Helio Castroneves swept past teammate Gil De Ferran with 16 laps to go in Sunday's Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 to take an emotional victory for the Marlboro Team Penske squad.

The second round of the 15 race Indy Racing League Championship around the tight confines of the Phoenix International Raceway saw Marlboro Team Penske complete a 1-2 finish exactly one year on from their IRL debut. Defending Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was able to translate pole position into victory with a brave and perfectly executed move on teammate Gil De Ferran away from the seventh and final re-start on lap 183.

For over half a lap the two red and white Dallara-Chevrolet's ran side-by-side mere inches apart before Castroneves took the advantage. De Ferran almost caught his fellow Brazilian three laps from home when Castroneves was baulked behind two slower cars but the ever-cheerful Sao Paolian was able to turn the situation around and escape to victory as De Ferran fought off the attentions of Panther Racing's Sam Hornish Jr.

Hornish Jr had been the dominant driver for much of the race but a poor second pit stop when the Pennzoil sponsored driver found he had no first or second gears put paid to his chances of victory. Spectacularly brave as always in traffic Hornish eventually finished 1.5 seconds behind De Ferran and 3.7 behind Castroneves.

Consistency once again paid off for Eliseo Salazar who marked AJ Foyt's 500th Indy Car start as either and owner or a driver with a fine fourth place thanks to a daring fuel strategy that also allowed him and fifth place finisher Al Unser Jr to lead a race they were never realistically in contention for.

Behind Unser Jr, Jaques Lazier and Buddy Lazier were the only other cars on the lead lap while Billy Boat, mobile chicane Ricky Treadway and Hideki Noda completed the top ten.

The race was a typically hard-hitting affair with no less than nine cars retiring through contact of one sort or another. Series returnee Shiggy Hattori crashed his Bradley Motorsports Dallara twice in the first 40 laps while John De Vries took a wild ride down the back stretch escape road that leads to the infield before clouting the security fence from the OTHER side.

The biggest crash of the day occurred in turn one just after the third re-start for De Vries' accident on lap 90 when Felipe Giaffone spun after contact with Jon Herb and Billy Boat. Jeff Ward piled into Giaffone while George Mack and Robby McGehee both had nowhere to go and collected each other and then Giaffone. All four were out on the spot while Boat soldiered on with a deranged rear suspension assembly.

Turn one was also the scene of the demise of Eddie Cheever and Scott Sharp, both innocent victims when Anthony Lazzaro spun directly in front of them while engine failures accounted for Cheever's teammate Tomas Scheckter and Infiniti's Robbie Buhl and Laurent Redon.

Round three of what is already shaping up to be a classic Penske vs. Panther battle is at Fontana next weekend.

 

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