IRL: Richmond: Toyota preview

TOYOTA AT RICHMOND -- This weekend's SunTrust Indy Challenge will mark Toyota's third trip to the Richmond International Raceway where the manufacturer has excelled in its first two events. Included among the highlights of Toyota's first two...

TOYOTA AT RICHMOND -- This weekend's SunTrust Indy Challenge will mark Toyota's third trip to the Richmond International Raceway where the manufacturer has excelled in its first two events. Included among the highlights of Toyota's first two visits to the .75-mile D-shaped oval:

- A Toyota-powered car has won the pole in each of the last two RIR races with Scott Dixon (Target Toyota) winning the pole in 2003 and Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Toyota) in 2004.

- Toyota-powered cars have led 319 of the 456 laps run at the track over the past two seasons -- all of those laps coming consecutively as Toyota-powered cars led all 206 laps in 2003 and the first 113 laps in 2004.

- In 2003, Dixon became the only driver in IRL history to win a race wire-to-wire as he took the lead from the pole position and went on to lead all 206 laps of a rain-shortened event. The 206 laps he led at Richmond were part of an IRL record 343 consecutive laps Dixon led over a three-race span.

- To date, the manufacturer has seen four of its cars earn podium finishes at Richmond after a one-two-three sweep in 2003 with Dixon, Castroneves and Gil de Ferran and Castroneves with a third-place finish in 2004.

A YEAR AGO AT RICHMOND -- Helio Castroneves won his first of five 2004 pole positions at Richmond and went on to lead the first 37 laps before giving way to Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr., who led through Lap 113.

It appeared that Castroneves would give Toyota its second consecutive Richmond victory before a myriad of late race yellow-flag caution situations allowed eventual race-winner Dan Wheldon to run the final 121 laps on one tank of fuel. Wheldon took the lead in this race when the front-runners pitted for fuel on Lap 192. In total, 27 of the final 62 laps were run under caution. Castroneves appeared to pass for second on the final re-start on the final lap, but the track's yellow caution lights were ruled to have stayed on after the green flag to re-start the race was waved.

LET'S BE UP FRONT - Toyota-powered drivers rank first and second in average qualifying after the season's first six races. Sam Hornish Jr. (Marlboro Toyota) is the series top qualifier to date, while Helio Castroneves is second. Coming off a fourth-place qualifying effort at Texas, Hornish Jr. has qualified in the top four in each of the last three races and has been eighth or above all season. Hornish and Castroneves have each qualified in the top 10 in every race this season, two of only three drivers in the series to have accomplished that feat.

LEADING THE WAY -- Sam Hornish Jr. is one of just three drivers in the series to lead at least five of the season's first six races. This season, the Penske driver has led at every race other than St. Petersburg.

ROOKIE BRISCOE CONTINUES UPWARD CLIMB -- After an early season adjustment to a predominantly oval-based series, former Toyota F1 test driver Ryan Briscoe is beginning to make his mark in the Target Pioneer Toyota. After earning a top-10 finish at the Indianapolis 500, the Australian native was the top finishing rookie at Texas while making his first-ever appearance at each race track. In fact, Briscoe has never raced at any of the current tracks on the IRL schedule and the season opening Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead marked his first career oval start.

The 2003 European F3 champion has already shown his ability on the road courses as he led the most laps at St. Petersburg and was leading the race in the final 10 laps before another driver made contact with him, costing the 24-year-old any chance at the victory. In addition, Briscoe registered the fastest time in the IRL's recent open-test on the road course at Watkins Glen International.

-toyota-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Briscoe , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Team Penske