CHAMPCAR/CART: Carpentier keeps rolling on at Mid-Ohio

Patrick Carpentier kept the pace he established Friday to keep pole position for Sunday's Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. In taking provisional pole on Friday and keeping the top spot on Saturday, Carpentier, who drives for the Player's/Forsythe team,...

Patrick Carpentier kept the pace he established Friday to keep pole position for Sunday's Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio.

In taking provisional pole on Friday and keeping the top spot on Saturday, Carpentier, who drives for the Player's/Forsythe team, earns two points and gets his best starting position since 1998 in Milwaukee. Carpentier's 122.925 mph lap ends a run of three consecutive pole positions for CART series points-leader Cristiano da Matta, who starts third on Sunday.

"The guys did a fantastic job. The tires came on right. The car was perfect. We had a good lap," said Carpentier, who also gave the Reynard chassis its first pole this season. "A couple of times it went sideways. I stood on it and it just shot me forward exiting the corner. After that, I tried to redo it. I couldn't do it.

"But, hey, I just needed to do it once, and the team gave me the car to be able to do it today."

Carpentier's pole speed did not break the track record of 124.394 mph, set by Dario Franchitti in 1999 and tied by Gil de Ferran in 2000. Sunday's race will be the longest in the 21 years CART has visited Mid-Ohio at 82 laps or 2 hours, 15 minutes, whichever comes first.

Starting alongside Carpentier will be will be da Matta's Newman-Haas Racing teammate, Christian Fittipaldi, who qualified second at 122.675 mph. "We have a big shot at the race tomorrow," said Fittipaldi. "Tomorrow is more important for me than anything else. (Patrick) did a great job yesterday, did a great job today. He put it together; we didn't." Da Matta has already found some of the speed he will need on Sunday, setting the fastest times in both Friday and Saturday practice sessions, but he was unable to keep that momentum in qualifying. As has been the case for 2002, most of the qualifying action took place in the final minutes of the session, which can play on a driver's psyche as da Matta explained. "I got a little bit tense because nobody would go out," he said. "I thought it was going to be just like yesterday. So with 20 minutes to go, there were just a few cars on the track. I was thinking, 'All right, here we go, try to find a clear spot.' But it actually worked fine for me.

"We need to make a couple little changes for tomorrow to find the 2/10ths we are behind, and go from there because I can't complain about traffic and complain about anything, just performance. We need to tune it a little bit more about two and a half 10ths so Patrick doesn't disappear from us tomorrow."

During qualifying on both Friday and Saturday most of the leading drivers waited until the slower cars laid enough rubber down to give the track extra grip. In the first 22 minutes of the session only three cars were on the track and Carpentier was the last to venture out with 14 minutes to go in the session.

The final five minutes on Saturday proved the most exciting, with provisional pole changing hands six times between da Matta, Kenny Brack, Fittipaldi and Carpentier.

By taking pole and earning two points Carpentier is now tied for third in the driver standings with Bruno Junqueira and Michel Jourdain Jr., all three having 74 points. Da Matta remains the points-leader with 122, followed by Dario Franchitti with 84.

Carpentier explained on Saturday this has been a dream weekend for him. This is his 100th race this weekend and he celebrates his birthday on Tuesday. "Yesterday was for the 100th race and today was for my birthday," he said. "We'll see tomorrow. Hopefully I get another birthday or something. But it's going to be a long race and a tough race. I think it's going to be tougher than Cleveland. I know these guys are going to be pushing really hard. "So hopefully I'm there at the end. Hopefully we can battle it out." Others qualifying in the top 10 include Brack, Tony Kanaan, Junqueira, Alex Tagliani, Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy and Tora Takagi.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Kenny Brack , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain