Marlboro Team Penske heads to the 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway for this weekend's Firestone Indy 200 trying to put a stop to Honda's recent dominance in the IRL IndyCar Series.

With Honda powered drivers holding the top three places and five of the top seven in the current points standings, Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr will be seeking Toyota's first win since the season opener in Miami around the tricky concrete tri-oval.

Last year in Nashville, the now-retired Gil de Ferran led 49 of 200 laps on his way to clinching his second of three victories in his final season behind the wheel of an Indy Car (his other two wins came at the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500 and at the season finale at Texas Motor Speedway). While de Ferran won't be piloting either of the identical red and white Marlboro Team Penske Dallara-Toyotas this weekend, Castroneves and Hornish Jr both have their eyes squarely on victory lane.

For Castroneves, a trip to Victory Circle would mark his first win of the 2004 IndyCar Series season. In addition, a victory for the 29 year-old Brazilian would mark his fourth top-five finish and seventh top-ten result of the year. In a year dominated by Honda powered drivers, Castroneves' consistency has kept him in the top five in points, where he currently sits fourth, 68 markers behind leader Tony Kanaan.

Castroneves should certainly be a contender this weekend as he's had quite a bit of success at the 1.33-mile oval since joining the IRL full time in 2002. In the two starts he's made in Tennessee, Castroneves has started on the front row both times and earned one top-three finish (he finished third last season).

"The Firestone Indy 200 should be very exciting. The fans are great and I hope they come out to watch us as it's always a good show," said Castroneves. "Nashville is a concrete track so it takes time to lay rubber down. In the past, the abrasive surface has affected the tyre wear, however, with the smaller fuel tanks this season, the window between pit stops will be shorter so tyre wear should become less of an issue. Marlboro Team Penske has been giving it their all this season. We finished third last year and I'm hoping for another strong finish this year."

Hornish Jr. should also be in good shape come race day as the 24 year-old Defiance, Ohio native has had impressive showings in Nashville. Hornish Jr. has led nearly one third (31%) of all laps he's run at the Superspeedway (185 of 598) and he's earned one third place finish (2002) and one front row start (second in 2001).

Things have been tough on Hornish Jr since his win in Miami and the 2001 and 2002 series Champion currently finds himself an uncharacteristic eighth in the points table, 115 points behind Kanaan.

"I really like Nashville Superspeedway because it is somewhere between a short track and a Superspeedway," explained Hornish Jr. "You need a good handling car that works well in traffic to win. Executing quick, clean pit stops will also be important. I've led laps every time I've raced there - just not the last lap - so hopefully I can change that this year and bring Marlboro Team Penske another win."

Needless to say, with the 2004 season at its midway point, Marlboro Team Penske is working hard to achieve its second victory of the year and to put a halt to Honda's recent dominance.


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