CHAMPCAR/CART: Persistance pays off for Carpentier at Laguna Seca

Monterey, California, September 10, 2000 Team Player's driver Patrick Carpentier delivered a gutsy and gritty performance in working his way up the field to finish ninth in today's Grand Prix of Monterey, the 16th race of the season on the FedEx...

Monterey, California, September 10, 2000 Team Player's driver Patrick Carpentier delivered a gutsy and gritty performance in working his way up the field to finish ninth in today's Grand Prix of Monterey, the 16th race of the season on the FedEx CART Championship schedule.

Driving on the tough and demanding 2.238-mile Laguna Seca road course, where a spectacular spin-out in Friday's qualifying sent his car vaulting over the wall and left him with a sore neck and back, Carpentier charged from 18th on the starting grid to earn his ninth top-10 finish in the 13 races in which he has competed this year. Carpentier's comeback during the race also won him the Hard-Charger Award, symbolic of the greatest improvement in track position from the beginning to the end of the race.

Carpentier's teammate Alex Tagliani, who had been among the fastest in the morning warm-up, encountered some problems with a defective spark plug during the race and finally had to bring the car in for good on lap 55 of the 83-lap event.

Brazilian teammates Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran finished 1-2 respectively, while Scotland's Dario Franchitti completed the podium. Castroneves, who won for the third time this season, crossed the finish line 0.954 seconds ahead of de Ferran. The victory enabled de Ferran to take over the lead in the drivers' standings with 132 points, six more than Michael Andretti. Carpentier, who is 13th with 75 points, moved within 13 points of 10th-place Cristiano da Matta.

"It was a pretty good race, but I'm especially happy to end the day with the four wheels on the ground, with the sun shining on top of the car, not on the undertray," Carpentier said, referring to the Friday incident, when the car landed upside-down. "Team Player's had a good race strategy today and did a great job during the pit stops, enabling me to gain several positions."

Although Laguna Seca is a difficult track on which to execute passing manoeuvres, Carpentier was able to move up a few positions through that process, as well. "My car was handling pretty well when I was alone on the track, but when I was right behind another car trying to pass it got quite unstable because of the turbulence," explained Carpentier. "Even with that small handicap, I was able to make a few passes, although drivers were weaving in front of me trying to avoid being passed."

The spark plug problems for Tagliani surfaced early in the race, causing his car to lose close to 150 horsepower, running with only seven cylinders. "Even with that, we were somehow able to keep up the pace for quite a long while," remarked Tagliani. "It's too bad that problem occurred because the Team Player's crew had found the right balance during this morning's warm-up. We'll just have to forget about this one and set our sights on St. Louis (Madison) next weekend."

Round 17 of the 20-race schedule will be run on the 1.270-mile Gateway International Raceway next Sunday.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Alex Tagliani , Dario Franchitti , Cristiano da Matta