.

The next Indy Racing League event is the Yamaha Indy 400 on March 24 at California Speedway. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. (EST) and will be televised live on ESPN.

-irl-

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