CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Newman/Haas Racing race report

HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA FINISHED SECOND IN THE GRAND PRIX OF DENVER SPONSORED BY BRIDGESTONE; McDONALD'S® DRIVER BOURDAIS LOST SECOND PLACE POSSIBILITY ON FINAL LAP DUE TO A CRASH WITH TRACY THAT DROPPED HIM TO SEVENTH - Hole...

HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA FINISHED SECOND IN THE GRAND PRIX OF DENVER SPONSORED BY BRIDGESTONE; McDONALD'S® DRIVER BOURDAIS LOST SECOND PLACE POSSIBILITY ON FINAL LAP DUE TO A CRASH WITH TRACY THAT DROPPED HIM TO SEVENTH

- Hole in the Wall Camps driver Bruno Junqueira matched his best finish of the season of second place in today's 97-lap Grand Prix of Denver Sponsored by Bridgestone after gaining two spots on the final lap when teammate Bourdais passed Paul Tracy for second place but the Canadian slid and collected both cars while Junqueira cruised by to take the checkered flag in second place. In Junqueira's four races here he has finished no lower than third place (2004) and won in 2002 and 2003. The finish moved him from 12th place in the standings into ninth, only nine points out of fourth place. He started the event on the softer, red alternate Bridgestone tires in seventh place but gained three spots when Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani made contact in Turn 1 of Lap 1. Tracy was able to continue but Tagliani retired with suspension damage.

Junqueira was also able to get by Andrew Ranger and into fourth place. When the race was restarted he held fourth place until he moved into third when second place runner Allmendinger pitted early due to the need to replace his red Bridgestone tires with the standard black Bridgestone's. On Lap 21, race leader Bourdais and second place runner Wilson made their first pit stops and Junqueira took over the lead when he stayed out. He held the position for the following 11 laps until he made his first stop on Lap 32 and returned to the race in fifth place on the standard Bridgestone tires. He maintained a gap of one second behind Paul Tracy until Tracy passed Justin Wilson on Lap 42 and he later kept within two seconds in arrears of Wilson. On Lap 56 Junqueira passed Bourdais, who was struggling on the softer red Bridgestone tires, for fourth. He moved into third on Lap 59 after Tracy took his second stop and into second on Lap 60 when Allmendinger made his final stop.

When Wilson made his final pit stop and took on the red Bridgestone tires Junqueira took over the lead for three laps until his final stop on Lap 65 and returned to the race in fourth place just ahead of Bourdais. On Lap 73 he passed Wilson who was struggling on red Bridgestone's. Soon thereafter it was reported that Tracy was suffering from a fuel pick-up problem and Junqueira started to close the eight second gap. By lap 87 of 97 he closed to within five seconds but fourth place Bourdais was consecutively setting the fastest laps of the race and began pressuring him as well. On lap 88 Tracy lost control of his car in Turn 5 and lost two seconds of time which enabled Junqueira to close within three seconds with Bourdais right on his heels. On Lap 94 Bourdais passed Junqueira. On the final lap Bourdais pulled ahead of Tracy into second place in the final corner and Tracy lost traction and slid into Bourdais causing both to stop on course and ultimately finish sixth (PT) and seventh (SB). Junqueira was able to safely get through the area and took the checkered flag in second place and earned 27 for the finish and one for leading the race.

"It was a good race today," said Junqueira. "I'm quite pleased. I had some problems in traffic in qualifying. I could have been in the top three but we were not. I started the race, and I did a good start. I passed Andrew Ranger and Tracy and Tag (Tagliani) together. I had good fuel mileage and I took the lead. I could put some good laps together throughout the whole race. I was racing Sebastien, (Paul) Tracy and Justin throughout the race. I passed them, they passed me. Sebastien passed me the end. It was a quite exciting, quite fun race for me.

In the end, Tracy and Sebastien got together, gave me a podium, so I'm quite pleased with that. I have four podiums here: two wins, one second, one third. That's better than my record in Road America. I led the race every single time I raced here. I'm quite pleased with this track. This was a very difficult race today, especially on the red tires because I think they fell off so much. They start really good, and afterward they fell off the pace so much. Everybody got real loose and it was really hard to drive the car. When I got the lead, they said, 'Bruno, you got the lead, push, push hard.' I had no tires to push hard. I was completely sideways going through every corner. You still have to try to save the tires but I could keep a consistent pace.

It was a hard race today, but I'm quite pleased with the result. It is very important after two really bad races without finishing, so it gave me some points, gave the crew some confidence and myself. I think the next four races I have already done very well in. I have already won those races in the past, as I did here. I'm expecting very good results for me and the whole Newman/Haas team to finish strong this season."

- McDonald's® driver Sebastien Bourdais looked likely to finish second after pulling ahead of the wounded car of Paul Tracy on the final lap of the 97-lap Grand Prix of Denver Sponsored by Bridgestone but Tracy lost control of his race car while in the corner and collided with Bourdais causing both to stop on course. Rather than the 27 points given for second place, Bourdais earned 17 for seventh place, one for leading the race and one for setting the fastest race lap to barely increase his pre-race lead over second place of 31 over Wilson to 32 over new second place holder A.J. Allmendinger.

