IRL: St. Pete: Team Penske preview

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE HEADS TO IRL'S FIRST STREET COURSE RACE LEADING THE CHAMPIONSHIP Marlboro Team Penske leads the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series point standings for the first time since March of 2004 on the strength of their 1-2 finish in...


Marlboro Team Penske leads the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series point standings for the first time since March of 2004 on the strength of their 1-2 finish in Phoenix. Sam Hornish Jr.'s win, which marked Penske Racing's 250th major race win, was a record 13th IndyCar Series victory for the Defiance, OH native and his second win with the Team. After his secondplace finish, teammate Helio Castroneves moved into a tie for third place (with Tony Kanaan) as the Team heads to the streets of St. Petersburg for the IndyCar Series' historic debut on a street course.

When the green flag drops on Sunday, Marlboro Team Penske will boast the following street/road course statistics:

• Of the 122 wins Penske Racing has earned since 1969, 49 have been on street or permanent road courses;

• 52 of Penske Racing's 149 pole positions have been captured on a street/road course, including the first pole in the Team's openwheel racing history which Mark Donohue scored in Sonoma in 1970;

• Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves has captured six of his 12 victories while turning both right and left;

• The 29 year-old Brazilian won his first four races on street and permanent road courses, including downtown street races in Detroit and Long Beach (he won in Detroit in 2000 and 2001; and he won in Long Beach in 2001);

• Castroneves' first major open wheel series win, at Belle Isle in Detroit in 2000, marked the introduction of his now famous postvictory fence climb celebration;

• Castroneves' wire-to-wire victories at Long Beach and Detroit in 2001 marked only the second time in CART history that a driver led every lap in two races in a single season (Michael Andretti accomplished this feat at Toronto and Laguna Seca in 1992);

"I'm really looking forward to the St. Petersburg race -- and turning both left and right again," said Castroneves. "I think it will be a good show for the fans and I know that the drivers are excited about the addition of a street course to the IRL schedule. Marlboro Team Penske has been working so hard to make sure we're ready for this event. The track will be new to everyone so we'll have to see where we stand once we start practicing on Friday. The Team is coming off of a 1-2 finish at the Phoenix race so hopefully we can carry that momentum into this weekend."

For Hornish Jr., Sunday's race will be a bit more of a challenge as the twotime IndyCar Series Champion hasn't competed on street courses since arriving in the Indy Racing League in 2000. For Hornish Jr., the last time he had to turn both left and right was in 1999 when he competed in the Toyota Atlantic Series. However, Hornish Jr. has gained some valuable time behind the wheel during IRL test sessions and hopefully he'll return to form quickly.

"My first priority will be to finish the race," explains Hornish Jr. "I'm a bit nervous about competing on road courses as I haven't run on one in about six years, but I'm going to try and stay patient in order to make it to the end. If I'm consistent and smart, then I think I'll be fine. Going in to St. Petersburg ahead in the points provides a lot of comfort. I've learned you don't need to win every one of these races to clinch the Championship; and as long as I keep a cool head I think the Marlboro Team Penske car will be competitive. I think road racing will be great for the IndyCar Series and I'm excited to see what happens on Sunday."


Last week, Sam Hornish Jr. was in Los Angeles filming a commercial for Toyota Motorsports. After Hornish Jr. took the checkered flag in Phoenix he had just a couple days off before heading to southern California to participate in the commercial shoot last Thursday.

The spot, slated to air later this spring around the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, combines racing action with humor to deliver Toyota's high technology message.

BRYAN HERTA WINS MARLBORO POLE AWARD Andretti Green Racing's Bryan Herta won the Marlboro Pole Award at the XM Satellite 200 at Phoenix International Raceway after turning a qualifying lap of 176.612 mph (20.3837 seconds). For his achievement, Herta was presented with a $10,000 check from Philip Morris USA during a post-qualifying ceremony.

In addition, Emilio Rey of TV San Rafael was the winner of the Marlboro Pole Award Media Contest. During each IRL event, journalists have the opportunity to enter an on-site contest to predict who will win the pole, and what that driver's pole speed will be during qualifying for a given race. Rey, who guessed that Herta would win the pole with a lap of 176.192 mph won a MOMO Design Watch.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Philip Morris , Mark Donohue , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske