After fifteen races, Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran are both in contention to bring MTP its third major open wheel championship in four years and Penske Racing its 12th National Championship overall as the enthralling 2003 IRL IndyCar Series season reaches its climax at the Texas Motor Speedway.

2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves is in prime shape as he heads into the last race tied for first in the point standings with Scott Dixon. Both are seven points ahead of third place Tony Kanaan with Sam Hornish Jr and de Ferran also in contention for what has been one of the most hotly contested championships anywhere in recent memory.

2003 Indianapolis 500 winner and Two-Time CART Champion Gil de Ferran is in fifth place in the Championship point standings, thirty points out of first. While de Ferran may be a long shot to win the title, he is certainly not out of the running. If successful, he'll be taking home his third Championship in four seasons.

This weekend's Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway will be the final race in de Ferran's career. Not only has de Ferran amassed two CART Championships and an Indianapolis 500 win, but he also set the World Closed Course Speed Record at California Speedway with a lap of 241.428 mph while qualifying for the 2000 Marlboro 500. De Ferran has unquestionably left an indelible mark on the world of open-wheel racing as one of the greatest ambassadors of the sport.

To pay tribute to the racing career of 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner, Brazilian-based Embraer, one of the world's leading aircraft manufacturers, will provide de Ferran with a plane home to Ft. Lauderdale after the final race of his career. De Ferran and his family will be guests on the fitting "Embraer Legacy" aircraft as they leave Texas and the 35 year-old begins the next chapter in his life.

Two weeks ago Helio Castroneves was at Texas Motor Speedway for a test session in order to get some track time before the 200-lap season finale. Not only was he there to prepare his #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota for the upcoming 300-mile race, but he was also there to plant a little good luck before the other drivers arrived at the track. While in Texas, Castroneves did as Texans do and hung a good luck horseshoe above his garage.

Searching for his first open-wheel title, Castroneves is looking for anything and everything that can give him that extra advantage come race day.

"With the points race as close as it is, I don't want to take any chances," joked Castroneves after hanging the horseshoe above the garage. "I have the opportunity to win my first major open-wheel Championship and with these four guys chasing me the last thing I need is bad luck."

 

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