Homestead, Florida, March 26, 2000 Team Player's drivers Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani both handled some tough breaks with outstanding poise today to finish 5th and 9th respectively in the FedEx CART Championship season-opening race on the...
Homestead, Florida, March 26, 2000 Team Player's drivers Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani both handled some tough breaks with outstanding poise today to finish 5th and 9th respectively in the FedEx CART Championship season-opening race on the 1.5-mile Homestead oval.
The Canadian driver duo both collected points in the standings Carpentier earned 10 points, while Tagliani collected four points in his first career start in the CART series. The race was won by Italy's Max Papis, while Brazil's Roberto Moreno and Canada's Paul Tracy completed the podium. The average speed of 164 miles per hour was the fastest ever at the Homestead event.
The rookie Tagliani thrilled racing fans in his CART debut. Starting from the fourth position on the grid the best-ever by a Player's CART team rookie Tagliani was the only driver to have the lead twice in the race. He was the leader on laps 54 and 55 and laps 99-104. However, as Tagliani headed down pit lane after a caution flag came out on lap 105, it was ruled that he had overtaken the pace car before reaching the blend line designating the pit-entry area.
Because of the infraction, Tagliani had to resume the race from the back of the field. Displaying his trademark grit and determination, he persevered and managed to work his way into 9th place and collect points in his debut.
"I'm a little disappointed," admitted Tagliani. "But now I know the Player's team can run with the big guys. We're going to be competitive all year and we're going to win some races. After the first 10 laps today, I knew the car was awesome and I wasn't surprised to be up with the leaders. Today was a dream come true for me, but there will be other dreams as the season goes along."
The veteran Carpentier had to overcome a flat tire at the start of the race, after his Champ car picked up a fastener nut that had fallen from the sidepod of one of the other drivers' cars. When Carpentier returned from the pits after the Player's crew quickly repaired the tire, he was in 23rd place.
"I kept my composure when I came into the pits," said Carpentier. "But I was so far back that we had to abandon our pre-race strategy. All I could do at that point was just keep my foot to the floor and gain as many positions as I could.
Carpentier was a man on a mission as he steadily gained on the rest of the field, finally moving into fifth place on lap 111 of the 150-lap event.
"This was a fun race," remarked Carpentier. "The car was really good and Player's choice of a Ford engine for this season turned out to be a good one. It's really powerful when you're passing."
Round 2 of the series takes place April 9 on the short oval at Nazareth Speedway in Pennsylvania.