CHAMPCAR/CART: Jourdain breaks out under Milwaukee lights

CHAMPCAR/CART: Jourdain breaks out under Milwaukee lights

Michel Jourdain, Jr. won his first Champ Car race with a dominant drive on the Milwaukee Mile oval, in the first night race in CART's history. Team Rahal's driver got the jump on polesitter Alex Tagliani at the drop of the green flag, and only ...

Michel Jourdain, Jr. won his first Champ Car race with a dominant drive on the Milwaukee Mile oval, in the first night race in CART's history. Team Rahal's driver got the jump on polesitter Alex Tagliani at the drop of the green flag, and only relinquished the top spot to Patrick Carpentier during early pit stops.

Emotional moment for Bobby Rahal and race winner Michel Jourdain Jr..
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Jourdain was challenged near the end of the race by Oriol Servia, who was also in the running for his first Champ Car victory, but a good restart by Jourdain from a late caution period for Rodolfo Lavin's turn 2 wall crash kept him out front to take the win. Servia brought Patrick Racing's Lola across the line just behind Jourdain.

Third was Carpentier, just inches behind Servia, with rookie driver Darren Manning finishing fourth just as close to Carpentier. Following about one second behind the tightly packed front group, Tagliani recovered from early-race handling problems to finish 5th.

At the start of the Centennial 250, the field was given two laps under the yellow flags due to the cold conditions - temperatures were in the 40s all evening - before the green was waved. As Jourdain pulled ahead in turn one, Paul Tracy and his Forsythe Racing teammate Carpentier pulled alongside Tagliani to go three-wide around turns 1 and 2. Tracy won that little skirmish and settled into second place.

Behind them though, Bruno Junqueira lost the tail end of his car in turn two. First, Mario Dominguez clipped the front of Junqueira's car and then Dominguez' Herdez Racing teammate Roberto Moreno hit hard into the side of Junqueira's Newman/Haas Lola. Dominguez was able to continue after pit stops to replace the nose and front wings of his car, but the other two drivers (and Patrick Lemarie who crashed behind them) were done for the night. Junqueira was transported to a Milwaukee hospital for x-rays and observation after reporting neck pain; the other drivers were uninjured.

Oriol Servia.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
On the lap 19 restart, Tracy made a strong bid to pass Jourdain for the lead but was unsuccessful. Behind them, Servia was successful in getting around Tagliani for third place and he began harassing Tracy for second. On lap 46, Servia made the pass.

On lap 65, the leaders made their first stops, which handed the lead over to Carpentier. He and several others had made their first stops under the early caution laps leaving them on a different sequence. When that group made their second stops on lap 74, Jourdain reassumed the lead and was never headed again.

The yellow flags waved next on lap 86, when Ryan Hunter-Reay got into the marbles outside the race line in turn 1 and understeered into the turn 2 wall. On the restart following that pace car period, Tracy retook second place from Servia and Carpentier took fourth place from Adrian Fernandez. Servia was able to get the position back from Tracy after 30 laps of green as his car worked better in longer runs and Tracy's was losing grip.

The leaders got a scare when the yellow waved again just as they were returning to the track from their next round of pit stops on lap 154. Fortunately for them, the caution - for a turn 2 crash by Joel Camathias - did not impact the order at the front of the field.

Once again, Tracy was able to jump around Servia on the restart, and again Servia was able to retake the position after a sustained green segment - this time 38 laps in.

Pitstop for Paul Tracy.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Tracy's race would come crashing down on the last round of pit stops though. His crew dropped the car off the jacks during the tire change and didn't get the left rear wheel properly attached. When Tracy got nearly back up to speed the tire came rolling off. Tracy got a new tire promptly, but the extra stop put him a lap down in 13th place and the pace car came out so the CART Safety Team could recover the wayward tire.

One more caution period was required when Rodolfo Lavin slid into the turn 2 wall on the restart, setting up an exciting dash by the top four finishers for the remaining 10 laps.

The 34,000 spectators who braved the cold late-May breezes enjoyed an exciting race under the bright lights at the first night race for the Champ Cars. Several drivers will have great memories as well, as Jourdain, Servia and Manning each had their best race finish of their Champ Car careers. Jourdain, still young despite his seven-plus years driving a Champ Car, called the win: "the best thing that ever happened to me in my life!"

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Joel Camathias , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Lemarié , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Rodolfo Lavin , Eric Gilbert , Michel Jourdain