IRL: Phoenix: Team Penske preview

Marlboro Team Penske Heads To Arizona Marlboro Team Penske will be in Arizona this weekend as they join the 2004 Indy Racing League IndyCar® Series for the Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) on Sunday, March ...

Marlboro Team Penske Heads To Arizona

Marlboro Team Penske will be in Arizona this weekend as they join the 2004 Indy Racing League IndyCar® Series for the Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) on Sunday, March 21st.

After a dominating 1-2 performance in the season-opener three weeks ago in Miami, Marlboro Team Penske drivers are currently first and second in the 2004 Championship point standings. Two-time IndyCar Series Champion Sam Hornish Jr. is at the top of the leader board and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves is just seven points behind.

Hornish Jr. earned his first victory with Marlboro Team Penske and the twelfth of his career in the inaugural event of 2004. In addition, Castroneves won the first Marlboro Lap Leader Award of the season after leading a race-high 85 laps and added three points to his standings.

Undoubtedly, both drivers will have their sights set on Victory Circle this weekend and will definitely be two of the weekend's favorites as each driver has had his fair share of success at the 1-mile oval at PIR.

In 2001, Hornish Jr. got his introductory taste of victory in Phoenix as he took the checkered flag for his first career IndyCar win. In 2002, Castroneves won at PIR after leading 62 laps and starting from the pole. In addition, Gil de Ferran, his teammate at the time, finished second marking the Team's first of three 1-2 finishes that season. Castroneves finished second in 2003.

Here are a few fast facts about the Team's success at the desert oval:

* Penske Racing has earned six wins at PIR with four different drivers (Castroneves - 2002; Emerson Fittipaldi - 1994; Rick Mears - 1990, 1989, 1982; Al Unser - 1985)

* Five of those wins came from the pole (Castroneves - 2002; Mears - 1990, 1989, 1982; Al Unser - 1985)

* Marlboro Team Penske has finished 1-2 twice at PIR (1994 & 2002)

* In their seven combined starts Castroneves and Hornish Jr. have earned four top-three finishes and three front row starts

* Castroneves and Hornish Jr. have led nearly 20% of the 1400 combined laps that they have run in Phoenix

CASTRONEVES ON PHOENIX:

"I really enjoy racing at Phoenix because it is a challenge to get the right set-up and a consistent race car plus it's physically demanding. They did a good job with the track reconfiguration and I'm looking forward to another exciting event. We had a great first race of the season at Homestead with Sam (Hornish Jr.) and I finishing 1-2, respectively; a productive test at Phoenix in February; and we've run well at this circuit in the past so I'm hoping for a strong showing by Marlboro Team Penske next weekend."

HORNISH JR. ON PHOENIX

"Phoenix International Raceway will always be a special track for me because it's where I won my first IndyCar race (in 2001). It's a complicated circuit because each end is different, which makes it tough to get the car balanced. Once you have the car set-up for one end, you have to work on the other - which can be quite challenging. Marlboro Team Penske's performance in the season-opener in Miami gave us a lot of confidence (Hornish Jr. won the race and teammate Helio Castroneves finished second) and we'll be looking to build upon that momentum next Sunday. I think we'll put on a great show for the fans and they'll see a lot of close racing."

CASTRONEVES IN THE NEWS

While in town for a private appearance at Toyota Headquarters in Torrance, CA, Castroneves will fulfill a number of media requests. Look for the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner on this Wednesday's edition of "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" on Fox Sports. This will be Castroneves' third appearance on the national sports show.

In addition, he will tape an interview with "Vista L.A." on KABC-TV to air later this spring. "Vista L.A." is a weekly, half-hour Hispanic lifestyle show that airs on Sunday mornings and covers topics relevant to Los Angeles' Hispanic community.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Rick Mears , Emerson Fittipaldi , Sam Hornish Jr. , Al Unser
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske