CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Newman/Haas Racing race report



- McDonald's0x00ae driver Sebastien Bourdais drove to his 11th career victory in today's 81-lap Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in what he called one of the best races of his career and brought Newman/Haas Racing its first win here in 18 years. Seven different drivers led the event on the 1.9-mile street course under clear blue skies. Bourdais got off to a slow start over the weekend and was not pleased with his performance and felt he had not done enough testing in the off season. His fourth place qualifying effort ended a 15-year streak and active record for the most top-three starts. He started the race on Bridgestone's softer "alternate" tires. On the first lap Justin Wilson passed Bourdais but he regained the position on the following lap. He held fourth place until the first round of pit stops took place and, due to good fuel mileage, he was able to stay on track two laps longer than race leader Paul Tracy and second-place Bruno Junqueira. He moved into the lead on Laps 30 and 31 before he made his first stop on Lap 31 and returned to the race in third place behind temporary leader Jimmy Vasser who had made his first pit stop early in the race under caution to remove the crashed car of Nelson Philippe, and Paul Tracy. New refueler Brian Hannon made his pit crew debut a flawless one and Bourdais was sent back on track with fuel and his second and final set of alternate tires. Right after Bourdais entered the pits a full course caution flag came out to remove the stopped car of rookie Fabrizio del Monte. On the Lap 35 restart, both Tracy and Bourdais passed Vasser. Bourdais closed to .435 seconds behind Tracy and passed him on Lap 38 on the inside of Turn 1 in a brilliant move. In his excitement he radioed the McDonald's crew and said "How about that?" He proceeded to build a gap of five seconds on Tracy only for it to be erased when the caution flag came out on Lap 45 for Roberto Sperafico, whose car stopped on course. The race was restarted on Lap 47 and Bourdais got a jump on Tracy and again built a lead on the Canadian while continuing to better the fastest race lap time. By Lap 57 he had built a lead of six seconds but came upon traffic and the gap began to close. The team had planned to again stretch his run two more laps than Tracy and others but Bourdais was being held up by a backmarker so the team brought him in one lap earlier than planned on Lap 61 for fuel and a set of Bridgestone's standard tires. He returned to the race in fourth place behind three cars on a different fuel strategy. By Lap 70 he regained the lead and held it for a final caution period for rookie Andrew Ranger and subsequent restart on Lap 76 of 81. Bourdais was easily able to hold off Tracy and took the checkered flag four seconds ahead of the Canadian. He collected a total of 34 points for his win, setting the fastest race lap and for leading 37 of the 81 laps. It was Newman/Haas Racing's fourth win here and first since Mario Andretti earned the team their third here in 1987. It was the 10th season-opening win for NHR in their 23rd attempt.

Following are his post-race comments:

"I am very surprised, not really expecting to be in the top three with the way the weekend was going," said Bourdais. "I got real pumped up before the race. It was a good race for me and my career, starting P4 and finishing P1. The McDonald's crew did an excellent job today. It is good for Newman/Haas Racing, it has been a while since they brought home a victory from Long Beach, and I happy to be able to do that today. The Bridgestone Alternate tires were real fast today, and they helped me get around Paul (Tracy) to hold on to the lead, and take the win.I got the tow from PT very early in the straight. It took me all the way over there to the braking point. He was very fair; he kept his line as it's written in the rule book and just gave me a clear shot to try and pass him. He braked really late, but my car was fantastic. I think I have to be pretty thankful for the Bridgestone alternate tires. They came up to temperature very fast. PT already did a few laps, so he had time to warm them up but I was just out of the pits. I was kind of worried that I couldn't keep up with him, and it was the opposite. The tires came up so fast, I had a great run on him and passed him. I think it's been the best pass over PT I've ever had. It doesn't happen very often to pass Paul, so I'm very happy about that. It was definitely a great race and very exciting for me. The McDonald's crew was pretty surprised that I had that shot on PT. I was, too. I came on the radio and said, "How about that?" It is a great day, and a great start to the season. As PT said "What a crowd, what an event." We definitely want to be back here no matter what it takes."

- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira earned his seventh consecutive podium finish with his third place in the 81-lap Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He was the provisional pole sitter on Friday but dropped to second fastest on Saturday. He started the race on one of his two sets of Bridgestone's softer alternate tires. He held his second place position at the start of the event but was able to pass polesitter Paul Tracy on Lap 3 when the Canadian accidentally hit his pit lane speed limiter. A caution period came out for Laps 8-10 to remove the car of Nelson Philippe who crashed. On the restart, Tracy and Junqueira both utilized the Push to Pass button but Tracy was able to regain the lead. On Lap 29 both Tracy and Junqueira made their pit stops and returned to the track. Junqueira elected to switch to the harder Bridgestone tires before he returned to the track in fifth place. Others who were able to stretch their fuel and pit later returned to the track ahead of Junqueira. Two cars on a different fuel strategy made their stops and Junqueira moved up to third place but he told the PacifiCare team that the car had too much understeer. For Laps 45-46 the caution flag was out for the stalled car of Ricardo Sperafico. On the restart Junqueira tried to pass Tracy with the help of the Push to Pass button but was unable to. He maintained a deficit of approx. one second before his second pit stop on Lap 60 where he came in for fuel and his final set of Bridgestone alternate tires. He returned to the track in 10th place but moved up to fourth by Lap 71 as others made their final stops. From Laps 72-75 the final caution flag of the race came out to remove the crashed car of Andrew Ranger. On the restart Junqueira was able to use his final amount of Push to Pass to take third place from Mario Dominguez on Lap 76. Junqueira held off Dominguez for the remained of the race and took the checkered flag in third place.

Following are his post race comments:

"The day went okay," said Junqueira. "At the start of the race the PacifiCare car was running really well; I was just running behind PT (Paul Tracy) and trying to save fuel. I got lots of miles out of the car today. When I had a free track at the end of the race, the car was running really well, but it was not as good as it had been running all weekend. It was good enough to get around (Mario) Dominguez at the end of the race and finish third. I am happy with the result today, I think it was a good race for the fans and I hope we can come back to Long Beach next year."

- Up Next...The team will travel to Portland, Ore. in the morning for a test on Wednesday and Thursday. Prior to that Bourdais will fly to Texas for practice Monday night from 5-10 p.m. CT for the upcoming IROC race at Texas Motor Speedway. Round 2 of the Champ Car World Series will take place on May 22 in Monterrey, Mexico.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ricardo Sperafico , Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Mario Andretti , Sébastien Bourdais , Nelson Philippe , Andrew Ranger , Fabrizio del Monte