On Saturday Bourdais clinched the season-long Bridgestone Pole Position Award chase with his sixth pole of the season. Bourdais will be awarded an additional $20,000 at the season-ending awards banquet and his Newman/Haas Racing chief mechanic Pedro Campuzano will be awarded $7,500. Bourdais and the McDonald's team elected to start the race on the longer wearing black standard Bridgestone tires and use the softer red "alternate" Bridgestone tires for the second of three stints and the field had to use them at least one stint. He maintained the lead through the first caution period for Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani who made contact in Turn 1 of Lap 1. Tracy was able to continue but Tagliani retired with suspension damage. While leading the first 20 laps he held off Allmendinger who made an early stop on Lap 18 due to his softer red Bridgestone tires going away.

Bourdais made his first stop on Lap 21 and he returned to the track in third place on the softer red Bridgestone alternate tires but moved into second when Tracy made a second pit stop on Lap 22. He held second place behind teammate Junqueira who didn't make his first stop until Lap 32. Bourdais reclaimed the lead and held his three second lead over Allmendinger began to slim as his softer tires began to go away. The second and final caution period of the day came out from Laps 35- 38 for debris and Bourdais had a 1.2-second lead over Allmendinger on the restart but the American, on standard Bridgestone tires knew he could pressure Bourdais due to his tire advantage in the ensuing laps. Allmendinger closed to within .3-seconds by Lap 46 and Allmendinger used his Push to Pass button on the following lap to take over the lead on Lap 47. On Lap 53 Tracy tried to pass Bourdais but went into the corner wide and not only didn't make the pass but also lost a spot to Justin Wilson. The team told Bourdais to try to hold on for another 10 laps when he was scheduled to pit for standard black Bridgestone's. Unfortunately he dropped to third when Wilson passed him on Lap 55 and into fifth when Tracy and Junqueira passed on the following lap.

He radioed to the team that he was sorry but he could no longer hold off the challengers due to his tire situation. The team brought him in a few laps earlier due to the situation and he made his final stop on Lap 57. He returned to the track in ninth place and had moved up to fifth place by Lap 64 after drivers began to make their final stops. He held the position and began to close the gap to fourth place and passed Wilson, who was struggling with his stint on the alternate Bridgestone's, on Lap 79 of 97. He then set his sights on third place Junqueira who he reeled in by setting the fastest laps of the race on 86, 87, 88 and 90 before cleanly passing him on Lap 94 which put him immediately behind Tracy who suffered from a fuel pick-up problem for approximately the final 20 laps. He was within one second of Tracy, who had used all of his Push to Pass left and Bourdais had one more shot.

On Lap 96 Bourdais was inside Tracy but had to back off when Tracy abruptly closed the door. Bourdais had previously selected a couple of turns to make a move after watching Tracy's lack of usual acceleration due to his fuel pick-up problem as the Canadian was slow exiting those areas. His best opportunity came on the final series of turns on the final lap and Tracy protected the inside so Bourdais pulled in front on the outside but Tracy lost traction and slid into Bourdais and neither car was able to take the checkered flag. Bourdais ultimately was credited with a seventh place finish while Tracy was credited with a sixth. He collected 17 points for his finish and one each for leading the race and setting the fastest race lap. He pre-race second place challenger was Justin Wilson who finished eighth, one lap down and dropped to third place.

"The expected yellow that never came out completely burned us because then we had to do a longer stint on the red tires," said Bourdais. "I don't know what would have happened but the guys who started with them would have been very much in trouble because they would have only done 20 laps with them and we would have done the same on the second run because you have to run them for one stint but the fact that we had to do a long run with them just killed us. Despite all the struggles we worked our way back up on the last stint and would have finished second so it's even more disappointing because we worked so hard to get back to the front.

It was the worst strategy for us because not only did we have to do a longer run on the reds but we also had to do another long run at max, max, max. We pit as soon as the window opened and I had to save fuel and take care of the tires for half of the first stint just to make sure I wasn't going to run into the same kind of trouble. I didn't know what the car was going to do. I thought something like a damper broke on the second stint because it went so bad. As soon as I put the blacks back on for the last stint I had to save my tires for the first few laps but then the car came back and we caught Justin who was having the same problems on the red tires. Justin had even bigger problems than us because he was on the reds in the last stint. That was it; he was gone, nowhere.

It was the same problem A.J. had after the first 10 laps of the race. After we passed Justin we were about 10 seconds back from Bruno but we caught him in about the same number of laps. Then we caught PT (Paul Tracy) who was having pick-up problems and he just crashed us. He was obviously in big trouble, he was running out of fuel but that's no excuse to crash the competitor of your teammate.

All I can say is that I hope it was clear enough that he tried to crash me in turn 3 on the lap before, he tried to crash me on the back straight when he blocked me to the inside and I had to go around him on the outside, on the marbles. I gave him plenty of room, I went straight braking for Turn 9. Basically he completely overshot the braking point, got sideways and ran into the side of the McDonald's car. He is on probation so I just hope the race officials do what is necessary to correct that unfair situation because it could have been a brilliant day for the McDonald's car. We still had the fastest car at the end of the day and turned the fastest lap times consistently at the end of the race. I just asked Paul 'What do you want from me?' I had passed him but he crashed into me. I just pushed him because he was asking for it but it didn't go any further."

- UP NEXT. The Champ Car World Series will take a weekend off before Round 11 of 14 takes place in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on August 25-27.

-credit: nhr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Andrew Ranger