Paul Tracy Leads 2004 Champ Car World Series Points Chase As Title Hunt Heads South For The Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix INDIANAPOLIS (May 18, 2004) -- Getting to wrap his arms around the Vanderbilt Cup last season after winning the ...
Paul Tracy Leads 2004 Champ Car World Series Points Chase As Title Hunt Heads South For The Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix
INDIANAPOLIS (May 18, 2004) -- Getting to wrap his arms around the Vanderbilt Cup last season after winning the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford title was the culmination of 13 years of battling for Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who romped to the crown on the strength of seven wins and six poles.
Having finally achieved that goal apparently has done little to quench his competitive fire, as the Canadian picked up where he left off in the 2004 season opener by blitzing the field at Long Beach to score his 27th career Champ Car victory. The win gave Tracy the points lead after one event and he will look to maintain that position as the Champ Car World Series heads to Monterrey, Mexico and its Fundidora Park layout for the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, where Tracy is the defending race champion.
The Forsythe Championship Racing pilot paced 69 laps around the 2.104-mile circuit a year ago to score the victory, the second of what would be a season-opening string of three straight wins for the eventual series champ. Tracy leads a field of 18 Champ Cars to Monterrey this week, coming off a Long Beach trip that saw him out front for 78 of the 81 laps in claiming the first checkered flag of the 2004 campaign.
The Champ Car World Series will take its fourth trip to Fundidora Park for the May 21-23 event, making its first of two trips to Mexico this season. The Monterrey event has drawn more than 750,000 fans to the road course in the first three seasons with another strong turnout expected in 2004.
The Mexican fans will be cheering for each of the 18 drivers that take the green flag, but will take special interest in a quartet of their countrymen that are looking to bring the Nation's Cup to Mexico for the first time in its 10-year history. RuSPORT's Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) leads the charge, coming off a second-place run in Monterrey a year ago. Jourdain has fared well on the Fundidora Park course, finishing on the lead lap in each of the previous three Champ Car events there and finishing in the top four in each of the last two.
Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has not had the same success in Monterrey, but is looking to turn that around this year after climbing the podium in front of a boisterous Mexico City crowd last year. Dominguez started the 2004 campaign in strong fashion with a fifth-place run in Long Beach but is still looking for his first top-10 placing at Fundidora Park.
Rodolfo Lavin (#3 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made a strong impression in his first event as a member of the three-car Forsythe Championship Racing squad, qualifying ninth and finishing 10th at Long Beach. The San Luis Potosi, Mexico native has a pair of race-day experiences under his belt at Fundidora Park, placing 15th a year ago in the Champ Cars and running seventh in 2002 while competing in Toyota Atlantic.
The final member of the Mexican quartet will be making his first Monterrey appearance as Roberto Gonzalez (#21 Nextel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) steps up to a full season of competition. Gonzalez ran in Mexico City a year ago and carried a Herdez machine to a top-10 finish, but has yet to race at Fundidora Park.
The compatriots will garner the lion's share of the attention from the huge crowds but there are plenty of other drivers that have tasted success at the Monterrey event. Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) returns as the track record holder after setting the new track standard to take the pole last season. Bourdais started the race in the top spot last year and paced the first 16 laps of the event, becoming the second rookie to ever lead a lap around Fundidora Park. A radio malfunction caused him to miss a pit stop and fall deep into the field, where he put on one of the great passing displays of the day in moving up to sixth spot before slight contact damaged his suspension and ended his day.
Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) joins Jourdain and Tracy as the only current drivers with a pair of Monterrey top-fives on their racing resumes. Tagliani scored a fifth-place effort in 2002 in a race where he led 13 laps and ended up on the podium last year. The Rocketsports Racing veteran started and finished in third during the 2003 event after setting the third-fastest lap in track history during Saturday's final qualifying.
Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will be one of the busiest men in all of open-wheel racing for the month of May as he continues the chase for his first Champ Car title, while also piloting a Newman/Haas Racing machine in the Indianapolis 500. Junqueira, who sat on pole for the 2002 500-miler, is currently second in Champ Car points after taking the pole and finishing second in the Long Beach opener. The Brazilian scored a top-five finish in Monterrey last season, coming from seventh on the starting grid.
Coming off a fourth-place finish in the Long Beach opener, Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has found the way to make up positions on the Fundidora Park circuit. The Canadian advanced 10 positions on his way to a seventh-place run in 2002 and gained seven spots during last year's event to end up eighth. He also knows what it is like to run up front in Monterrey, having led a handful of laps during the 2002 event.
Despite the fact that he had very limited time in a Champ Car prior to the '04 season opener, Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) showed why he was one of the most coveted free-agent drivers in racing by moving from 11th on the grid to place sixth in Long Beach. The former Formula 1 pilot picked up an extra championship point by gaining the most positions during the race, and he then went on after the race to run well in the open tests at the Milwaukee Mile.
Oriol Servia (#11 YokeTV.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) returns to Monterrey this year with a new Dale Coyne Racing ride under him, looking to erase the disappointment of a year ago that saw a promising run disappear after 38 laps. Servia qualified fourth last year and had moved up to second in the early going, but missed a chance to pit along with leader Bourdais on Lap 16 and found himself mired in the back of the field. He would end his day after contact on Lap 38 and finish 18th.
Having gotten their Champ Car debuts out of the way at Long Beach, rookies A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Nelson Philippe (#17 Lease Plan Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will get back to business during their Mexican sojourn. Philippe has yet to see the Fundidora Park layout and will rely on his Rocketsports teammate Tagliani, while Allmendinger started third there a year ago on his way to the Toyota Atlantic championship, but had contact in the first turn and had to settle for an eighth-place finish.
The last of the current drivers to have made all three previous Monterrey Champ Car starts, Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has had the least luck at the Mexican track. He ran a strong sixth in the inaugural event but suffered first-lap contact in 2002 that put him out of the race and has yet to improve on that sixth-place finish. One of the most dependable drivers in the Champ Car World Series, Vasser will be making his 185th consecutive Champ Car start this week and is just seven away from tying the all-time record held by Al Unser Jr.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had one of the best qualifying efforts of his rookie campaign last year in Monterrey, gridding ninth before settling for 12th. He also has Toyota Atlantic experience in Monterrey, starting sixth in 2002 before problems left him 23rd. Walker Racing's Mario Haberfeld (#5 Cummins Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) heads to Monterrey fresh off a successful test session at Homestead and will look to follow up a good Long Beach performance that saw him move from 14th on the grid to finish ninth.
The Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix takes place from May 21-23 with qualifying on both Friday and Saturday with the 72-lap race set for Sunday afternoon. The event will be shown live at 4 p.m. Eastern Time and will also air at 4 p.m. in the Pacific Time Zone on Spike TV.