CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca: Race report

Patrick Carpentier Dominates Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Second Consecutive Season in Taking Champ Car World Series Victory MONTEREY, Calif. (September 12, 2004) -- After last year's wire-to-wire Champ Car victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca,...

Patrick Carpentier Dominates Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Second Consecutive Season in Taking Champ Car World Series Victory

MONTEREY, Calif. (September 12, 2004) -- After last year's wire-to-wire Champ Car victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had Sunday's date circled as the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford returned to the picturesque Monterey track for the 11th round of the 2004 season.

The circle turned into a gold star on the Carpentier calendar as the Canadian driver dominated for the second consecutive season at the 2.238-mile permanent road course, leading 40 of the day's 79 laps to score his first Champ Car win of the year. The Forsythe Championship Racing pilot spent the first part of the day content to follow teammate Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) around the hilly course, never trailing his stablemate by more than a half-second through the first 30 laps of the day.

But Carpentier made it worth the wait for the fans that showed up on a perfect weather day in Monterey, as he got to the front of the line after the first round of pit stops and threatened to run away from the field. He built a 22-second lead at one point and survived a late restart to beat Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to the line of 5.395 seconds to score the fifth victory of his Champ Car career.

The race was action-packed from the drop of the green flag as Tracy and polesitter Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) roared into the first corner nose-to-tail, dropping Carpentier back to third. Bourdais would not last through the first lap however as slight contact between Tracy and Bourdais left the series points leader with a flat left rear tire. Bourdais' pit stop to fix the flat handed the lead to Tracy, who led a three-car train that included Carpentier and rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

The trio stayed within two seconds of each other through the first set of pit stops, but the trip down Pit Lane would scramble things a bit for the entire field. Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) assumed the lead on the track by virtue of a Lap 8 pit stop, while Carpentier leapfrogged ahead of Tracy during their stops. The defending series champion would drop out of the running just seven laps after his stop however, as he went off course in Turn Two, suffering damage to his front wing assembly that would cause him to stop again for repairs.

Allmendinger followed suit soon after as he tried to make an inside move on Oriol Servia (#11 YokeTV.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in the Corkscrew turn and ended up on the wrong side of the unintentional contact. Allmendinger emerged from the confrontation with suspension damage that would end his day, while Servia motored on unharmed. Servia, who had started 12th, steadily picked his way through the early carnage and made some strong passes on the track to put himself in podium contention, moving into third at the race's halfway point.

But third was a long way behind Carpentier at that point as the defending race winner had fashioned a 22-second lead by Lap 53. The lead was chased away with one wave of the yellow flag however as a stall by Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) bunched the field up for a Lap 57 restart. Junqueira was the beneficiary of the yellow, but took the restart with the lapped car of Rodolfo Lavin (#3 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) between himself and the leading car of Carpentier.

Junqueira would never get any closer than he was at the green flag and would content himself with a second-place run. The podium finish for Junqueira is the seventh of the season and the 23rd of his career, but more importantly, it allowed him to slice 11 more points from the points lead held by his teammate Bourdais, bringing the Brazilian driver to within 24 points of the series leader.

Carpentier ran away from the field again at the restart, but the action behind him left a number of finishes in doubt. Junqueira was ensconced in second while Servia had a five second advantage over his pursuers in third. But the train behind them battled nose-to-tail over the final 20 laps as Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Tagliani and Bourdais all fought fiercely for the fourth through seventh positions.

Jourdain was equal to the task and would come home in fourth while Hunter-Reay bagged his first top-five finish since Road America. Tagliani, who led seven laps on the day, finished sixth but the points leader Bourdais had one more brush with misfortune to suffer before taking the checkered flag. Trying on his last lap to steal a position and two championship points from Tagliani, Bourdais slid off course in Turn Four, and by the time he recovered he had lost seventh place to Mario Haberfeld (#5 Cummins Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone).

Bourdais ended up eighth while Guy Smith's (#17 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) career-high finish of ninth and Tracy rounded out the top 10. The series takes the week off next week before heading to the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval for the Bridgestone 400 Presented by Corona.

Quotes from the top three finishers:

PATRICK CARPENTIER (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I almost lost it towards the end because I just lost focus. Since I was running by myself, I just drifted off and caught myself just in time as two of my tires went off, I was lucky to be able to save it. The Indeck car was good, it got a little loose on the last 4-5 laps, but not complaints other than that. I really love this place. I guess you have to flip over the fence to do good here, because I have done real well here since that incident!"

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I am real happy. It was a good weekend for me and the PacifiCare car. We had great expectations coming here this year after running well last year. However, the car was not as good and we couldn't find the right balance. Then I crashed the morning before final qualifying and my team had to work hard to get the car ready. We started 8th, which wasn't really good, so we knew it would be hard. The Championship is still wide open and I am still fighting hard. This really gives us a boost for us to do well in Las Vegas and keep fighting."

ORIOL SERVIA (#11 yokeTV.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "This feels great! We were so close in Cleveland and in so many races, it is great to finally get the result. We have all been working very hard and proving that we are capable together. It is a good feeling to finally do it, especially starting were we did. I did not have a great weekend because we were having problems with the car. It was a great race, three cars went off track in front of us, but otherwise, I passed a lot on track, our pit stops were good, and the car was good. I just kept talking to the car, telling it what to do, and he (the car) listened to me. We still need more speed, but it is great to show what we can do, a team that does not have a huge budget, but a lot of dedication."

NOTEWORTHY

* Patrick Carpentier became the first back-to-back winner at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca since Bryan Herta in 1998-99

* Oriol Servia's podium finish for Dale Coyne Racing was the first podium for the Coyne team since Roberto Moreno finished third at the inaugural U.S. 500 at Michigan in 1996.

* Carpentier's victory also boosted Canada's lead in the Nation's Cup standings to 43 points after 11 races, which is the largest lead that any nation has held so far this season.

* Michel Jourdain Jr's start today was the 149th of his career, vaulting him ahead of Scott Brayton for 12th on the Modern Era (1979-Present) starts list. It was also his 146th consecutive start, moving him into fifth place on that Champ Car list.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Guy Smith , Bruno Junqueira , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain
Teams Dale Coyne Racing