Grand-Am test helpful for Penske team The three days of testing last weekend at Daytona International Speedway in advance of the Jan. 26-27 Rolex 24 At Daytona proved to be much more beneficial for the Penske-Taylor Racing Team than one might expect. The all-star lineup of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch and open-wheel and sports-car veteran Ryan Briscoe shared time behind the wheel of their No. 9 Toshiba Pontiac Riley and were credited with turning in the second-fastest overall time during the three-day, eight session test period. But the drivers and crew members alike agreed that it was much more than just getting prepared for the upcoming 46th edition of the twice-around-the-clock challenge.
"After the holidays, it really felt good to get behind the wheel of a race car again," said Castroneves, the 32-year-old Brazilian who recently captured the "Mirrorball Trophy" by claiming the title in ABC-TV's "Dancing With The Stars" reality series competition. "Having the opportunity to work with my Penske teammates Kurt and Ryan was a lot of fun and I think we got a lot accomplished.
"With all the activities I have had scheduled after winning the dancing competition, it was a good chance to get back to the track and into the racing mode again," added Castroneves, who will be performing four dates on the DWTS tour beginning with the Jan. 18 show in Indianapolis, before returning to Daytona for the race. "I was very pleased with the competitiveness of our car and would like to thank everyone involved, especially my teammates, the crew and our friends at Wayne Taylor Racing." This year's Rolex 24 will mark Busch's second entry into the prestigious sports car racing classic and he was eager to get back in the driver's seat during last weekend's test session.
"I raced in the Rolex 24 back in 2005 and it was a thrill to get back out there behind the wheel of our Toshiba Pontiac Riley," said Busch, who is starting his third season driving the Miller Lite Dodge in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition. "The timing for the test was a big bonus for me. Eva and I had been vacationing in the Caribbean for a week and I flew directly back in for the test on Saturday morning.
"It allowed me to put the vacation days behind and get acclimated to being back at the race track," added Busch. "The fact that Cup testing started on Monday and I was already there at Daytona in a race car on Saturday was a huge benefit from a big-picture standpoint." Briscoe, the Australian who won the pole for the 2005 Rolex 24, has made two career starts in the race. This season, the popular 26-year-old driver will move from sports cars to drive for Penske Racing in the IndyCar Series, replacing Sam Hornish as Castroneves' teammate. "I think we all profited tremendously from the test," Briscoe offered. "Helio will be my teammate for the entire year in 2008 IRL competition and this is a great way to begin our season together. It was such a pleasure to work with Kurt, Helio and the crew on our No. 9 car, as well as with our teammates on the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing entry."
The personnel roster of the Toshiba Pontiac Riley Team of Penske-Taylor Racing contains some very familiar names and faces, including many who lead Castroneves' IndyCar effort. Among the crew members are Clive Howell, General Manager of the No. 3 Penske Racing Dallara/Honda Team, Tom Wurtz, Team Manager, and Ron Ruzewski, Chief Engineer for the team. "It was a three-day period that was very well spent," said Tim Cindric, president of Penske Performance, Inc., who mans the radio for Castroneves on the IndyCar tour and was on hand for the Daytona test. "It allowed everyone to shake the rust off from the down time away from the track. It was especially a great environment for our drivers. In NASCAR and in the IRL, they are accustomed to focusing on their individual contributions. This is an exercise of true teamwork as all three drivers rely extensively on each other." The all-star team's major sponsor was certainly pleased with the performance on and off the track.
"Toshiba is thrilled with how the test weekend went," said Rick Taylor, president and CEO of Toshiba America Business Solutions, Inc. "With Wayne Taylor's winning track record, Penske Racing's expertise in the industry and the outstanding ability of our drivers and crew, our team is certainly a strong contender. Our all-star driver line-up has certainly proved to draw a lot of attention and we're looking forward to an exciting race weekend." Grand-Am PR
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