CHAMPCAR/CART: St. Pete: Team Player's race report

Paul Tracy a winner in dramatic Team Player's debut. St. Petersburg, Florida, February 23, 2003 Paul Tracy launched his Team Player's career in spectacular fashion on Sunday, assuming the lead on lap 35 and masterfully cruising to a...

Paul Tracy a winner in dramatic Team Player's debut.

St. Petersburg, Florida, February 23, 2003 Paul Tracy launched his Team Player's career in spectacular fashion on Sunday, assuming the lead on lap 35 and masterfully cruising to a 12.136-second victory in the Champ Car World Series' season-opening race on the streets of St. Petersburg. It was the 20th career victory for Tracy, the most by any driver currently in the series.

Tracy's teammate and fellow Canadian, Patrick Carpentier, was running in second place on lap 48 of the 105-lap event, but he hit a bump and veered off into the tire barrier, damaging the front wing of his car in the process. Carpentier got a new wing, returned in 14th position, two laps down, and steadily made up ground for an eighth-place finish. Mexico's Michel Jourdain Jr. took second place, while Brazilian Bruno Junqueira completed the podium. Canadian Alex Tagliani was forced to retire with a damaged suspension.

Tracy, signed by Team Player's last November, is in his 13th season as a Champ Car driver, and his experience was much in evidence during today's race, as he produced Team Player's 14th career Champ Car win. Starting on the front row, alongside pole-sitter Sebastien Bourdais, the promising French rookie, Tracy patiently bided his time through lap 30, when Bourdais made his first pit stop with the lead. Bourdais would eventually fall back due to a punctured tire, and both Tracy and Carpentier eventually got around leader Tiago Monteiro to run 1-2, until mid-race.

"This is how I wanted to start the season," said a jubilant Tracy. "We had to work extremely hard this week. We really had to rely on Patrick's car for the starting set-up, so it was a tremendous team effort. (Technical director) Tony Cicale and the whole Team Player's crew deserve a lot of thanks."

Tracy, making his 192nd career start in the series, was relentless once he took over the lead, although he was challenged briefly by Jourdain Jr. around the mid-point of the race. "I kind of let Michel catch up to me, but once I realized that he was within four seconds, I was able to pull away from him," said Tracy. "The car has been fast all weekend on old tires, and that was the case again today.

Carpentier said his mishap likely stemmed from trying to be overly aggressive when he returned to the track after pitting on lap 46. "I came out on cold tires and wanted to close the gap, and that was a mistake," he explained. "I hit a bump coming into corner 7 and the rear end snapped. I then slowly hit the tire wall, damaging only the front wing. I lost a lap waiting for a push, and then Team Player's did a real quick change after I finally reached the pits.

"I'm happy for Paul and Team Player's, but I'm disappointed the way things turned out because I could have done much better. I'm thinking championship, and this isn't the way you win championships. We'll have to do much better in Monterrey. I am happy for Paul and Team Player's this weekend. It was a strong team effort all around."

Team Player's and the rest of the 19- Champ Car field will have a few weeks to prepare for the 2.1-mile Monterrey, Mexico road course the race takes place on March 23.

-tp-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Tiago Monteiro , Sébastien Bourdais , Michel Jourdain