Cicero, Illinois, July 29, 2001 Gutsy driving, productive pit strategy and a timely full-course caution enabled Team Player's driver Patrick Carpentier to follow up on his first career CART victory last week with a second straight podium ...
Cicero, Illinois, July 29, 2001 Gutsy driving, productive pit strategy and a timely full-course caution enabled Team Player's driver Patrick Carpentier to follow up on his first career CART victory last week with a second straight podium performance, a second-place finish in Sunday's Target Grand Prix on the 1-mile Chicago oval. Carpentier finished 4.80 seconds behind Sweden's Kenny Brack and seven-tenths of a second ahead of Brazil's Gil de Ferran.
It was the third consecutive trip to the podium by a Team Player's driver, equaling the longest such streak in team history. The only other three-podium stretch occurred in 1995, when Jacques Villeneuve finished first, third and first in Road America, Toronto and Cleveland respectively.
Alex Tagliani, the Team Player's driver who started the current streak of success with a second-place finish in Toronto on July 15, drove to a strong sixth-place finish in today's event, the fifth straight race in which he has been in the points.
Carpentier's second and final pit stop came off sequence on lap 140, a stop that was necessary because he hadn't taken on a full load of fuel on his first trip to the pits. Carpentier had dropped back to 20th following the second pit stop, but masterfully worked his way into contention while conserving fuel, although, with his dwindling fuel supply, he desperately needed a caution flag to be able to finish. That bit of good fortune occurred 25 laps from the end of the 225-mile race, when Mauricio Gugelmin's spinout produced 10 laps under yellow. Carpentier moved into second place on the re-start and grittily held on to the position despite some understeer on the car.
"You need luck, good timing, a little bit of everything," said Carpentier, whose recent surge has moved him into ninth place in the drivers' standings with 51 points. "This is what has been happening to Team Player's in the last three races. In today's race, we had a bit of confusion and it was the first time that confusion paid off for me. I thought I wasn't supposed to come into the pits under the last yellow, but the guys were all set up in the pits. So, we decided to try to go for it with the fuel we had left because we couldn't come back in anyway and we got lucky. I'm very happy to be back on the podium so quickly. It's a credit to Team Player's and the great job everyone is doing."
Tagliani, who was 14th on the grid, was equally impressive and tenacious in gaining positions throughout the race. He pitted on lap 118 and ducked into the pits for a splash during the yellow with 25 laps to go. He was running in second at the time, and only lost four positions as a result of the quick pit stop.
"At the end, I just had no tires left at all, and that made it difficult to catch Scott (Dixon) because his team put on four new tires, while Team Player's elected to go with just a splash of fuel so I would only lose the minimum amount of positions, a strategy that paid off. I was losing grip out there, but I hung on. We scored points again and we're creeping up to the leaders. After the next race, in Mid-Ohio, I feel we'll have enough points in the standings to be in the fastest qualifying group."
Tagliani is charging up the drivers' standings, pulling into 15th place with 38 points, only 12 points from cracking the top 10. With his victory in Chicago, Brack extended his lead atop the drivers' standings to 22 points (104-82) over Helio Castroneves.
Following a one-week break, Team Player's returns to action on August 12 for the Miller Lite 200, a road-course event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.