Subscribe for 17¢ / day
IRL INDY 500
Associated PressCar owner Roger Penske, left, and Tim Cindric, right, president of Penske Racing, clasp hands with Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran of Brazil on Sunday in Indianapolis.

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Same team, same country, different driver.

Gil de Ferran held off Helio Castroneves on a six-lap sprint to the end Sunday to win the Indianapolis 500, spoiling his Brazilian teammate's bid for an unprecedented third straight victory.

De Ferran, who was severely injured in a crash March 23 in Phoenix, passed Castroneves for the lead on lap 170 of the 200-lap race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and had to fend off his Penske Racing teammate through three restarts.

A joyous and tearful de Ferran clutched his helmet with both hands after reaching Victory Lane, then - wincing in pain as he squeezed out of the seat - stood and threw his arms into the air in triumph as his son and daughter climbed onto his car.

"In the last few laps, I was thinking, 'Is this really happening?' I tried not to get carried away," de Ferran said. "The last few laps it was definitely very, very difficult to focus. I was overflowing with emotion."

The victory was the third straight for team owner Roger Penske, whose record for wins at Indy climbed to 13.

Castroneves did everything he could to put his name into the history books, pushing de Ferran to the end and finishing behind him by only 0.299-seconds - about five car lengths. It was the third closest finish in 87 Indy races.

The late cautions may have prevented Castroneves from a serious challenge.

"Unfortunately, the yellows kept coming at the end," he said.

The win was a major step for de Ferran, who skipped the final race of the 2002 season with a concussion from a crash, then missed the IRL's Japan race last month while recovering from another concussion and broken bones in his neck and lower back.

That accident left the 35-year-old de Ferran flat on his back for several weeks, and he was unable to return to his race car until May 3, the opening day of practice for Indy.

He drove in pain to the biggest victory of his life.

"My shoulders, halfway through the race, started cramping," de Ferran said. "I really couldn't lift my arms. My back wasn't hurting. I've got to find out what happened. Maybe it's something to do with the neck. It was getting more and more and more painful."

The situation was reminiscent of 1996, when Buddy Lazier won the race while recovering from a painful back injury.

Castroneves started from the pole and de Ferran began 10th in the 33-car field. Both Penske drivers spent the race putting themselves in position for the finish that reversed the order of Castroneves' first win in 2001.

Castroneves beat Tomas Scheckter out of the pits on lap 129 during a caution period to take the lead. De Ferran was third on the restart on lap 134, but quickly shot past Scheckter to make it Penske 1-2.

Both made their final pit stop on lap 166, moved back to the front when the other leaders made their final stops and stayed there the rest of the way.

Four laps later, Castroneves found himself caught behind the slow-moving car of rookie A.J. Foyt IV. Waiting to see what Foyt would do, Castroneves slowed and downshifted. By the time he reached the back straightaway, de Ferran had sped past.

"I was trying to take it easy," Castroneves said. "Unfortunately, I took it too easy. You can't sleep at all at this place. This place is always full of surprises."

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

0
0
0
0
0