De Ferran and Chevy dominate Pikes Peak race. FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 16, 2002 -- Gil de Ferran was on top of the world today at mile-high Pikes Peak International Raceway after scoring his first IRL victory in the Radisson Indy 225. De Ferran, ...
De Ferran and Chevy dominate Pikes Peak race.
FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 16, 2002 -- Gil de Ferran was on top of the world today at mile-high Pikes Peak International Raceway after scoring his first IRL victory in the Radisson Indy 225. De Ferran, known as "the Professor" for his technical approach to racing, taught a textbook lesson in short-track driving. He started on the pole, led 217 of 225 laps and recorded the fastest lap of the race. He took the lead for good on lap 40 and led a Chevrolet sweep of the top six finishing positions, notching Chevy's seventh straight IRL victory.
Penske Racing posted its second 1-2 finish of the season with Helio Castroneves finishing as runner-up, 1.4385 seconds behind his teammate in twin Chevrolet Dallaras. Sam Hornish Jr. was third in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara.
Mother Nature reigned on a stormy Father's Day in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The race was red-flagged for 51 minutes when hailstones pummeled PPIR, and showers extended several caution periods when the track was too wet for safe racing. Sunshine alternated with ominous clouds and shifting winds throughout the race.
"The car was absolutely perfect in the last three-quarters of the race," said de Ferran, who trimmed Castroneves' lead to 32 points (267-235) in the championship chase. "Probably one of the best oval-track cars I have ever driven.
"I was flat-out with no lift all the way around," he continued. "It was such a hard pace. We had a great day -- the engine was faultless."
Castroneves continued his consistent performance, extending his string of top-five finishes to seven straight races.
"The conditions were tough out there," Castroneves noted. "The track changed quite a bit for my car. At the end I had a tremendous push, a lot of understeer. We finally found a good way, but it was a little too late. But finishing second is good -- first and second in the race, first and second in the championship."
While de Ferran checked out, Castroneves and Hornish raced wheel-to-wheel.
"We had a fast race car and there were times when I could get a run on Helio," said Hornish. "It didn't quite go our way, but after three bad races, this is a good way to start getting back into our championship mode."
The action was fast and furious as the leaders worked through traffic. De Ferran had several close calls, splitting backmarkers and passing on the inside and outside lines.
"I could drive on the top, on the bottom, and right underneath people," de Ferran recalled. "It was a pleasure to drive a car like that. On ultimate speed I was very closely matched with Sam and Helio, but I had an advantage whenever we hit traffic. I had to take a few chances, but everything worked out great."
"Chevrolet had a dominant performance today and we expect to continue that in future events," said GM Racing engineer Dick Amacher. "Our affiliated engine builders successfully adapted to the challenge of racing at the high altitude of Pikes Peak International Raceway, which affects the performance of both the cars and engines.
"This was a great weekend for Chevrolet around the world, with Corvette Racing finishing first and second in class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Chevy Indy V8 scoring its seventh straight IRL victory," Amacher noted. "Whenever Chevrolet goes into a racing program, our intention is to win, not just to participate."
De Ferran's newfound mastery of short ovals will be put to the test when IRL teams will take on the 3/4-mile bullring at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va., on June 29.
June 29, SunTrust Indy Challenge, Richmond International Raceway, Richmond, Va., .75-mile oval, 250 laps
TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m. Eastern