De Ferran ends Penske win drought

Marlboro Team Penske finally scored its 100th victory at Nazareth today

De Ferran ends Penske win drought

The legendary CART outfit last won a race almost exactly three years ago, when Paul Tracy took the honours at Gateway Park. Since then the team has hit hard times, and last year took drastic action after an uncompetitive season overshadowed by the death of rising star Gonzalo Rodriguez at Laguna Seca. The team swapped its Mercedes-powered self-built chassis for a Reynard-Honda and hired Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves (the latter after the death of original signing Greg Moore) to replace Al Unser Jr.

Roger Penske's bold decision making was finally rewarded today as de Ferran drove a strong and consistent race, working his way patiently through the field in the early stages then benefiting from problems for early leaders Juan Montoya and Paul Tracy. He then resisted a late attack from Mauricio Gugelmin to win by 0.8s.

"It's a very special day," said de Ferran afterwards. "I've got to thank the team because it's just fantastic, it was one of those days when everything just comes easy.

"I've got a lump in my throat and now I'm going to cry..."

Penske himself was similarly ecstatic.

"It feels terrific," he said after a tense few laps on the pit wall watching Gugelmin close in on his driver. "Unbelievable. It's a total team effort and to do it here, when we're so close to our race shop, makes it really, really special."

Penske's first victory came with the late Mark Donohue, who won at the nearby Pocono Raceway way back in 1971.

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