New faces could continue championship heritage at PPIR. FOUNTAIN, Colo., Wednesday, June 5, 2002 -- No track on the Indy Racing League schedule arguably is a better barometer of champions than Pikes Peak International Raceway. Every winning ...
New faces could continue championship heritage at PPIR.
FOUNTAIN, Colo., Wednesday, June 5, 2002 -- No track on the Indy Racing League schedule arguably is a better barometer of champions than Pikes Peak International Raceway.
Every winning driver in the six previous IRL races at the picturesque, 1-mile oval south of Colorado Springs either has won an Indy Racing League title or Indianapolis 500 during their respective careers. The roll call of winners includes 1996-97 IRL champion Tony Stewart (1997), 1998 IRL champion and 1999 Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack (1998), 1999 IRL champion Greg Ray (two races in 1999), 1998 Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. (2000) and 1996 Indy 500 winner and 2000 IRL champion Buddy Lazier (2001).
That trend could continue with a driver who has never turned a lap at PPIR.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and Marlboro Team Penske will make their PPIR debuts during the Radisson Indy 225 on June 16. Two-time CART champion Gil de Ferran will join Castroneves on the grid representing Penske Racing, the most successful Indy-style team in history, with 112 victories.
Marlboro Team Penske joined the IRL full time this season and has wasted little time establishing itself as a championship contender in the series after winning two consecutive CART titles.
Castroneves won two of the first five races of the season and led the IRL standings with 195 points after his victory at Indianapolis in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. de Ferran was second at 169 after recording top-10 finishes in the first five races of the season in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.
PPIR is the second of four new tracks for Marlboro Team Penske during a crucial five-week stretch of summer races from June 8 to July 7. The team never has raced at Texas Motor Speedway, PPIR, Richmond International Raceway and Kansas Speedway, the four tracks that comprise the "summer stretch."
Complicating matters for Marlboro Team Penske is the unique nature of PPIR. The track sits at 5,357 feet above sea level, creating an aerodynamic and engine-tuning challenge for even IRL teams with plenty of race experience at PPIR.
One of those veteran teams ready to pounce on any Penske miscues is Pennzoil Panther Racing and driver Sam Hornish Jr.
Defending Indy Racing League champion Hornish was third in the series standings behind Castroneves and de Ferran after five races with 159 points. He has two victories this season in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, and a victory at PPIR would continue the track's heritage of only series champions or Indy 500 winners earning a victory.
Hornish finished a solid second last year at PPIR, one of his 11 top-five finishes during the season.
Two former winners at PPIR, lifelong Vail resident Lazier and former Aspen resident Cheever, enter this year's race needing a strong finish to jump-start their title hopes.
Lazier was 14th in the series points after five races, with a best finish of seventh in the No. 91 Coors Light/Life Fitness/Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Cheever was tied for 12th, with a top finish of fifth at Indianapolis in the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
Victory for any driver this year at PPIR will be tougher, as the race distance has been extended from 200 to 225 miles. That will create more racing excitement for fans and more strategic options for drivers and teams.
RADISSON INDY 225 NOTEBOOK
Schedule: The Radisson Indy 225 starts at 2 p.m. (MDT) Sunday, June 16. MBNA Pole Qualifying starts at 3:45 p.m. (MDT) June 15.
Practice sessions start at 10 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. (MDT) June 15 and 9:30 a.m. June 16.
A free autograph session with Indy Racing drivers is scheduled for 5 p.m. (MDT) June 15 at the track.
On the air: The Radisson Indy 225 will be televised live on ABC at 4 p.m. (EDT) Sunday, June 16. "Indy Racing 2Day" will be televised at noon (EDT) June 16 on ESPN2.
The IMS Radio Network will broadcast a pre-race show at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) June 16, followed by the live race broadcast at 4 p.m. An MBNA Pole qualifying highlights show will be broadcast at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) June 15.
The area affiliates are KWYD-AM 1580 in Colorado Springs, Colo.; KLMO-AM 1060 in Longmont, Colo.; KKFN-AM 950 in Denver.
Tickets: Tickets for the Radisson Indy 225 are available now by calling the Pikes Peak International Raceway ticket office at (888) 306-7223 or online at www.ppir.com.