2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran's career came to a close this past Sunday at the 2003 IndyCar Series season finale at Texas Motor Speedway. After nine years competing in open-wheel racing in America, de Ferran ended on a high note by capturing the pole on Friday and leading most laps on his way to earning his 12th major open-wheel victory on Sunday.

De Ferran also ended a four-year role as the driver of the #6 Marlboro Team Penske car. In the 71 races with the Team, de Ferran scored nine wins, fifteen poles and 39 top-five finishes. In addition, he started and ended his stint driving for Marlboro Team Penske with a pole (he earned the pole at the 2000 Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami in his first race with the Team and at the 2003 Chevy 500 in his last race with the Team).

De Ferran's legacy with the team will include scoring the record-setting 100th win at Nazareth Speedway in 2000 and winning the team's 13th Indianapolis 500 this past season. In addition, de Ferran set the World Closed Course Speed Record with a speed of 241.428 mph while qualifying for the 2000 Marlboro 500 at California Speedway.

de Ferran and Castroneves finished second and third respectively in the 2003 IndyCar Series Championship point standings. De Ferran finished in second place, after starting the race fifth in the point standings, and despite missing the Japan race due to injuries sustained in Phoenix.

Teammate Castroneves had an opportunity to clinch his first major open-wheel Championship late in the race until he and the #11 car (Tony Kanaan) touched wheels and ended both drivers' hope of a Title.

With 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner de Ferran's career coming to a close this weekend, many people from around the paddock took it upon themselves to make sure he went out with a bang. Texas Motor Speedway played host to several pranks at de Ferran's expense as team personnel and drivers alike gave him a weekend to remember.

Aside from well wishes from colleagues and associates, de Ferran was also on the receiving end of several well-timed (and planned) surprises. The weekend started out innocently enough as de Ferran arrived in Ft. Worth last Thursday night. However, on Friday the antics began in full force.

The first prank came on Friday morning as life-size "cutouts" of the driver began appearing around the paddock. The first one featured de Ferran throwing out the first pitch at the St. Louis Cardinals game earlier this season, which looked as though it was also the first time that de Ferran had ever thrown a baseball. De Ferran discovered his look-alike when it filled in for him during an interview that morning.

Throughout the weekend the cutouts followed de Ferran around the track showing up in drivers meetings, at press conferences and other functions.

On Saturday, teammate and 2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves had an opportunity to avenge the infamous "Birthday Cake Incident" from May of this year. Castroneves' birthday (May 10th) happened to fall during a rain day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and de Ferran, along with fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan, used the delay in track time to make sure that Castroneves was celebrating his birthday properly by smashing a chocolate cake in his face during an interview.

Since May 10th, Castroneves had been waiting for a chance to get even with his elder teammate and the opportunity arose this weekend. While participating in a "faux" interview with ABC/ESPN pit reporter Gary Gerould, Castroneves and Kanaan snuck up on de Ferran and pelted him with two whipped cream pies.

In addition to all of the action in the paddock, de Ferran also had a series of "Bon Voyage" receptions and events. On Saturday night, motorsports journalists from across the country hosted a farewell reception and presented de Ferran with a clock for his 65-foot boat, Champion, a place on which the journalists felt de Ferran would be spending a lot of his newly acquired free time.

On Sunday, Marlboro Team Penske had their annual end-of-season party during which de Ferran was presented with a number of gifts including several novelty items identifying some of de Ferran's unique traits. The first was a "Portalet" so that de Ferran could make his pit stops (which are frequent on race day) on the road. The second was de Ferran's very own bobble head, which included a realistic representation of his face and head to scale with the rest of his body - the bobble head was simply his head and a pair of feet.

Following the presentation, de Ferran was promptly thrown into the swimming pool by team president Tim Cindric. Castroneves and several members of the crew immediately followed the pair into the drink.

Needless to say, the weekend was full of surprises at every turn for the retiring de Ferran and he was able to close out his career not only with a victory, but a few laughs as well.

On Tuesday night, Castroneves and de Ferran were at the Nerve Lounge on South Beach at an exclusive VIP Party where NASCAR Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. was presented with the key to the city of Miami Beach.

De Ferran will be receiving his own key to the City of Fort Lauderdale at a public ceremony next week.