Paul Tracy reclaims Cart Champ Car World Series points lead after leading first-ever 1-2 sweep for Player's/Forsythe Racing at Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 10, 2003) - There aren't many things that Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) hasn't done in the seat of a CART Champ Car but the Canadian veteran got to cross a couple of lines off what was already a short list by taking a victory Sunday at the Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio.
Tracy scored his first-ever win at the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, taking the pole and leading 69 laps on the day to claim his sixth victory of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford campaign. The win also restored Tracy to the top of the series point standings for the third time this season, giving him a 20-point advantage over Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
The victory was also part of the first 1-2 CART Champ Car sweep in Player's/Forsythe Racing history as Tracy led teammate and defending Mid-Ohio winner Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to the finish line by .610 seconds. Carpentier used strong pit work and a furious mid-race run to put himself in position to steal the win, but he would content himself with the runner-up spot on the day after Tracy sealed the deal on a late-race restart.
Carpentier would get the quick pit work on his second stop from his Player's crew vaulting him from fourth to second coming out of Pit Lane, and getting him around Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) to move into the runner-up spot. He would spend the next 24 laps tearing into Tracy's lead as the leader was caught behind the off-sequence car of leader Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone). Carpentier whittled a 10-second lead down to less than one second with 27 laps to run while the rookie Hunter-Reay refused to go away in third place.
Once clear of Monteiro, Tracy would find a little more breathing room and appeared to dodge a bullet on Lap 72 when Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came to a stop just to the right of the track in Turn Seven. CART Stewards determined that Dominguez was not in the racing line when he came to a halt and the Champ Car Simple Green Safety Team was able to remove the car from harm's way, allowing Tracy to maintain his lead.
But that all changed 11 laps later when the charge of the race ended in the Turn Nine tires. Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) had come from 14th on the starting grid to pull within hailing distance of his third-place teammate. Vasser, who ran the fastest lap of the race, had made short work of the back of the field and was looking for his first podium of the year when he spun off, bringing out the yellow flag and bunching the field back up for what would be a four-lap sprint to the finish.
Tracy was up to the task on the restart, pulling away to a two-second lead within the first two laps, and drew away as he paced Carpentier and Hunter-Reay to the finish line. The win would be the 25th of Tracy's Champ Car career and gave him sole possession of fifth on the series' all-time victory list.
Hunter-Reay would have the best race of his 13-race Champ Car career Sunday as he stayed within sight of the leaders all day, capitalizing on his second-place starting position. The Florida native was never lower than third all day and put the lessons learned as a graduate of the CART Champ Car Ladder System to good use in earning his first series podium and the first for the first-year American Spirit Team Johansson.
Tracy wins Mid-Ohio
The season points race changed dramatically on Lap 12 when Junqueira and Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) tangled heading into the second corner, Servia initiating contact with Junqueira and driving both cars into the tire barrier. Junqueira would continue on after getting back on track while Servia suffered his third-consecutive scoreless weekend, but the Road America winner lost a pair of laps to the altercation and ended his day in 13th.
Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Hilliard, Ohio based Team Rahal earned his best-ever Mid-Ohio finish with a fourth-place run, keeping his championship hopes alive while rookie points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scored his fifth consecutive top-five finish. Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned his fourth-consecutive Mid-Ohio top 10 by coming home in sixth while Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) settled for seventh. Things looked brighter for Fernandez earlier in the race as he and new race engineer Chris Finch gambled on a pit strategy that would give the Mexican veteran the lead for 13 laps early in the event, but he would settle for seventh ahead of rookie Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone).
PK Racing's Max Papis (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned his third consecutive top-10 finish with a ninth-place run while Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10. Monteiro scored a pair of points for an 11th-place run after leading 10 laps while rookie Rodolfo Lavin (#5 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone grabbed the final points-paying position.
Tracy will look to complete an unprecedented Canadian Triple Crown in two weeks as he looks to follow his Toronto and Vancouver wins with a climb atop the Molson Indy Montreal podium. Qualifying starts Friday, August 22nd with the second running of the event on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve taking place Sunday afternoon.
TOP THREE FINISHERS QUOTES
"I think the thing that we focused on the most was, you know, I had a long talk with Tony (Cicale) this week. He said, 'We got to go into Mid-Ohio, we're not going to win the championship at Mid-Ohio but we definitely can lose the championship at Mid-Ohio if we don't have a good race.' We can't afford to have a bad race from here on out. The championship is going to be a fight to the end."
"This weekend my guys had really, really fast stops. So it was good. It was a close call coming out of the pits. I didn't know if I was going to have to go in the grass there or something. But came out up front. The car was good. We caught up to Paul, but to pass him would have been another story."
"Everybody did a solid job today. The whole team did a great job. I drove hard. I drove fast and consistent. The whole team did a great job. I think Jimmy would have been right there behind me. He's helped me out all weekend long. It's been a complete team effort. For a rookie team, this seems harder than it seems, truly."
Sebastien Bourdais established a new CART Champ Car record Sunday, becoming the first series rookie to ever score five consecutive top-five finishes.
Paul Tracy again continued his assault on the all-time CART list, leading 69 laps to move up to second in that category with 3,322, leapfrogging Rick Mears. His 25th career win puts him in sole possession of fourth on the CART list while his seventh career win from the pole breaks a tie with Danny Sullivan and Al Unser Jr. for fourth.
The 1-2 sweep for Player's/Forsythe Racing was the team's first, although they have had both of their drivers finish on the podium, including this season when Carpentier and Tracy finished 1-3 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.