Pacificare driver Junqueira charged from 11th to fourth place finish in 20th annual G.I. Joe'S 200; Lilly driver Bourdais looked likely to bring team back-to-back podiums here but retired with wing damage after running third, - PacifiCare driver...
Pacificare driver Junqueira charged from 11th to fourth place finish in 20th annual G.I. Joe'S 200; Lilly driver Bourdais looked likely to bring team back-to-back podiums here but retired with wing damage after running third,
- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira was almost able to bring Newman/Haas Racing back-to-back podium finishes at Portland International Raceway in today's G.I. Joe's 200 with his fourth place finish after he charged back from his worst qualifying position of the season of 11th place. Paul Tracy swapped places with previous points leader Michel Jourdain while Junqueira now sits four points behind Tracy in second with 95 points to Tracy's 99 and is four points ahead of Jourdain, 91, in the standings with 23 points available at the following event in Cleveland.
Weather conditions for the 100-lap race were the same as the previous two days as rain was forecast although unlike Friday and Saturday fortunately it never arrived in levels other than heavy sprinkles on various parts of the 1.969-mile permanent road course. The start of the event took four attempts to achieve due to various drivers not being in correct formation but once the race was underway on the fourth lap Junqueira passed Jimmy Vasser and Ryan Hunter-Reay. He held ninth place until Lap 13 when teammate Sebastien Bourdais pit due to a tire pressure problem. He held eighth place through the first of three mandatory pit stops each 28 laps after he pitted on Lap 16 during the caution when Geoff Boss drove off course. He moved into seventh place on Lap 24 when he passed Mario Haberfeld and began to close the gap on Darren Manning before he passed him on Lap 41 prior to the second round of pit stops on Lap 44. Although light-to-medium sprinkles were reported around the track the field elected to remain on slick tires. He maintained his position leaving the pits but immediately gained a spot when the top two cars of Paul Tracy and Michel Jourdain collided while fighting for position and only Tracy immediately continued. He held fifth place behind Oriol Servia for the rest of the stint before his third and final pit stop on Lap 72. He maintained his position when he returned to the race and ran within .5-seconds of fourth place Alex Tagliani in fifth before he moved up a position on Lap 91 of 100 when third place runner Bourdais pitted and subsequently retired with rear wing damage. He maintained his proximity to Tagliani but the light sprinkles began again so he decided not to take an additional risk and took the checkered flag in fourth place. Adrian Fernandez won his first race as an owner-driver and eighth overall with Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani in second and third respectively. Jourdain, who led 42 of 100 laps before tangling with Tracy, finished 12th and earned only one point. It was Junqueira's seventh top-five finish in eight events this season. Following are his post race comments:
"It was great to finish fourth from where we started (11th)," said Junqueira. "We didn't win yet this season but we have been consistent enough to finish in the top-five in all but one race so far. It's a shame about Milwaukee (crashed) but you have to be consistent to win the Championship and we have done a good job of that so far. We're going to get a win sooner or later. Let's see if we can get our first win in (the next race in) Cleveland. The PacifiCare team did a good job on the pit stops and I was able to pass a couple of cars in Turn 1. I felt I could pass Tagliani (for third) but when I saw the sprinkles I decided not to take the chance."
- Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais had a third place finish slip from his grasp for the second time in the same number of weeks when he was forced to retire due to a rear wing failure on Lap 91 of 100 in the G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway. To make matters worse, Bourdais and the Lilly crew had utilized good strategy, the help of a couple of perfectly timed caution flags and really fast driving while others were in the pits to recover from an early tire pressure problem that dropped them back to 18th place. The loss of points from the race in Laguna Seca as well as today caused him to drop from fourth (prior to Laguna Seca) to seventh in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series point standings with 53 to leader Paul Tracy's 99 after today's race. As it had done the two previous days, rain threatened to become a factor in the race although conditions never deteriorated to more than medium sprinkles in various parts of the track.
At the beginning of the 100-lap event on the 1.969-mile permanent road course, Bourdais held his position through three failed attempts to start the race due to various drivers being out of proper formation. Once the green flag flew on Lap 4, eventual third place finisher Alex Tagliani passed Bourdais. Bourdais remained in fifth place when his team informed him around Lap 10 that the pressure on his left rear tire was low. Bourdais was able to hold his track position initially but quickly started to lose ground and sixth place runner Oriol Servia began closing the gap. On Lap 13 the team called him into the pits for a new set of tires and fuel. He returned to the race as the last running car in 18th place but moved up to 17th when Geoff Boss briefly stopped on course, which brought out the yellow flag on Lap 16. The field utilized this yellow and made their first of three mandatory pit stops each 28 laps and Bourdais moved up to 13th place. In order to stay near the same pit strategy as the field the team had Bourdais pit on Lap 17 for tires and fuel. On Lap 18 he made his third stop so that the team could replaced his new cold tires with his faster, hot ones and sent him back on track. The combination of the additional stops would allow Bourdais to be able to drive for one additional lap - at the least - before his next pit stop. He ran in 16th place until he passed Max Papis on Lap 21 and gained another position on Lap 22 when 10th place runner Ryan Hunter-Reay retired with apparent clutch problems. He held 14th place until Lap 33 when he passed Mario Dominguez and then Rodolfo Lavin on the following lap for 12th. When the next round of pit stops occurred on Lap 44 he moved up to fourth place and drove as fast as he could in order gain valuable track time. He was in third place on Lap 45 before he made his next pit stop on Lap 46 under caution to restart previous race leader Michel Jourdain's car after he and Paul Tracy made contact and Tracy continued. After his stop, Bourdais returned to the race in sixth place, which he held until the final round of pit stops on Lap 72. As the rest of the field pitted he moved up to second place and drove as fast as he could to gain track position before he briefly took the lead on Lap 73 before relinquishing the position to make his final stop. He returned to the race in third place and everything was going as planned for a strong finish until Lap 86 when a PacifiCare crew member relayed information from Junqueira that Bourdais' rear wing looked to be slightly moving. For the next two laps by the pits, the crews tried to evaluate his rear wing. The yellow flag came out on Lap 88 to move Max Papis's car to a safe location after he made contact with Lavin, who continued. Due to the slow speeds the team was unable to check the severity of the situation and Bourdais continued on track as the race returned to green conditions on Lap 91. Bourdais was immediately called into the pits because the rear wing was not stable enough to safely continue and he retired in 14th place. After a brief interview with CBS Sports he was visibly disappointed by the outcome of the race. He dropped from his pre-race rank of fifth into seventh with 53 points to leader Paul Tracy's 99 after eight of 19 races. Following are his post race comments:
"I have no idea what happened," said Bourdais. "I just think that we cannot make a result. There are no words for how disappointed this is especially since it was the second race in a row that we lost a third place finish."
- Next Up...The CART Champ Car World Series will take a week off before heading to Cleveland, Ohio for the second night race of the season and first on a road course. Newman/Haas Racing has won two events here and four poles as well as total of nine appearances on the podium. Junqueira retired with mechanical failure last season and retired after he made contact with the rear of Fittipaldi's car entering the pits in 2001. In 2002, NHR driver da Matta retired with engine failure after he led the first 19 laps while Fittipaldi had a third place finish slip from his grasp when he ran out of fuel.