IRL: Team Penske pit notes 2002-08-13

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE IN KENTUCKY Sunday's Belterra Casino Indy 300 marked the first time Marlboro Team Penske competed at Kentucky Speedway. For Helio Castroneves, it was a good weekend as he earned his eighth top-five start of the year ...


Sunday's Belterra Casino Indy 300 marked the first time Marlboro Team Penske competed at Kentucky Speedway. For Helio Castroneves, it was a good weekend as he earned his eighth top-five start of the year (qualified fourth) and his Series-leading ninth top-five finish of the year (finished fifth). Castroneves also retained his second place standing in the 2002 Indy Racing League (IRL) Championship and now trails Sam Hornish Jr. by just four points. Castroneves also leads the Series in top-ten finishes (11).

Unfortunately things didn't go as smoothly for teammate and 2000 & 2001 CART Champion Gil de Ferran. On Saturday, de Ferran had a solid qualifying run and started Sunday's race in tenth; this result marked de Ferran's sixth top-ten start of the season. However, his luck would change on lap 23 of Sunday's race when his right front tire made contact with the left rear tire of the #20 car (Richie Hearn). His pit crew was able to repair the damage to his right front top wishbone and de Ferran finished the race 21st. Although, de Ferran dropped down to third in the IRL Championship point standings, he is only thirteen points behind Hornish Jr. and nine behind Castroneves.

With 156 points still up for grabs, it's anyone's guess who will be crowned the 2002 IRL Champion at the season-ending Chevy 500 on September 15th at Texas Motor Speedway.


After this weekend's race in Kentucky, Castroneves stayed in Sparta to participate in the first official test with the new Toyota Indy V8 engine. Castroneves ran nearly 200 miles in the Toyota Dallara on Monday.

"For just its second time ever on a race track, the performance of the Toyota engine today paints a very optimistic picture for the future," said Castroneves. "It's good to be involved closely with the Toyota program and be able to provide feedback from the same track, in similar conditions with similar equipment that we used in Sunday's race. It allows everyone with the program to immediately see where we stand."

"It's very important to develop a close working relationship with our partner Toyota right now so we can hit the ground running in 2003," said Tim Cindric, President, Penske Racing. "We shook the car down and ran a systems check two weeks ago and it's amazing to see the improvement in such a short time. We're looking forward to providing our input with Gil and Helio to continue to make progress in the future."


In recognition of winning the 2002 Indianapolis 500, Helio Castroneves was presented with a 2003 50th Anniversary Chevrolet Corvette -- the official pace car of the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 -- prior to qualifying for the Brickyard 400 on Aug. 3rd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Castroneves took a ceremonial lap of the 2.5-mile oval in the car.

"The car is fantastic and I want to thank Tony (George), the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Chevrolet," said Castroneves. "There's so much meaning to this car, that it's not just a car. It took a lot of hard work during the month (of May) to win for a second time. I'm very glad, and I'm very happy. I'm probably the happiest guy in the world."


After racing on Sunday at Kentucky Speedway Gil de Ferran headed off to St. Louis to prepare for the Gateway Indy 250 on August 25th with a two-day test session on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Once his testing is completed on Wednesday, de Ferran will fly back to Chicago to catch an international flight to the south of France where he will reunite with his family for their summer vacation. Not only will de Ferran have been in five different states, he will also be on two different continents before this week ends.


2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 Winner Helio Castroneves will be competing in a celebrity doubles match at the RCA Championships at the Indianapolis Tennis Center on Friday, August 16th at 6:30 p.m. Castroneves will be paired with one of the ATP players competing in the tournament, and they will play against Olympic runner Bob Kennedy and Stephanie McCarty of the WNBA's Indiana Fever. Castroneves, who is an avid tennis player, is looking forward to the match, as it will give him the opportunity to compete in something, other than auto racing, that he loves.


Felipe Giaffone won this past weekend's Marlboro Lap Leader Award, which goes to the driver leading the most laps in each 2002 IRL event. After leading 124 of the 200 laps at this weekend's Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway, Giaffone earned his first Marlboro Lap Leader Award of the season. He will be presented with a check for $5,000 at the Gateway Indy 250 pre-race ceremony on August 25th at Gateway International Raceway.

In addition, Chris Etzel of Racing Information Systems was this week's winner of the Marlboro Lap Leader Award Media Contest. During each IRL event, 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. Etzel, who guessed that Giaffone would lead 88 of the 200 laps in the race, won a Maurice Lacroix Siras watch.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Richie Hearn , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske