CHAMPCAR/CART: Road America: Race report

Bruno Junqueira claims first victory of the 2003 season and moves into Cart Champ Car World Series points lead by leading wire-to-wire at Road America ELKHART LAKE, Wis., (August 3, 2003) -- Heading into Road America, Bruno Junqueira ( ...

Bruno Junqueira claims first victory of the 2003 season and moves into Cart Champ Car World Series points lead by leading wire-to-wire at Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis., (August 3, 2003) -- Heading into Road America, Bruno Junqueira (#1 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had done everything this season except win a pole and a race, but his remarkable consistency this season had him within reach of the points lead in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

Junqueira took care of all of those little oversights on a rainy Sunday in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, romping to a wire-to-wire victory in the Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America Presented by Briggs & Stratton. The Newman/Haas Racing driver led all 34 laps in a rain-shortened event and held off a furious charge at the end of the day from his teammate Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to claim his first win of the year and the fourth of his career.

Bourdais made a remarkable run to challenge his stablemate at the end of the day, closing a four-second gap to a scant 0.708 seconds on the last lap before settling for second, giving Newman/Haas Racing its first 1-2 sweep since the duo went 1-2 in reverse order at Brands Hatch in May. The win, coupled with Paul Tracy's (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) DNF after a Lap 11 crash, gave Junqueira the series points lead for the first time in his CART Champ Car career.

The race started under treacherous conditions in rainy Elkhart Lake, forcing CART Champ Car Stewards to start the race under the caution flag. Persistent rains forced officials to red-flag the race after two laps and then again for nearly two hours after seven laps. But the CART Champ Car Simple Green Safety Team was able to get the track dry enough to start the race once the rain let up, allowing the race to begin again at nearly 5:30 p.m. Central Time. The long delay caused the race to be shortened from the scheduled 60 laps to 34 once it was restarted, but there was plenty of action throughout the grid despite the decreased number of laps.

The action started even before the green flag finally waved over the 4.048-mile road course, as Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) saw a fourth-place starting position erased when he spun in the moisture at the bottom of Turn 12. The spin would cause one extra lap of caution-flag running but the fans got plenty of action on the next orbit that made it worth the wait.

Tracy took advantage at the drop of the green flag on Lap 11 and moved ahead of Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for fourth heading into the first turn. He then closed on his Player's/Forsythe Racing teammate Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in a bid for third place as the field headed into Turn Eight, but could not make the corner and spun into the tire wall, ending his day. Behind him, Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spun on his own in the middle of the corner, collecting the cars of Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone).

Manning would continue while Jourdain and Monteiro joined Servia and Tracy on the sidelines, with Manning rejoining the field as they headed down Pit Lane for the first of two mandatory pit stops. Junqueira and Bourdais led the field back onto the track with Carpentier and Dominguez in close pursuit. Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) were running fifth and sixth at the time of the pit stops but both had pit trouble that dropped them deeper in the grid.

The battle heated up quickly after the pit stops with Carpentier regaining the third spot from Dominguez, after losing it briefly on Pit Lane, with Carpentier pulling off the pass at the tricky Turn Five. The third spot would come back under fire again very soon after however as Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) closed on the tail of Carpentier and fought him fiercely for four laps before Dominguez spun in Turn 12 and brought out the caution flag again.

Carpentier would suffer a miscue on his next pit stop, allowing Tagliani to move into the third position behind the Newman/Haas cars while Walker Racing's Manning got a great stop and vaulted into the fourth spot ahead of PK Racing's Max Papis (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Papis quickly became part of a three-car battle with Manning and Carpentier for fourth as Papis fashioned his best day of the 2003 season.

Junqueira pulled out to a four-second lead over Bourdais as the last few laps went on the board, but Bourdais was not ready to concede the victory as he started snapping off quick laps as he closed on the leader. He set the fastest lap of the race on the day's penultimate orbit and closed to within less than a second of Junqueira before settling for his fifth podium of the season. Tagliani scored the third podium of the year for his rookie Rocketsports Racing team while Papis made a strong pass on the inside of Turn Three to score a fourth-place finish. Carpentier appeared to be set for a sixth-place run behind Manning but made a daring pass coming out of the final turn to snare a top-five finish away from the British rookie.

Junqueira became the sixth different winner this season and is the first driver to score all 23 of the available championship points on a race weekend. The win vaulted him into the points lead for the first time in his three-year CART Champ Car career, giving him a three-point lead over Tracy heading into next weekend's race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came back from a cut tire to score a seventh-place finish while rookie Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) was eighth ahead of Vasser and Hunter-Reay who rounded out the top 10.

TOP THREE FINISHER QUOTES:

Alex Tagliani:

"I think it was fantastic job by my pit crew all day. They deserve a lot of credit here. The podium finish is a good gift for them for the effort they put forth today. I just love this track. Although we had a difficult start, the podium finish makes up for it."

Sebastien Bourdais:

"It was a great day for Newman/Haas Racing. It was really special for us going one-two here. What can I say? We have Bruno leading the points now and I'm gaining spots and moving up in the championship as well. For sure, this is the best racing circuit in the U.S. and I hope to be back here for many years to come."

Bruno Junqueira:

"It was a perfect day to end a perfect weekend after getting both poles. It was perfect for Newman/Haas Racing and me. It's my second win at Road America, after taking my first career win here. We also leave with the championship lead and that's what we wanted to do for sure. We were struggling to get our first win and pole and we got it done this weekend."

NOTEWORTHY

Max Papis scored the best finish of the season for the rookie PK Racing team and tallied his best result since placing third at the Milwaukee Mile last season.

Jimmy Vasser and Ryan Hunter-Reay each scored top-10 finishes for American Spirit Team Johansson, marking the second time this season that both drivers have placed in the top 10. Vasser placed fourth in Long Beach with Hunter-Reay taking seventh for the other dual top 10.

Gualter Salles of Dale Coyne Racing scored his best finish of the season, taking the 11th spot while finishing on the lead lap.

Adrian Fernandez of Fernandez Racing finished 12th after pit-stop problems on his second stop, but has scored championship points in the last seven races, his best streak since the 2000 season when he finished as the series runner-up.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Gualter Salles , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Mario Andretti , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain
Teams Conquest Racing , Dale Coyne Racing , HART