CHAMPCAR/CART: Carpentier celebrates Laguna Seca victory

CHAMPCAR/CART: Carpentier celebrates Laguna Seca victory

Patrick Carpentier became the first driver to win back-to-back races at Laguna Seca since 1998-99, by taking a time-shortened Monterey Grand Prix victory in the Champ Car World Series. Pitstop for Patrick Carpentier. Photo by Todd ...

Patrick Carpentier became the first driver to win back-to-back races at Laguna Seca since 1998-99, by taking a time-shortened Monterey Grand Prix victory in the Champ Car World Series.

Pitstop for Patrick Carpentier.
Photo by Todd Corzett.
"It was fantastic, the Forsythe Team gave me a perfect car." Carpentier said. "The car was really good; it was just on the edge but it stayed that way all the time and it was really fast. The guys did good pit stops, thanks guys. I love this track, I love this place."

The victory is his first this season, to go along with second place finishes at Milwaukee and Montreal, and third in Toronto. Carpentier finished ahead of Brazilian Bruno Junqueira by a margin of 5.395 seconds.

There was a lot of excitement on the opening lap on Laguna Seca's 11-turn 2.238-mile road course. Michel Jourdain, who qualified a season-best fifth, dropped a wheel off going into turn two after slight contact with Alex Tagliani, and with dirty tires promptly drove off in turn three. Both drivers would stop to replace tires.

Rookie Justin Wilson and Forsythe driver Rodolfo Lavin had a coming together in the Corkscrew. As the cars entered the corner, Lavin got his right front wheel alone side Wilson and the two cars slid down the Corkscrew sideways. Wilson suffer extensive front-wing and suspension damage with the remainder of the field making it around safely.

With less than two laps complete, Bourdais pulled out of the lead and into the pits to change a flat left-rear tire. Later, it was reported that Tracy was smoking slightly from the right front tire area. A replay of the start showed that the cars may have touched in turn two.

Paul Tracy leads Patrick Carpentier.
Photo by Todd Corzett.
Tracy took command from that point, leading teammate Carpentier, A.J. Allmendinger, Ryan Hunter Reay and Bruno Junqueira. Bourdais resumed in fourteenth and climbed up to ninth by lap seventeen after 18-year old Nelson Philippe brought out a full course yellow when he slammed into a tire-wall exiting turn one. The young rookie was unhurt in the single-car incident, but his car was hauled off in pieces.

Bourdais struggled for several laps to get around rookie Roberto Gonzales for eighth spot. Gonzales held off the Frenchman as long as he could, but bumped up against Bourdais in the Corkscrew. Both drivers continued after stopping for rubber, but lost three positions in the process.

Lap twenty-nine saw the opening round of pit-stops. Tracy came in on his own, relinquishing the lead to Carpentier who led Allmendinger in for their stops the next time by. Tagliani assumed the lead having stopped several laps earlier following the Jourdain incident.

Just when the pit-shuffle seemed to be sorted out, Tracy made an unexpected stop to replace his front wing that was indeed damaged when he and Bourdais met in two on the opening lap. That left it up to Carpentier who took over when Jourdain finally came in. Junqueira charged up to claim second at the half-way point. With Bourdais several cars behind, Junqueira would do well to have a good finish and narrow the gap between the championship leader and himself.

"There was a spot on the track that Paul (Tracy) didn't like," Carpentier said about his earlier efforts to pass his teammate. "Going up the hill towards the Corkscrew he kept slipping in the turn (six). He would get loose coming through there, and I got up along side him once but I had to let him go. That was the weakest part of the track for him but I just couldn't get enough of a run to get past. When he gave up the lead, I heard my team say over the radio, 'Focus, focus'. I just put my head down and did it."

Carpentier continued to lead and stretched the margin out to twenty seconds as the leader approached his last stop. Junqueira held Servia at bay, with Hunter Reay, Jourdain and Tagliani spread out fifteen seconds behind.

A.J. Allmendinger.
Photo by Todd Corzett.
Allmendinger had a great run going until he entered the pits with a bent suspension halfway through his second stint. The California native had been dicing for position with Oriol Servia. Allmendinger would not give up the fight as they entered turn two, and unfortunately that choice proved fatal with bent suspension, and later, out of the event.

"I made a couple of mistakes, simple as that. I stalled on my first pit-stop and I've never done that. "Allmendinger said later. "Then I was just pushing too hard and I made a stupid mistake when I went to pass Oriol. It was my fault. I don't know if could have beaten Patrick, but I certainly could have been right there with him."

When Roberto Gonzales stopped at the exit of turn four, that was the break that Junqueira and Bourdais needed. Champ Car officials waved the full course yellow and the field bunched up for a restart.

Without falter, Carpentier took off at the green flag and left Junqueira in his wake. Carpentier's last stop was quick and clean, and baring any problems, he'd come home with back-to-back victories on Monterey's famed circuit. With 15 laps left, officials determined that this would be a timed race as there were just to many caution periods to run the full distance.

Carpentier took the time-shortened checkered with Junqueira and Servia joining him on the podium. Servia's third place finish was the best result for Dale Coyne Racing since 1996. Jourdain, Hunter Reay, Tagliani, Bourdais, Mario Haberfeld, Guy Smith and Tracy rounded out the top ten.

Round eleven of the Champ Car World Series saw a lot of hard racing, a bit of luck, and a lot of disappointment for the series leader. Four events remain and the championship is growing tighter with each race. Junqueira now closes the gap to 24-points behind teammate Bourdais, 275-251. Tracy sits in third with 215, and Carpentier is just one point adrift with 214.

Junqueira's podium finish was the 23rd of his career in just 68 Champ Car starts. His second place finish here was similar to his runner up spot last year. "I knew it was going to be a very difficult race, but I knew that I had to finish and I had to finish in a strong position. I was really happy to finish second, I'm really close in the championship and I'm still fighting. The championship is wide open."

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