CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Player's Fontana race report

Second Straight Podium For Alex Tagliani Puts Finshing Touch To CART Season For Team Player's Fontana, California, November 4, 2001 Team Player's driver Alex Tagliani ended the FedEx CART championship season on a high note Sunday by winning his...

Second Straight Podium For Alex Tagliani Puts Finshing Touch To CART Season For Team Player's

Fontana, California, November 4, 2001 Team Player's driver Alex Tagliani ended the FedEx CART championship season on a high note Sunday by winning his second straight podium with a third-place finish in The California 500 on the 2-mile Fontana super-speedway. The podium finish came one week after Tagliani was third in Australia.

Tagliani and his teammate Patrick Carpentier, who finished 10th in today's event, were both in a position to win the race and the accompanying $1 million prize as the race, which was shortened to 220 laps from its scheduled 250 because of growing darkness, headed into its final four laps. But Scott Dixon's car caught the wall on lap 217 and the race had to be completed under caution. Cristiano da Matta, who led Italy's Max Papis by 0.123 seconds at the time line when the yellow flag came out, emerged as the winner, his third victory of the season, with Tagliani 0.492 seconds behind the leader.

"We had the car to win," stated Tagliani, who started from the pole and ran in the top 10, including the lead, throughout most of the race, the start of which was delayed for an hour because of rain. "In those last few laps, I was biding my time watching Max and Cristiano taking the inside line, and I thought I could take them on the outside with the momentum I had. I was waiting for the last lap to make my move but it never happened because of the caution. It was disappointing to have the yellow come out when it did.

"Team Player's definitely has plenty to be proud of. We finished the season with two podiums. We showed everybody that we are a force to contend with, and we'll be even stronger next year."

Carpentier, who started on the back row of the grid, slid two laps back in the early part of the race because a wire connecting the pop-off valve had come loose. Once the Team Player's crew found and rectified the problem, Carpentier made his way back into contention in brilliant fashion, capping the comeback by taking the lead on lap 103.

"When I was making my comeback I was passing cars as if the cars were standing still," said Carpentier. "The car was running so great I wasn't even lifting my foot. The team did a terrific job finding what the problem was. I couldn't figure out what was causing the car to drop back in the field, but when they connected the wire it didn't take long to regain the lost laps."

Carpentier was poised for an all-out battle to the finish when he pitted on lap 190. Just after he pitted, however, the announcement came that the race, which was earlier reduced to 230 laps, would be further shortened to 220.

"That was a big factor me because I had just topped up with fuel and the car was too heavy for a sprint to the finish," explained Carpentier. "At the end of the race, I couldn't go anywhere with the car. It wouldn't turn into the corners. My adjustments were at the max, so there wasn't anything I could do. Before that last pit stop, though, the car was awesome. There's no doubt in my mind that the best is yet to come for Team Player's.

Carpentier ended the season in 10th place in the drivers' standings with 91 points, while Tagliani advanced from 16th place entering the final weekend to finish 11th overall with 80 points. Brazil's Gil de Ferran had already clinched the drivers' title.

-Player's-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Scott Dixon , Cristiano da Matta