CHAMPCAR/CART: Miami: Team Players race report

Eventful day for drivers Tracy and Carpentier as Player's makes its sponsorship bow after 10-year run Miami, Florida, September 28, 2003 A chaotic, incident-filled Champ Car World Series race on the narrow Grand Prix Americas street circuit ...

Eventful day for drivers Tracy and Carpentier as Player's makes its sponsorship bow after 10-year run

Miami, Florida, September 28, 2003 A chaotic, incident-filled Champ Car World Series race on the narrow Grand Prix Americas street circuit produced some stunning developments on Sunday, as the expected showdown between Team Player's driver and championship leader Paul Tracy and his closest rival Bruno Junqueira failed to materialize.

With Tracy forced to retire after contact with Junqueira's teammate Sebastien Bourdais on lap 69 of the 135-lap race, and Junqueira involved in an incident on lap 93 that knocked him from contention to a ninth-place finish, the podium had some unfamiliar faces. Mexico's Mario Dominguez, who grabbed the lead on lap 109, won his second career Champ Car race. His teammate Roberto Moreno of Brazil was second, completing the Herdez's team's very first one-two finish. Finland's Mika Salo, making only his second Champ Car start, was third for his first podium of the season.

Team Player's driver Patrick Carpentier, meanwhile, was one of the biggest gainers of the day, patiently working his way from 18th on the starting grid to a sixth-place finish. The performance enabled Carpentier to move within six points of fourth-place Bourdais in the drivers' standings. Only 10 of 19 drivers finished the race, which had six cautions, and only seven drivers were on the lead lap at the end.

The race was the final one for Player's as sponsor of the Canadian racing team program that it has operated for the last 10 years. Player's must end its sponsorship by October 1 to comply with Canadian government legislation. The team will be racing without the Player's logo for the last three races of the season, and it has decided to replace the logo by words of appreciation to their fans, and it will also put the names of about 600 fans on each of the cars. Fans can register for the chance to get their name on the cars on the lastlap.ca web site.

While Tracy had his first-place margin over Junqueira sliced to 13 points, with the latter collecting four points for finishing ninth, things might have been worse. Tracy had moved into third place, from fifth on the grid, when he got tangled up with Bourdais as the two battled for position on lap 68. The ensuing contact ended the race for both drivers. At that stage, Junqueira, who was running second, stood to gain 16 points in the standings, which would have reduced Tracy's lead to a single point. But Junqueira got into the back of Adrian Fernandez on lap 97 and fell back to 13th, before more on-track incidents eventually moved him up to ninth.

"We're fortunate to be leaving here with the championship lead intact," said Tracy. "The car wasn't handling that well today. Bourdais had been trying to get by me for quite a while, and then when he made the pass, I tried to get it back right away, but I wasn't close enough. He turned in, and it was his corner. It's my fault. It's not the type of thing you want to have happen when you're trying to win a championship."

Carpentier, who had got into a tire wall following a spin in qualifying and was relegated to the back row of the grid, used patience and a strategy of three pit stops to make up considerable ground during the race.

"Usually when you start at the back, you want to pass as many as you can at the start, but with this being a very tight track, I had to be more patient," he explained. "At the end, it paid off. It was a difficult race, and I was totally dehydrated at the end, but Team Player's gave me a fast car and did a great job in the pits, so it turned out to be a good weekend after all."

The battle for the championship continues in two weeks as the drivers take to the 2.7-mile street course in Mexico City for the Gran Premio Telmex on October 12.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Mika Salo , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais