INDIANAPOLIS (August 19, 2003) - Paul Tracy ( ...
INDIANAPOLIS (August 19, 2003) - Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spent his weekend at Mid-Ohio running down and re-capturing the lead in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, but the owner of 25 career CART Champ Car wins has an equally important goal in his sights this weekend as the series heads to Montreal.
The Canadian driver could cement his status as the nation's most popular racer with a victory in Sunday's Molson Indy Montreal, a win that would make him the first driver to ever capture the Canadian Triple Crown. Tracy snared the first two jewels of the prize with convincing wins in Toronto and Vancouver, leading 189 of the 212 laps run in the two races. He now steers the series back to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal for the second running of the Molson Indy Montreal, where the Champ Cars debuted last season to an overflow crowd of nearly 170,000 fans over the three days of racing.
Tracy reassumed the series points lead with a strong performance at Mid-Ohio, earning the maximum 23 championship points and vaulting back into the top spot in the title hunt for the third time this season. Looking to take command in his quest for his first series championship, Tracy carries a 20-point lead over Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) into the weekend with just six races remaining on the 2003 docket. He will look to better his fourth-place finish from a year ago on the 2.709-mile permanent road course, a spot he earned despite contact on the first lap that ended the day for Kenny Brack.
Junqueira saw his run of four consecutive podium finishes stall at Mid-Ohio after a 13th-place finish, making his initial stand atop the series points a short one as he came away scoreless from the stop in Lexington. The result ended a streak for Junqueira in which he had placed in the top five in every race that he had finished this year. The Brazilian qualified third in Montreal a year ago and appeared to have a podium finish in his sights until his engine grenaded 12 laps before the checkered flag.
His Newman/Haas Racing stablemate Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has etched his name in the CART Champ Car record books during the last five-race stretch as he makes a late-season run at the title. His win in Cleveland kicked off a streak of five consecutive top-five finishes, making him the only rookie in series history to score five straight top-fives. He has earned 73 points in the five-race stretch, second only to Tracy's 85 and holds a commanding 53-point lead in the Rookie-of-the-Year standings.
As was the case in the stops in Toronto and Vancouver, the lion's share of the attention will fall on the home-country Player's/Forsythe Racing squad, which will be making its final Canadian appearance carrying the familiar blue-and-white colors of the cigarette manufacturer. The team announced during the Toronto event that it would be unable to continue its racing sponsorship next season due to impending governmental legislation. Tracy and Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will carry the colors, with Carpentier looking to erase the memories of last year's inaugural trip to Montreal, which saw his own podium run evaporate in a cloud of engine smoke on Lap 27.
Rocketsports Racing's Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) also carries the Player's sponsorship as well as the responsibility of racing in the city of his birth. The Montreal native had an uneventful day in his hometown last year, qualifying eighth and finishing 11th. Tagliani already has one pole and three podiums to his credit this season for the rookie team owned by former three-time Trans-Am champion Paul Gentilozzi. He also has a Montreal victory to his credit, winning from the pole in 1999 while competing in the CART Toyota Atlantic Series.
American Spirit Team Johansson comes to Montreal after earning its first CART Champ Car podium finish when Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) qualified second and finished third at Mid-Ohio. His teammate Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) will give the team a further reason to celebrate this weekend as he makes his 200th career series start. Vasser will become only the sixth driver to make 200 CART Champ Car starts and looks to improve on his fifth-place Montreal finish from a season ago.
Another team and driver on the rise is the PK Racing squad with veteran Max Papis (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) behind the wheel. After taking a few races to get acclimated to the team, the Italian has scored three consecutive top-10 finishes and has climbed six spots in the point standings. He has moved up an average of eight spots from his grid position in his last three races including a charge to fourth from a starting spot of 16th at Road America.
Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) kept himself in the championship chase with a fourth-place run at Mid-Ohio and returns to a Montreal track where he climbed nine places from his starting spot last season. Jourdain, who led one orbit around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve last season, is on pace to have his best-ever CART Champ Car season and continues to lead the loop in laps completed (1,457 of 1,489).
Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) also led a lap in Montreal last year and paced 13 laps at Mid-Ohio to lead for the first time since his Portland victory. The veteran driver has scored championship points in each of his last eight starts, including the Portland win, and has vaulted into sixth place in the standings, a points finish that would be his best since starting as an owner/driver with Fernandez Racing three seasons ago.
Bourdais may be steaming toward top rookie honors but Walker Racing's Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) has been the most consistent of the first-year pilots through 13 races. Manning leads Champ Car World Series rookies with 11 top-10 finishes and has improved from his grid position in each of the last six events. His teammate Rodolfo Lavin (#5 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) has tallied title markers in two of the last three races including a 12th-place run at Mid-Ohio.
Fittipaldi-Dingman rookie Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) set a new career standard at Mid-Ohio by leading 10 laps, holding off the series points leader to stay out front before settling for an 11th-place finish. His stablemate Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) has scored three consecutive top-10 finishes and is just 10 points away from breaking into the top 10 in the series standings.
Montreal could also wind up being a place that turns around the fortunes of a couple of times that have seen the breaks go against them in recent events. Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had put together a seven top-10 runs before meeting troubles that have seen him go scoreless in each of the last three races. Herdez Competition's Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has seen a nine-race point-scoring streak broken by two straight DNFs, and both he and Servia will be looking to rebound from a Montreal race that saw them both retire in less than 13 laps with mechanical trouble.
The Molson Indy Montreal gets underway with practice and first-round qualifying on August 22, with final-round qualifying seen live on SPEED Channel Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The 75-lap event gets underway at 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 24 and can be seen on a same-day, tape-delayed basis on SPEED Channel. In addition to the CART Champ Cars, the future series stars will also be on display as the Barber Dodge Pro Series and the CART Toyota Atlantic Series will be in action.