CHAMPCAR/CART: Junqueira dominates rainy Road America race

CHAMPCAR/CART: Junqueira dominates rainy Road America race

Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin - Bruno Junqueira led flag to flag to win today's Mario Andretti Grand Prix of Road America over his Newman/Haas teammate, Sebastien Bourdais. His dominant performance for his first race win of the season put him back in...

Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin - Bruno Junqueira led flag to flag to win today's Mario Andretti Grand Prix of Road America over his Newman/Haas teammate, Sebastien Bourdais. His dominant performance for his first race win of the season put him back in the points lead after previous leader Paul Tracy had a difficult race and scored no points.

Bruno Junqueira.
Photo by John Francis.
After a red flag rain delay of two hours, twenty minutes, the Champ Car racers finally got a green flag at lap 8. The race was shortened to 34 laps (from a scheduled 60 laps) so it could be finished before dark. While the drivers used rain tires for the entire 136-mile race distance, the rain stayed away and the drivers were setting faster and faster laps as the race went on.

Two drivers never saw the green flag. Rodolfo Lavin spun in the wet on lap 1 and hit the guardrail at turn 5 and was out before the rain delay. As the cars came around to take the green flag after the delay, Oriol Servia spun into the barrier as he approached Canada Corner, another car out before the restart.

On the first green, polesitter Jourdain took off into the lead, with Bourdais following closely. Points leader Paul Tracy got around Mario Dominguez for 4th place as the flag waved and immediately began pressuring his Forsythe Racing teammate for third. Under braking for turn 8, Tracy went to the outside to pass Carpentier and made it by cleanly. Unfortunately, Tracy was carrying too much speed and went wide and into the gravel trap. He tried to steer through the gravel but slid into the tire wall and was out of the race.

In the wake of Tracy's off, Michel Jourdain Jr. spun in turn 8 and collected Tiago Monteiro and Darren Manning. Manning's damage was minor but Monteiro and Jourdain were done. The cleanup of the two accidents required a caution period, a lucky break for Manning and also for Roberto Moreno who had a flat tire and had to go slowly to the pits.

Mario Dominguez was the next to fall to the back of the line. When the track went green again, Dominguez was in third behind the Newman/Haas cars. But he lost one position to Patrick Carpentier in turn 5, and then drove off of the course at turn 8 to let several others by. Unlike Tracy's earlier drive-through attempt, Dominguez made it through the gravel and could continue.

Junqueira stretched his lead over Bourdais in the middle laps of the race, as Carpentier was closing in on Bourdais. Alex Tagliani was catching Carpentier too, and as those two disputed third place for a while, Bourdais was able to get away a bit. Behind them, Adrian Fernandez was trying to hold Max Papis off for fifth place, and Manning was working his way past Dominguez, Jimmy Vasser, Mario Haberfeld and the two Dale Coyne Racing cars of Geoff Boss and Gualter Salles.

Dominguez went off again on lap 19, and this time got stuck in a gravel trap. This triggered the race's final caution period, just in time for the final round of pit stops. Two drivers, Carpentier and Fernandez, had slow pit stops, causing both of them to drop in the order. Carpentier restarted the race in sixth place and Fernandez fell to 13th, the last car on the lead lap.

Junqueira pulled out to a seemingly comfortable lead over Bourdais, and Tagliani, now finally ahead of Carpentier, was following within a few seconds of Bourdais. Manning, in fourth after a good pit stop by the Walker Racing crew, was getting pressured for the position by a surprising Max Papis, with Carpentier close to Papis' wing.

In the race's final five laps, Bourdais saw Tagliani looming in his mirrors, so he picked up his pace and began setting fast lap after fast lap to close within a second of his teammate at the end. Asked afterward about his chances to get around Junqueira, he said: "I would not try. He is trying for the championship."

Tagliani finished a solid third and Papis got around Manning with two laps to go to finish fourth. Carpentier made dramatic pass of Manning at the exit of the race's final turn and took away fifth place.

Roberto Moreno was making progress from his earlier troubles and got past Boss and Vasser in the last segment to finish seventh. Haberfeld also got by Vasser and Boss to take eighth. Boss faltered and fell to 13th at the end, after running the best race of his young Champ Car career. Vasser and teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay were ninth and tenth at the finish and Salles and Fernandez got the final points in 12th and 13th.

With a clean sweep of the points for Junqueira - 20 for the race, 1 each for winning pole both days and 1 for leading most laps - he now holds a three-point advantage on Tracy. Jourdain holds onto 3rd place despite not scoring any points, and Bourdais kept himself in contention in fourth, nine behind Jourdain and 45 behind Tracy.

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