Pit Notes April 23, 2002 No rest for the weary. While Marlboro Team Penske and the IRL will not race again until the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race - "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" - on Sunday, May 26th at Indianapolis...
April 23, 2002
No rest for the weary.
While Marlboro Team Penske and the IRL will not race again until the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race - "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" - on Sunday, May 26th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, that does not mean the Team will be "taking any time off."
In fact, Helio Castroneves will be testing at Pikes Peak International Raceway (PPIR) today and Marlboro Team Penske teammate Gil de Ferran will be testing at PPIR on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Neither driver has ever tested there, so it will definitely provide the Team with some important information as they prepare for their inaugural event at the Raceway in the Radisson Indy 225 on June 16th.
Next week, Helio Castroneves and Marlboro Team Penske will be testing at Texas Motor Speedway to prepare for the Casino Magic 500 on Saturday, June 8th. The two-day test will take place on Wednesday, May 1st and Thursday, May 2nd. This will be Castroneves' first time testing an IRL car at the 1.5-mile tri-oval.
Once the Team has completed the test at Texas Motor Speedway, they will head directly to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) to begin preparation to defend their title of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
The Team has tested at IMS once this season when Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves participated in a two-day test on April 15th - 16th. The test allowed the Team an opportunity to adjust to the new "diamond-ground" asphalt surface.
"It's certainly different than what we had before," said de Ferran. "I find it very, very smooth and it's taking me a little while to get used to having the grooves around because it makes the car hunt a little bit. Overall I think it's been a good change."
"It's awesome to be back, especially with all the memories of last time," said Castroneves. "You can really feel a difference with the new surface of the track. It's much faster and also smoother and for me, I think it's going to have more lines."
The Team's plans for the month of May will mirror last year's program where they will focus on their own goals and objectives and not worry about the competition. "You always just do the best you can," said Tim Cindric, President of Penske Racing, Inc. "You put together your program and you run through your program step by step, just like we did last year. We plan to come here independent of what everybody else is doing and do what is right for us and hopefully it all comes together in the end. If you want to be competitive at Indy, it's all about preparation."
Practice for the May classic begins on May 5th in preparation of qualifying weekend on May 10th-11th.
MARLBORO LAP LEADER PROGRAM OFFICIALLY UNDERWAY
This weekend marked the first time that the Marlboro Lap Leader Award was presented to the driver leading the most laps in a 2002 Indy Racing League (IRL) event. Defending IRL Champion Sam Hornish Jr. was presented with a check for $15,000 during the Firestone Indy 225 pre-race ceremonies. Hornish, who led the most laps in the previous three events on the IRL circuit, earned $5,000 for each race.
Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran led the most laps this past weekend; he was at the top of the leader board for 86 of the 225 laps on his way to earning a third place finish. This marked his fourth top-four finish in as many races this season and moved him into second place in the IRL championship standings, just five points behind series leader Sam Hornish, Jr. De Ferran will be presented with his Lap Leader Award check for $5,000 during Carburetion Day Festivities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 23rd.
In addition, this weekend featured the first Marlboro Lap Leader Award Media Contest. During each IRL event, beginning this past weekend in Nazareth, journalists have the opportunity to enter an on-site contest to predict who will lead the most laps, and how many laps that driver will lead, in a given race. Each winner will be awarded a stainless steel "Siras" sports watch, courtesy of Maurice Lacroix Swiss Watches. Lewis Franck of Reuters was the first-ever winner of the Marlboro Lap Leader Award Media Contest after successfully predicting that Gil de Ferran would lead 85 laps at the Firestone Indy 225.