This Week in Ford Racing October 29, 2002 CART FedEx Championship Patrick Carpentier, driver of the ...
This Week in Ford Racing
October 29, 2002
CART FedEx Championship
Patrick Carpentier, driver of the #32 Player's/Forsythe Ford, has enjoyed the finest season of his career thus far with two victories, eight top-five and 11 top-10 finishes with two races remaining on the 2002 schedule. A strong performer throughout his career on superspeedways, Carpentier talks about this weekend's race at the California Speedway and why he's planning on racing again in CART next year.
PATRICK CARPENTIER - #32 Player's/Forsythe Ford
YOU'VE HAD QUITE A BIT OF SUCCESS RACING ON SUPERSPEEDWAYS THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER, INCLUDING YOUR FIRST CAREER CART VICTORY AT MICHIGAN LAST YEAR. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE REASON FOR THAT IS? "I think I really like those kind of tracks. For some reason, I really like the high speeds and I like to race on those kinds of circuits. The Ford engine has usually been pretty strong on these types of tracks and the team always seems to give me a good car for the races. We don't always manage to qualify well but it really doesn't matter because the races are so long and we seem to be able to work our way through the field. We also seem to come up with some good pit strategies which helps quite a bit."
HOW DIFFERENTLY DO YOU APPROACH A RACE ON A SUPERSPEEDWAY AS OPPOSED TO A RACE ON A SHORTER AND SLOWER OVAL? "What you've got to be careful of is not losing a lap on everybody, but unfortunately we seem to do that a lot because of problems at the beginning of the race. If you can stay on the lead lap all day long, the race doesn't really begin until the last 25 to 50 laps or so. But you have to save the car for the end, that's important."
IS THAT REALLY THE NAME OF THE GAME IN 500-MILE RACES? WHEN DO YOU MAKE YOUR MOVE? "It's more towards the end, that's for sure. I'd say I usually make my move in the last 30 laps. That's when you really try to get close to the front, not necessarily the first guy because of the wings we've got and the guy in second place seems to have a better chance of passing."
BASICALLY, YOU DON'T WANT TO BE IN THE LEAD ON THE LAST LAP OF THE RACE. "No, no, unless you've got a big enough lead that the rest of the guys can't catch up to you. But that's a rare instance and it's better to be in second place on the final laps."
TYPICALLY, CART ENDS ITS SEASON IN FONTANA, BUT THIS YEAR THE SEASON FINALE IS IN MEXICO CITY. WILL IT SEEM STRANGE THAT YOU'VE GOT ONE MORE RACE AFTER THIS WEEKEND? "Yeah, it definitely will feel like the season is over because every year we end in Fontana, but actually I'm pretty excited to go to Mexico City. I think it's going to be a great event because they're going to have one of the biggest crowds we've seen this year, so to go there and finish the season will be great."
YOU'VE HAD THE BEST SEASON OF YOUR CAREER THIS YEAR, BOTH IN WINS AND CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS, BUT HAS THIS SEASON BEEN DISAPPOINTMENT TO YOU AT ALL? "In some respects, yes. I've only finished two of the last five races and that has hurt us in the championship standings. I'm very happy because this has been my best season by far, but I think we can do a lot better. The beginning of the season was not very good because we had a lot of problems and struggles at the first couple of races, but I'm really looking to next year because I'm sure we'll have an even better season. But this year was a good learning experience and it was good for me to get two victories on road courses."
DO YOU FEEL SOMEWHAT VINDICATED BY THOSE TWO VICTORIES? "I'm very happy because the way people look at me and talk about me has changed. Every year I seem to get more and more focused and I train harder. It just took me a longer time to get to that point in my career, but I also think that the team took a while to get to that point as well. For sure having the ideal season would see me leading the championship right now and that's what I want, but I definitely think we're getting close."
WHAT DID THIS SEASON TEACH YOU THAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW BEFORE? "Rest. I need to spend more time resting and try to not get involved in 200 different things. I just need to keep focused on racing and that's it. Don't try to start a business, don't try to ride motorcross, don't try to become a musician; just race and in between races get some rest. I think I've learned that sometimes doing less is more and it's worked out for me this season."
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR CART? "It did for a long time and that's what I was questioning. I looked at several different deals both in CART and the IRL, but I like to travel the world and I like to race on road courses and that was definitely in CART's favor. But I was really worried about the series and where it was going, but I had a lot of discussions with (team co-owner) Jerry (Forsythe) and the Player's people and what's coming is going to be great for the series. I think CART is here to stay and it's still going to be competitive. I know we're going to lose a few good names and teams, but what Jerry is doing is going to bring in a few more teams and for sure we're going to have 18 to 20 cars next year. Right now all the series in the world are struggling somewhat, especially the open-wheel series, so I decided to stay in CART because I think what's coming is going to be good."
WHAT DO YOU SEE IN CART AND THE PRODUCT IT PROVIDES THAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO REMAIN A DRIVER IN THE SERIES? "They're definitely going to increase their presence worldwide and I think for so many years they've been stuck between staying in North America or going worldwide. Until they have a definite idea of where they're going I think it's going to be difficult to attract sponsors. Right now we spend half the time in North America and half the time somewhere else in the world, so I think they're going to have more races in other parts of the world and that's attractive to more sponsors. I know that if it's going to happen, which I think it is, there's going to be a few F3000 teams that are going to come over and run CART, so all we're waiting for are the announcements which I hope come soon."
CART IS HUGELY POPULAR IN PLACES LIKE CANADA AND MEXICO AND KIND OF GETS LOST IN THE MIX IN THE UNITED STATES. BEING A NATIVE OF QUEBEC, WHY DO YOU THINK CART IS SO POPULAR IN CANADA? "People in Canada just love open wheel racing, and if you were to bring NASCAR to Canada I don't think it would be as popular. It's just the way people have been raised. NASCAR is so popular in the United States and it attracts so many people that, it's almost funny to say, but there almost no fans left for any other forms of motorsports (laughing). I think CART has to find a way to make a connection with the fans in the United States. NASCAR has established that connection with its drivers and manufacturers and I think that's something CART needs to look at doing."
YOUR OWNER, JERRY FORSYTHE, IS VERY INVOLVED WITH CART AND ONE OF ITS BIGGEST PROPONENTS. JUST HOW PASSIONATE IS HE ABOUT IT? "When he has an idea and wants something I think he will do everything he can do to make it happen, and that's why he's been so successful in his business dealings. Most of the time everything he touches has been successful so we'll see what he does. He's surrounding himself with people who are very knowledgeable about racing like Chris Pook and others who control open-wheel racing around the world, except for Tony George. I think CART is going to succeed, I really do."
YOU'RE STILL IN THE HUNT FOR SECOND PLACED IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP WITH TWO RACES TO GO. HOW GRATIFYING WOULD THAT BE FOR YOU? "That would be fantastic, absolutely fantastic. To finish in the top two or three this year would be very nice and we'll go on to next year with a real chance at winning it, but I really want to finish second this year."