CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca Mercedes race notes

Mercedes-Benz Somber After Loss of Gonzalo Rodriguez At Grand Prix of Monterey In a weekend marred by the tragic death of Marlboro Team Penske rookie driver Gonzalo Rodriguez, Bryan Herta won his second-consecutive Grand Prix of Monterey,...

Mercedes-Benz Somber After Loss of Gonzalo Rodriguez At Grand Prix of Monterey

In a weekend marred by the tragic death of Marlboro Team Penske rookie driver Gonzalo Rodriguez, Bryan Herta won his second-consecutive Grand Prix of Monterey, round 17 of the 20-race CART FedEx Championship Series, today at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif.

Out of respect for the family and friends of Gonzalo Rodriguez, who lost his life yesterday during a practice session for the race, Marlboro Team Penske withdrew Al Unser Jr. from competition this weekend, and the CART community held a "session of silence" for Rodriguez Saturday afternoon. When the green flag waved for the start of the final qualifying session, all of the CART teams remained in the pits as a memorial to the 27-year-old driver from Montevideo, Uruguay, who was participating in his second CART event.

Starting the 83-lap race from positions set by Friday's provisional qualifying session, Mercedes-Benz drivers Patrick Carpentier, Mauricio Gugelmin and Mark Blundell overcame numerous on-track incidents to finish ninth, 11th and 12th, respectively.

Carpentier, who drives the Player's/Forsythe Racing Mercedes, started the race 15th but worked his way into the top 10, despite tangling with Memo Gidley on lap 38. Carpentier later experienced problems shifting gears, but he still managed to hold his position in the top 10.

PacWest Racing teammates Gugelmin and Blundell both continued after contact with other cars during the race. Gugelmin, driver of the Hollywood Mercedes, was struck from behind on lap 27 by Dario Franchitti. Gugelmin spun off course, dropping from eighth to 20th place. He recovered, and, thanks to quick service from his pit crew during fuel stops, climbed back to 11th by the checkered flag.

Motorola Mercedes driver Blundell, who started the race 20th, came together with Cristiano da Matta in Turn Three on lap 10, and the resulting spin put him back four places in the field. He then began a charge forward, passing Robby Gordon and Michel Jourdain Jr., but his progress was cut short when the yellow flag waved during his second fuel stop, dropping him to the back of the field. He stayed on the lead lap and finished 12th.

Hogan Racing rookie Luiz Garcia Jr., who started 24th, spun on lap 37 in Turn Two. He rejoined the race but only after losing a lap to the leaders and finished 15th.

Garcia's Hogan Racing teammate Helio Castro-Neves, who was 10th on the grid at the start, made wheel-to-wheel contact with Scott Pruett in Turn Two on the very first lap. Shortly thereafter, Castro-Neves pulled into the pits with a broken accelerator cable, and he retired from the race on lap 25. He was listed in the 26th position in the final race results.

Greg Moore, Player's/Forsythe teammate to Carpentier, started fourth, staying within site of the leaders through the first round of pit stops. Contact with Dario Franchitti on lap 32, however, damaged the oil-feed line to his gearbox and he was forced to retire. He was credited with the 23rd position.

CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach announced this morning that he has revoked the license of Bettenhausen Motorsports rookie driver Shigeaki Hattori for the remainder of the season because his performance did not meet the standards of a Champ Car competitor. No replacement has been named for the remainder of the season.

Mercedes Quotes

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (Ninth) "We did a great job in the pits today. We had a great strategy. The team brought me to ninth place because of their work. At this point, I just want to finish in the top 10 in points by the end of the season."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (11th) "We didn't have a good start, and I lost two places by the first lap. The handling of the car was pretty decent all day. After the first pit stop, Dario (Franchitti) sent me into a 360-degree spin in Turn Three and put me way behind. Fortunately, the crew got me back to 11th by the checkered flag."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (12th) "I had to get aggressive today to get by people. Again, we had the 'Sunday blues.' We got caught wrong on the full-course yellow while we were in the pits. That put us at the end of the line, and that was pretty tough to swallow. Then, on the last set of tires, we had a run-in with Jan Magnussen. That damaged the front wing."

Luiz Garcia Jr., No. 21, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (15th) "This was my best run of the year. The team is making progress. I want to score some points really bad, but the main thing is to learn and keep Carl (Hogan) happy and keep the sponsors happy."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (23rd) "Something broke during the contact with Franchitti. There was oil spraying all over the place. We couldn't get it fixed in the pits. I'm super frustrated, but I can't get down. We have three more races to try to get another win for this team."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (26th) "Unfortunately, I couldn't go to power. Something was wrong on the chassis with a cable. It was a fun race. It's a shame. We'll come back and try again at Houston."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Robby Gordon , Al Unser Jr. , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Scott Pruett , Mark Blundell , Greg Moore , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia Jr. , Gonzalo Rodriguez
Teams Team Penske