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

PacifiCare Driver Junqueira Started On Pole But Finished Second With a Conservative Pit Strategy in The Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach; McDonald's Driver Bourdais Finished Third After Starting Second PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira, 27, ...

PacifiCare Driver Junqueira Started On Pole But Finished Second With a Conservative Pit Strategy in The Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach; McDonald's Driver Bourdais Finished Third After Starting Second

PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira, 27, started on pole in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach but was passed by third place starter Paul Tracy on the first racing lap and never regained the position after a conservative pit strategy in the 81-lap Champ Car World Series season- opener. The first lap of the race began under caution as the starter felt Junqueira held too much of a gap on second place Sebastien Bourdais. Once the race started third place starter Paul Tracy made a pass on the inside of both Bourdais and Junqueira and took the lead of the race on the first racing lap (lap 2). Junqueira held second place approx. 1-2 seconds behind Tracy until he was the first driver to make his first mandatory green flag pit stop on Lap 25 - compared to Tracy who first pitted on Lap 30.

Junqueira returned to the track in tenth place but moved back into second on Lap 32 once the field had concluded their first stops. During Junqueira's early stop, Tracy turned some fast laps and built a gap on Junqueira and the field so that once everyone had pitted, he had stretched his lead to four seconds on Junqueira. By Lap 42 Junqueira closed the gap to Tracy to two seconds but was later held up by the lapped car of Roberto Gonzales and was almost three seconds behind when he made his second and final green flag pit stop on Lap 52. Once back on track, he drove as fast as he could on new, cold tires and a full load of fuel so that he could get as close to Tracy at the conclusion of his Lap 58 pit stop. Unfortunately it was not possible and was nine seconds behind the driver.

On Lap 61 he surpassed the lap time he had set on Lap 13 that remained the fastest lap of the race until he eclipsed the time. He closed to within six seconds by Lap 66 but was held up behind the slower, lapped cars of Mario Haberfeld and Rodolfo Lavin for the ensuing laps until he was able to get around them on Lap 73 after also surpassing his own time for the fastest lap on Lap 70 and 74. In the final laps of the race the front runners had to navigate slower traffic and Junqueira was unable to get close enough to Tracy to attempt a pass. He earned 27 points for his second place finish, one for leading the first lap of the race and another for setting the fastest time in Friday's qualifying session for a total of 29 points.

Following are his post race comments:

"I feel that the PacifiCare car was very good this whole weekend," said Junqueira. "I knew that Paul was going to be pushing at the start, and he was able to get around me in the Turn 1. I just kept pushing as hard as I could to catch him. We were on a different pit strategy, which caused us to pit earlier than everyone else that was running up front. That kind of hurt us, but we were catching him. I am happy to be here on the podium, but I am a little disappointed because I feel that we had the car to win. However, everyone did a wonderful job and I am looking forward to the next race to get that first win this season. We didn't run the wrong strategy, it was just a conservative strategy due to the way the race turned out with no yellows. We had to take a conservative strategy the way the new rules are."

McDonald's® driver Sebastien Bourdais, 25, started second and drove to a third place finish in the 81-lap Champ Car season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He held his second place starting position through a yellow flag start after the Starter declared there was too much gap between the polesitter Junqueira and Bourdais. When the race went green on Lap 2, third place starter Paul Tracy dove to the inside of the track and passed Bourdais and Junqueira for the lead.

On the same lap, Alex Tagliani also made a pass for position while dropped Bourdais to fourth place. Bourdais held his position for the ensuing laps until second place runner Junqueira pitted on Lap 25 and he moved into third. On Lap 29, he relinquished third place to make his own first pit stop for fuel and new set of Bridgestone's "optional" tires that had received an adjustment to the air pressure prior to the stop. Despite having a problem with refueling, he was later able to return to third place and reported that his car was handling much better due to the pressure adjustment. He entered the pits on Lap 56 of 81 for his second and final mandatory green stop for fuel and a fresh set of "optional tires" and returned to the race in third place once the second round was complete. He held third place behind Junqueira and the leader Tracy while the front runners had to find their way around the lapped traffic.

He was able to close on Junqueira but was not able to get close enough to attempt a pass before the checkered flag and finished in third place. He earned 25 points for his third place finish, one for setting the fastest race lap and one for running the fastest time in final qualifying on Saturday for a total of 27 points for the weekend.

Following are his post race comments:

"The McDonald's car was very fast today I just regret that we couldn't show it earlier in the race," said Bourdais. "We made an adjustment to my tires after my first stop and the car was much better. I'm not sure what happened on the first stop but the guys got the tires on pretty quick but they kept filling, filling, filling my car. I lost two positions on that stop but I was able to get back up to third place later in the race. Consistency is the key to winning the championship this season and to finish in P3 (position three) is a pretty good start to the season. I started on pole in the opener in St. Pete last year and hardly left with any points. This is a much better start to the season."

- Star Sightings.Tom Cruise, Paul McCartney and his wife Heather Mills were guests of Paul Newman on race day. Cruise also was the passenger of the new two-seater Champ Car that led the field around on the pace laps prior to the start of the race.

- Up Next.Newman/Haas Racing will now head to Portland, Ore. for testing later this week on Wednesday and Thursday. Bourdais will test both days while Junqueira will only run on Thursday.

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Paul Newman , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Tom Cruise