IRL: Richmond: Team Penske pit notes

Marlboro Team Penske prepares for the second night race of the season. Marlboro Team Penske will be heading to Richmond, Virginia this weekend to compete in the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway (RIR) on Saturday, June 29.

Marlboro Team Penske prepares for the second night race of the season.

Marlboro Team Penske will be heading to Richmond, Virginia this weekend to compete in the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway (RIR) on Saturday, June 29. This race will mark just the second time Two-Time Indianapolis 500 Winner Helio Castroneves and Two-Time National Champion Gil de Ferran will have competed under the lights.

Castroneves and de Ferran head to the ¾-mile oval first and second respectively in the 2002 IRL Championship point standings. De Ferran, fresh off of his dominating win two weeks ago at Pikes Peak International Raceway, leads the Series in laps led with 340 as well as poles (2). With teammate Castroneves' second place finish in Colorado, Marlboro Team Penske became the first IRL Team to record two 1-2 finishes in a season (their first came at Phoenix).

Short ovals have proven successful this year for Marlboro Team Penske, here's a look at how the Team has done on the three short ovals run to date:

* Each driver has notched a win (Castroneves at Phoenix and de Ferran at Pikes Peak)

* Captured the pole at each event (Castroneves - Phoenix; de Ferran -- Nazareth and Pikes Peak) including two front row sweeps (Phoenix and Pikes Peak)

*     Two 1-2 finishes (Phoenix and Pikes Peak)

* Six top-five finishes
* Five front row starts

This weekend, at the season's final short oval race, Marlboro Team Penske will be looking for their fourth win in eight races.

Sunday's race at RIR will also mark the third in a series of five new racetracks at which Marlboro Team Penske has never raced. The first two were Texas Motor Speedway and Pikes Peak International Raceway and after the race at RIR, the Team will head to Kansas Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway.

THOUGHTS ON THE SUNTRUST INDY CHALLENGE

"Richmond is a tough, unforgiving track where things happen very fast," said Castroneves. "Marlboro Team Penske tested there at the end of May, and we were able to get a baseline set-up, but since it will be a handling race we'll need to fine-tune the set-up once we arrive for race weekend. It is fairly bumpy which makes it challenging not only for the drivers but for the engineers as well. This will be the first time I've raced on a track shorter than one-mile, which adds another level of difficulty.

To prepare, I'm planning to watch a tape of last year's Indy Racing League race. We're heading to Richmond first in the championship point standings (Castroneves has 267 points) so we need to stay focused and add to our point total."

"I'm really looking forward to Richmond, because we seem to be doing quite well at this type of track," said de Ferran. "We had the opportunity to test there earlier this year, but unfortunately the temperature was only 35 degrees, so we weren't able to simulate race conditions. However, we certainly hope that what we learned will apply to some extent on race weekend. This track is almost like a high-speed road course because traction and the car's ability to go into the corners will be important factors. I will definitely be able to use my experience from road racing at Richmond International Raceway.

I think we're going into a very difficult phase in the IRL Championship because Marlboro Team Penske will be racing at new tracks throughout the summer. We've been getting better and learning new things each weekend, so now we just have to stay focused and maintain that momentum."

Marlboro Team Penske tests at Kansas City and Chicagoland.

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, Marlboro Team Penske had the opportunity to test at Kansas Speedway, which provided Castroneves and de Ferran their first look at the 1.5-mile tri-oval. Overall the test was successful in providing the Team with important data in preparation for the race on July 7th. "The track is very smooth and it is wide enough to allow for side-by-side racing," said Castroneves. "It's not easy to go flat, but you can do it. This test is important, because it gives us the chance to be as prepared as possible for the race in a few weeks. This was my first time here and it is a beautiful track."

De Ferran echoed the sentiments of his teammate, "Kansas Speedway is an unbelievable facility - it's incredibly modern. They have done a great job here to build this top-notch speedway. The track is very smooth with a unique configuration. It was my first time out here, so I just wanted to get comfortable with the track."

Last Friday, June 21st de Ferran participated in a test at Chicagoland Speedway to help Firestone devise compounds and prepare for the Delphi Indy 300 on September 8th. While a 90-degree day with high humidity sounds miserable for the common spectator, it was exactly what Firestone wanted as they were looking to simulate what the conditions might be like on race day. The test gave Firestone the opportunity to try several compounds and minor construction changes in order to create the best possible tire for the race.

Friday's test also gave de Ferran the chance to run his first career laps at the 1.5-mile D-shaped tri-oval. "Chicagoland Speedway is very unique in the sense that the backstretch is not straight, it is slightly curved, and the transitions into both turns on the north and south ends of the track are very smooth," de Ferran said. "It also has a lot of grip; I like that."

Castroneves graces yet another swimsuit issue

Marlboro Team Penske driver and Two-Time Indianapolis 500 Winner Helio Castroneves is featured in the July/August issue of Sports Illustrated for Women's "Sexiest Men in Sports" Issue on newsstands now. Castroneves, who participated in the photo shoot in his hometown of Miami this past winter, joins such sports stars as Rick Fox, Tony Hawk and Roy Jones Jr. in the swimsuit pictorial. In addition, Castroneves is featured in the June 2002 edition of Latina Magazine's "Hot Issue," which features the hottest celebrities in the Latin community.

-mtp-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran
Teams Team Penske