IRL: Texas: Toyota preview

TOYOTA LOOKS TO MAKE IT FOUR OUT OF FIVE AT TEXAS -- Toyota will attempt to earn its fourth victory in five races at the Texas Motor Speedway in this weekend's Bombardier Learjet 500. Three different drivers have earned victories with Al Unser...

TOYOTA LOOKS TO MAKE IT FOUR OUT OF FIVE AT TEXAS -- Toyota will attempt to earn its fourth victory in five races at the Texas Motor Speedway in this weekend's Bombardier Learjet 500.

Three different drivers have earned victories with Al Unser Jr., Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves all having won at TMS with Toyota power the past two seasons. Last fall, it was Castroneves that won from the pole position in a dominating fashion -- leading more than half the race (104 laps), including the final 21 laps.

MORE TEXAS -- In addition to the Penske Toyota victories with de Ferran and Castroneves the past two years, current Toyota-powered teams and drivers have had past success at Texas. Marlboro Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. won the fall race in both 2001 and 2002, while Target Chip Ganassi Racing won the June race in 2002 with driver Jeff Ward.

MUST BE IN THE FRONT ROW -- No, it's not baseball announcer Bob Uecker, it's Marlboro Team Penske drivers Castroneves and Hornish Jr. The duo currently rank first and second in the IndyCar Series in average starting position and one of the two have been on the front row in each of the last three races. They make up two of three drivers that have qualified in the top-10 in each race this season.

Castroneves leads the series with an average starting spot of 4.2. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner has qualified in the top five in his last four races. Dating back to last season, he has qualified in the top-five nine times in his last 10 races. Hornish Jr. has qualified first and second in his last two races while his average starting spot is 4.6.

UNDER THE RADAR -- While former Toyota Atlantic stars Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick have captured most of the recent headlines, two-time Texas winner Hornish Jr. has been on the verge of a dominating season. The 2001 and 2002 series champion placed second at Miami and won at Phoenix. After qualifying sixth in his first road course event since 1999 at St. Petersburg, he was knocked out early by another driver. Hornish Jr. then won the pole position at Motegi and earned his first-ever front-row starting position at Indianapolis, where he led a race-high 77 laps.

Unfortunately, after dominating the early portions of the '500, he was eliminated from contention after being forced high and into the gray area of the track by one of the race's rookies. Despite being knocked out of two races early, the Defiance, Ohio-native continues to rank third overall in points and in laps led.

ROOKIE BRISCOE STARTING TO MAKE HIS MARK - After going through some early growing pains, rookie Ryan Briscoe (Target Toyota) has started to come on strong in recent weeks. The former Toyota F1 test driver led the most laps at St. Petersburg before being involved in a collision. He earned his second consecutive top-10 finish of the season at Indianapolis with a strong 10th-place showing. Briscoe made his oval track debut earlier this season at Homestead.

TOYOTA ATLANTIC GRADS DOMINATING INDY CAR RANKS - Toyota Atlantic Championship graduates have proven to be dominant in IndyCar Series competition this season.

To date, TAC grads have swept each of the season's first five races with Dan Wheldon and Hornish Jr. currently ranking first and third in the point standings. In addition, Wheldon became the second consecutive former Toyota Atlantic driver to win the Indianapolis 500 -- following up on Buddy Rice's victory last season. Patrick, the most recent Toyota Atlantic grad to join the series, won Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors and was on the cover of last week's Sports Illustrated.

-toyota-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Jeff Ward , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Dan Wheldon , Al Unser Sr. , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing