Fontana, California, October 30, 2000 The final race of the 2000 FedEx CART Championship ended in heartbreaking fashion for Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier as the two Team Player's drivers were the victims of unfortunate incidents at the...
Fontana, California, October 30, 2000 The final race of the 2000 FedEx CART Championship ended in heartbreaking fashion for Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier as the two Team Player's drivers were the victims of unfortunate incidents at the California 500. The race was resumed from lap 34 today after rain on Sunday forced a postponement.
Tagliani, a rookie whose top performance in the series was a fourth place at Long Beach, held down third place and was on his way to the first podium of his CART career when his engine let go with two laps to go in the 250-lap race, causing contact with the wall in turn 1. Tagliani was removed from the car by the CART medical team and transported to hospital for x-rays. According to Dr. Steve Olvey, CART's Director of Medical Affairs, Tagliani was awake and alert but reported discomfort in his mid-back and abdomen.
Carpentier, meanwhile, was a victim of race attrition. He had the misfortune of getting caught up in the tail end of an incident on lap 89 and was forced to go off into the grassy area beside the track. Carpentier was eventually able to get back on the track but was three laps down. He made some steady gains as the race progressed but had to park the car on lap 155 because of a broken oil pump in the gearbox.
Tagliani had withstood a war of attrition on the extremely tough Fontana super oval and moved past Gil de Ferran for third place with only six laps remaining. He was in a sprint to the finish with Roberto Moreno and leader Christian Fittipaldi when smoke streamed from the back of the car on lap 249 and his car slid into the wall.
Fittipaldi held off Moreno to win the race for his first victory of the season, making him a series' record 11th different driver to win a CART race this season. De Ferran, with his third-place finish, won the drivers' championship, edging runner-up Adrian Fernandez, who was fifth today, by 10 points. Tagliani, one of only seven drivers in the 26-driver field still on the track with two laps to go, placed sixth.
"I feel bad for Alex," said Carpentier. "He was doing so great until his engine blew in corner 1. He was on his way to his first podium, and it would have been a great way to finish his rookie season."
Carpentier, who finished 11th in the drivers' standings with 101 points, was also aiming to end the season in grand style, but his hopes were dashed when contact ahead of him between Oriol Servia and Michael Andretti turned the track into a hazardous zone.
"When I got into turn 1, there was a lot of debris and smoke," explained Carpentier. "I started to slide on Michael's (Andretti) oil and (Team Player's Vice-President, Operations) Neil Micklewright advised me to go high because Michael had gone down to the apron. Unfortunately, Servia hit the outside wall and I had to brake real hard and spun down into the grassy area. It took a long time before I got a tow out of there."
When Carpentier returned to the track, he was among the fastest until the gearbox problem surfaced, resulting in a loss of oil pressure. "At that point, Team Player's told me to bring the car in," said Carpentier. "It's too bad because the team had really given me a great car and we were gradually moving back to the front."