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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

De Ferran dethrones 'Spiderman'

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Indy 500 champion Gil de Ferran kisses the 'Yard of Bricks" on the start/finish line after winning the race over teammate Helio Castroneves, the two-time defending champion.

- Castroneves 2nd as Marlboro Penske teammates take top spots -

INDIANAPOLIS -- Helio Castroneves' quest for his third consecutive Indy 500 victory came up short. Exactly .299 seconds short in fact, the third closest 1-2 margin in the history of the race.

Marlboro Team Penske certainly had reason to celebrate however as Gil de Ferran came home to win his first Indianapolis 500 race ahead of his teammate Castroneves in second.

In victory circle an emotional and sore de Ferran was joined by his wife and children. "When I crossed that line, I don't know, it was a lot of things going on in my head. You try not to think about it beforehand because I think that really gets your eye off the ball," commented de Ferran afterwards. "I never know how I'm going to feel, and it was an unbelievable feeling, certainly coming back from the accident, and again, I had a great feeling of pride for belonging to this organization."

De Ferran, who was in his first race back after suffering broken bones in his neck and back after an accident in Phoenix three weeks ago, won his first race of the season and third IRL race in his career.

His Marlboro teammate, Castroneves, though disappointed in not winning his third straight Indy 500, was happy for his teammate. "No doubt about him, he deserves it. I don't know if he deserves it more than me, but he deserves it," a laughing Castroneves commented. "You have to understand second is not a bad place at all, but it's better than third. I'm much happier -- less upset that it is my teammate up there and not another person because, obviously we finish one and two, the team is the one that got all the success."

Though Target Chip Ganassi team member Tomas Scheckter led the most laps in the race (63), it was de Ferran and Castroneves who staged the late battle for the checkered flag.

Scheckter led on lap 167 before pitting for four tires and fuel which handed the lead to Castroneves briefly before de Ferran used the lapped car of A.J. Foyt IV to pass Castroneves for the lead he would not relinquish despite two late caution flags caused by the accidents of Scott Sharp and rookie Dan Wheldon.

Sharp, who brushed the outside retaining wall exiting Turn 4, did a quarter spin to the left and made contact with the SAFER barrier in Turn 1 when the back end of the car appeared to break loose. Sharp was uninjured.

On the lap 186 restart, Wheldon's car wiggled in Turn 3 as he attempted to block Sam Hornish Jr. from making a pass for position. The car made contact with the SAFER barrier in Turn 3 with the right rear and then lifted up, turning upside down and slid to the wall in Turn 4. IMS and IRL safety personnel lifted the car and Wheldon climbed from the car with some assistance.

During the yellow, pole-sitter Scott Dixon was weaving back-and-forth to warm his tires and brushed the inside pit retaining wall with the left front tire and while attempting to straighten the car, lost control and spun, to end his day.

On the lap 193 restart, de Ferran got a good jump and was able to hold off his Penske teammate for a victory in the 87th running of the Indy 500.

Andretti Team Green owner Michael Andretti, running in his last Indy 500, had mixed emotions on his day after leading 28 laps early in the race. However, his luck ran out as a driver when a broken throttle linkage ended his afternoon on lap 98. Andretti's wife was there to greet him as he climbed from the car in pit lane. "That always seems to happen to me," said Andretti afterwards. "I'm a little disappointed. I'm happy and sad, a million different emotions right now. I'm happy that I'm retiring, knowing that I could have won the last race. I just wanted one lap this year, the last one."

Though Andretti wasn't able to contend for the lead on the last lap, Team Green member Tony Kanaan was in the thick of the hunt down to the wire. He would lead 11 laps in the race and would finish in third place followed by Tomas Scheckter and rookie Tora Takagi in the closest first through fifth finish in the history of the race.

In the press conference following the race, Andretti had already shifted into the mindset of team owner. "First thing I did, I came in the pits, I looked up at the pylon to see where the other guys were and started cheering. . ."

The win by de Ferran gave Marlboro Team Penske their third straight Indy 500 victory.

Toyota, making its debut at the Indy 500, powered seven of the top-10 finishers in the race, including four of the top-five. They also can boast nine of the 12 top-three finishers in the IRL's first four races of the season.

Fan favorite Sarah Fisher's day ended just 14 laps into the race when she made contact with the wall after blowing an engine. She was the third driver out of the race following Felipe Giaffone and Billy Boat.

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