CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana: Team Player's preview

The 500: A race of speed and stamina awaits Team Player's as CART series shifts to the Fontana Superspeedway. Fontana, California, October 31, 2002  It is a race known simply as The 500, a thrill-packed 250 trips around the 2-mile California ...

The 500: A race of speed and stamina awaits Team Player's as CART series shifts to the Fontana Superspeedway.

Fontana, California, October 31, 2002  It is a race known simply as The 500, a thrill-packed 250 trips around the 2-mile California Speedway oval, a marathon that will test the endurance and the mettle of Team Player's drivers Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani, along with their rivals in the FedEx CART Championship.

This is the setting for the penultimate event of the 2002 CART season, and when the drivers take to the track for Sunday's race, the speeds on the superspeedway, which routinely reach 225 miles an hour, will be a stark contrast to last weekend, when wet conditions drastically reduced speeds on the rain-soaked street course of Surfers Paradise in Australia.

"The difference is going to be like night and day," said Carpentier, who is heading to Fontana on the strength of a second-place podium finish, a performance that allowed him to move within 13 points of second place in the drivers' standings. "We saw last year just how special Fontana can be. You have cars going at tremendous speeds, sometimes three wide on the track, and it seems like the lead is constantly changing. There were 73 different lead changes last year and when it came to the end of the race, after 500 miles there were only a couple of inches separating the first two cars that crossed the finish line."

While Carpentier is seeking his first podium on the Fontana superspeedway  his best finish came last year when he was 10th  Tagliani earned a spot on the podium in 2001, when he ended the season with a flourish by winning the pole and then finishing third in the race.

"Team Player's gave me an extremely fast car all weekend," recalled Tagliani. "We had a great shot at winning the race but the caution flag came out just at the wrong time for us. We had been hanging back for most of the race, ready to make a move in the last few laps, but then the caution flag came out and we ended up finishing the race under caution."         

With the mandatory pit stop window established at 33 laps for the Fontana race, drivers will be making a minimum of six pit stops during the 250-lap event, and the level of efficiency during the stops may well play a major role in the outcome. Tagliani's pit crew, headed by Larry Ellert, will have the opportunity for some extra practice in this regard because they are one of five teams to qualify for this weekend's Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. Teams qualified for the competition, which carries a $50,000 cash prize, by compiling points during each pit stop by their team during the CART season.       Racing fans can follow Team Player's progress at The 500 throughout the weekend by logging on to the team's website at www.teamplayers.ca. They can also watch the race live on The Sports Network starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani