IRL: Team Penske Pit Notes 2003-07-30

Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes July 30, 2003 DE FERRAN CLOSES GAP IN CHAMPIONSHIP Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran was able to inch his way closer to first place in the IndyCar® Series Championship point standings this...

Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes
July 30, 2003

DE FERRAN CLOSES GAP IN CHAMPIONSHIP

Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran was able to inch his way closer to first place in the IndyCar® Series Championship point standings this weekend after a seventh place finish at the Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway. De Ferran is in third place in the standings with 315 points, just three points out of first place. Scott Dixon took over the lead in the Championship and Tony Kanaan sits in second with 317 points. De Ferran's performance this weekend also vaulted the #6 Marlboro Team Penske car into first place in the entrant point standings, where it has 328 total points. In addition to de Ferran's 315 points, Alex Barron earned 13 points while substituting for de Ferran in Japan after he sustained injuries in Phoenix and could not compete.

2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves placed 17th at this past weekend's race after debris put a hole in his radiator and ended his day on lap 70. He remains in fourth place in the Championship with 295 points, just 23 points out of first.

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE: KEEP ON TRUCKIN'

While the IndyCar Series may not be racing this weekend, that certainly does not mean that Marlboro Team Penske will be taking any time off. Not only will the Team be busy at the race shop in Reading, PA preparing for next weekend's Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway, but the Team will be testing on three different tracks in the next ten days as well.

Both Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves will be participating in a test session at Gateway International Raceway on July 30th-31st in order to prepare for the race on August 10th. Then 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner de Ferran will head to Sparta, KY to test at Kentucky Speedway to gain some track time with the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota on Monday, August 4th.

While de Ferran is in Kentucky, Castroneves will be in Pennsylvania testing at Nazareth Speedway so that the Team can get some preliminary data for the Firestone Indy 225 on August 24th.

Once they've completed these three test sessions, the Team will have only a few days to recuperate before heading back to St. Louis for the race next weekend. With all of this testing, a "week off" is certainly not on Marlboro Team Penske's schedule.

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE PREPARES FOR THE HAT TRICK

Once the three-track tour of testing is complete for Marlboro Team Penske on August 5th, the Team will still have a run of three consecutive race weekends for which to prepare. With six races left in the 2003 IndyCar Series season it'll be a sprint to the end. As drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves look to the final races of the season they both sit within striking distance of the Championship. Furthermore, the Team will be heading into these next three races coming off of impressive performances at each track in 2002. Following is a brief look at some of the results the Team produced at St. Louis, Kentucky and Nazareth in 2002:

* One win, three top-three finishes and five top-five finishes

* Three front row starts including two poles (Nazareth and St. Louis)

* 303 laps led out of a possible 625 laps (48%), including two Marlboro Lap Leader Awards

*       198 total points earned (Castroneves
earned 102 points and   de Ferran earned 96 points)

* Both drivers combined to complete 1222 out of 1250 laps run (98%)

De Ferran will come to St. Louis as the defending winner at Gateway after a dominating performance last year. Not only did he start from the pole, but he would also lead 81 laps on his way to his second victory of 2002. Castroneves started the race third and led 85 laps (a race high) on his way to a second place finish. St. Louis marked the Team's record third 1-2 finish in an IRL season; the other two were Phoenix and Pikes Peak.

The following week, the Team will go to Kentucky for their sophomore weekend of competition at Kentucky Speedway. Last year, Castroneves started fourth and finished the race fifth, marking his ninth top-five finish of the season (he had a total of 12 in 2002). Unfortunately, de Ferran had a bit of bad luck on race day as he made contact with the #20 car (Richie Hearn) and damaged his right front top wishbone. The Team was able to repair the damage and he would go on to finish the race 21st.

The Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway will provide the final event in the trio of consecutive races. In 2002, de Ferran won his first of four poles at the 1-mile oval and led a race-high 86 laps. Unfortunately, de Ferran's pit strategy did not work to his benefit and he ran out of fuel on the final lap relegating the lead to Scott Sharp. Luckily, de Ferran had enough momentum to bring the #6 Marlboro Team Penske car home in third. Castroneves also had an impressive run in 2002. He qualified second, which marked the Team's first front row sweep of the 2002 season. On race day, Castroneves led 51 laps on his way to a fifth place finish.

While the next few weeks will certainly be taxing on Marlboro Team Penske, there is definitely quite a bit to be gained from solid performances at each of these upcoming races. With the way the Team performed in 2002, there's no question that these next three races could be the turning point for Marlboro Team Penske's quest for its first IndyCar Series Championship.

SAM HORNISH JR. WINS FIRST MARLBORO LAP LEADER AWARD OF THE SEASON

Pennzoil Panther Racing driver Sam Hornish Jr. won the Marlboro Lap Leader Award for leading 126 of the 200 laps run on his way to a second place finish at the Firestone Indy 400. As the lap leader, Hornish earned two extra points and is currently seventh in the IRL Championship point standings with 228 points. Hornish will be presented with his Marlboro Lap Leader Award check for $7,500 during the pre-race ceremonies at the Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway on August 10th.

In addition, Kim Morris of IMS Radio 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 that driver will lead, in a given race. Morris, who guessed that Hornish would lead 97 of the 200 laps in the race, won a Maurice Lacroix Swiss Watch.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske