CHAMPCAR/CART: Las Vegas: Race report

CHAMPCAR/CART: Las Vegas: Race report
Sep 26, 2004, 5:34 AM

Champ Car World Series Points Leader Sebastien Bourdais Inches Closer to First Series Title With Victory in Las Vegas LAS VEGAS (September 25, 2004) -- There are but a few things in life that you can do in one-tenth of a second as an eye blink, a ...

Champ Car World Series Points Leader Sebastien Bourdais Inches Closer to First Series Title With Victory in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (September 25, 2004) -- There are but a few things in life that you can do in one-tenth of a second as an eye blink, a nose twitch or a change of thought is usually about all one can accomplish in that short amount of time.

But Saturday night under the lights of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola Bridgestone) showed a large Vegas crowd that there is at least one other thing you can do in a tenth of a second -- win a Champ Car race.

Bourdais battled side-by-side with Newman/Haas Racing teammate Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for the last 15 trips around the 1.5-mile Las Vegas superspeedway oval before nipping him at the line by .066 seconds to score his sixth Champ Car victory of the year. The margin of victory was the sixth-closest in Champ Car history, and is the shortest winning margin since Juan Montoya beat Michael Andretti by 0.04 seconds at Michigan in 2000.

The Newman/Haas teammates were never separated by more than 0.135 seconds at any time during the last 15 laps and the two swapped the lead four times in the last seven laps before Bourdais took the point in leading the team's fourth 1-2 sweep of the 2004 season. The victory is the ninth of Bourdais' career and gives him a 27-point lead in the championship with two races remaining.

Junqueira barely settled for second, but kept himself alive in the hunt for his first series championship with his fourth consecutive Champ Car podium. Junqueira also earned additional championship points for leading a lap and for posting the fastest race lap, keeping himself within reach of the rampaging Bourdais. The two teammates swapped the lead four times over the last eight laps before Bourdais finally found a full carlength to put between himself and Junqueira, allowing him to score the victory.

The action in Saturday's Bridgestone 400 Presented by Corona started at the drop of the green flag, but ended immediately after for one of the local favorites. Las Vegas resident Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had his quest to defend his 2003 Champ Car title come to an official end after just one lap Saturday night when a broken spline in his rear drive train sidelined his machine, and took his out of championship contention.

Tracy's Forsythe Championship Racing teammates picked up the baton for their fallen comrade however, as Laguna Seca winner Patrick Carpentier (#7 Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) stormed to the front ahead of the Newman/Haas duo. Carpentier's stablemate Rodolfo Lavin (#3 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made it a two-team race at the front by moving into the fourth slot as the rest of the field sorted itself out.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) threw his hat in the ring as the first set of pit stops approached, but the hat flew back in a haze of tire smoke on Lap 37 as Hunter-Reay spun on the entry to Pit Lane, bringing out the first caution flag of the night. The spin made for some confusion among the teams as it came on the same lap that teams were mandated by rule to pit. The majority of the teams had already committed to pit when Hunter-Reay spun, but the car of Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola Bridgestone) led a small pack of cars that stayed on the track to avoid the incident.

By virtue of his decision to stay out, Tagliani assumed the lead of the race during the lengthy caution period and held it for the first eight laps of green-flag action before Bourdais ran him down to take the lead. The pass allowed Bourdais to lead for the ninth consecutive race, but more importantly it got him back from a misstep on the opening pit stop that had dropped him back to seventh on the grid. Tagliani then dropped out of the chase for the lead when Champ Car Stewards issued a stop-and-go penalty for failing to pit in the required window.

Bourdais would dominate the next 91 laps, only giving up the lead for four laps to Oriol Servia (#11 Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) during a cycle of pit stops. Bourdais stormed back to the front on Lap 79 and pulled out to a three-second lead over Junqueira before the caution flag flew for the second, and last, time of the evening when Guy Smith (#17 Microchip Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) coasted to a stop in Turn One.

Bourdais and Junqueira made it a two-horse race from then on, pulling away from the field at the Lap 134 restart to leave Carpentier and Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to battle for the third spot. Junqueira took the high line while Bourdais planted himself on the low side of each of the four Las Vegas turns, finally taking the lead briefly on Lap 149 of the 166-lap affair.

That lead would prove to be short lived however as the lapped cars of Tagliani and Gaston Mazzacane (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) gave Bourdais the opportunity to sluice through and wrest the lead back from his Brazilian teammate.

The next 10 laps were akin to a pair of heavyweights throwing haymakers at each other, seeing who would be left standing. Bourdais planted on the low side, Junqueira getting a draft through the backstretch and trying to beat Bourdais to the start/finish line with a run off of Turn Four. Bourdais led Lap 160 by 0.002 seconds, Junqueira went back in front on the next pass by .02 seconds, but Bourdais came right back to claim a .06-second lead with four laps to go. Junqueira rose to the challenge on the next time by to take a .01-second advantage before Bourdais was able to finally claim a lead he would not relinquish in taking the win.

Carpentier would overcome a gearbox problem to score his third consecutive podium finish while Lavin scored a career oval-track best fourth place. Veteran Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top five ahead of rookie points leader A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

The results of the Bridgestone 400 Presented by Corona are provisional pending a review by the judges of a protest by Rocketsports Inc.

The event marked the first time ever that Champ Car and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competed on the same night, thrilling a crowd estimated at over 70,000.

"The staff of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway under the leadership of General Manager Chris Powell did an outstanding job this weekend and pulled off a first-class event," said Champ Car President and CEO Dick Eidswick. "I am sure that the crowd went away happy after seeing such a thrilling evening of racing."


SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "It appears that I am very good on superspeedways, but still need work on short ovals! This is great for the McDonald's team, they deserve the true credit this weekend. After two frustrating race weekends, it is very rewarding. It is another great finish for Newman/Haas Racing, hopefully we can also finish one and two in the championship."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "The PacifiCare car was good; I felt that it would be difficult for people to pass me as long as we had good pit stops. Towards the final laps of the race we were racing together, side-by-side, and that produced real exciting racing for the fans. It was clean racing; we have good drivers to race against. This is another great result for the Newman/Haas Racing team, the win truly goes to them."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I am very happy. Just before the start of the race, I was checking my gears and I realized fifth and sixth gears were reversed. I knew that it was going to be difficult on the restarts. We made a few changes on the Indeck car during the race, but overall the car was good. Now we are third in the Championship, so I am happy with our results. It was a fun, close racing tonight, I really enjoyed myself."


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