Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, August 20, 2000 For the first 37 laps of today's 55-lap Motorola 220, Team Player's rookie Alex Tagliani seemed headed for his first FedEx CART Championship triumph, on the same Road America course where Jacques ...
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, August 20, 2000 For the first 37 laps of today's 55-lap Motorola 220, Team Player's rookie Alex Tagliani seemed headed for his first FedEx CART Championship triumph, on the same Road America course where Jacques Villeneuve got his first CART win with Team Player's in 1994.
With a spectacular burst from his third position on the starting grid, Tagliani got past Gil de Ferran and pole-sitter Dario Franchitti before corner 1 and was the leader for 23 of the next 37 laps. He had the lead on lap 38, when his Player's Reynard suddenly slowed and he had to retire because of gearbox problems.
"This was our race," said Tagliani. "There's nothing you can do about a mechanical failure. It's one of those things that can happen. I'm really disappointed for everybody on Team Player's. We were saving fuel and the brakes, and we were still quick. The car was running extremely well until that problem on lap 38 came up."
Canadian Paul Tracy drove to victory his second of the season - on the demanding 4.048-mile road course that saw 15 of the 25-driver field fail to finish. That group included Team Player's driver Patrick Carpentier, who was forced to retire on lap 16. Mexico's Adrian Fernandez finished second, 7.45 seconds behind Tracy, while rookie Kenny Brack of Sweden took third.
Tagliani had started on the inside of Row 2, directly behind Franchitti, and he took charge as soon as the green flag was dropped.
"I was right in Dario's draft, while de Ferran was by himself on the long straight before corner 1," explained Tagliani of his brilliant move, in which he darted between the two drivers. "I was able to come out of there first because Dario chose to start the race at corner 14 and that allowed me to use the draft for a longer stretch of road."
Carpentier, who has consistently made strong comebacks in races this season, was again making his way up the field today through the first 15 laps of the race. He was running in 13th position when misfortune struck in corner 3 on the 16th lap.
"Being 19th on the starting grid, I knew that I had to drive aggressively to make up several positions," explained Carpentier. "We had a good start and the balance seemed to be just right. Unfortunately, while I was in corner 3, I put two wheels off the track and the car just took off on me."
"It's been a tough weekend, with a lot of bad luck, and I just have to put that behind me. I'm looking forward to going to Laguna Seca for two days of testing later this week. We'll try to improve the car for the next race in Vancouver, where I had my best finish of the season last year, with a second place."
Michael Andretti, who did not finish today's race, continues to lead the drivers' standings with 125 points, although his lead was cut to 13 points over Roberto Moreno, who moved into second place with his fourth-place finish in the Motorola 220. Carpentier (71 points) and Tagliani (45) are 12th and 15th respectively.
Team Player's driver Andrew Bordin finished fourth in today's Atlantic race, which was won by series leader Buddy Rice. Bordin is tied for third in the drivers' standings with 103 points.