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

Pacificare driver Junqueira earned his third top-five finish with third place in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach; Lilly driver Bourdais retired in 16TH place with engine failure. PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira drove to his third top-five...

Pacificare driver Junqueira earned his third top-five finish with third place in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach; Lilly driver Bourdais retired in 16TH place with engine failure.

PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira drove to his third top-five finish in the same number of races in today's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach after starting fourth in the 90-lap race on the 1.968 mile temporary street course. On an overcast day that saw temperatures in the low 70-degree range, Junqueira was able to capitalize on a race strategy that enabled him to move from third place in the Championship standings to second only 26 points behind leader Paul Tracy who earned his third consecutive victory of the season. Michel Jourdain looked a sure bet to win his first Champ Car race after he led a total of 48 laps from 27 to 56 and from 66 to 83 of the 90 laps race before an apparent transmission failure while attempting to leave the pits after his final stop ended his race with seven laps to go. Canadian Paul Tracy made Champ Car World Series history by taking his third consecutive win to start a season. He earned his 22nd series victory and moved into a tie with Emerson Fittipaldi for fifth on the all-time victory list.

On the first lap of what would become a fast paced event, Junqueira moved from his highest starting positive so far this season of fourth place past third place starter Alex Tagliani. Shortly after the first lap, he reported to the crew that he had a problem with the right front tire. With each passing lap, Junqueira lost ground to the top two cars while those behind him were able to close the gap. On lap 20 Tagliani was able to regain his position. Race leader Paul Tracy, who started second but took the lead on the first lap, made his first stop and Junqueira moved as high as second place before he made his first stop at the end of the mandatory pit window of 28 laps. He returned to the race in fifth place after he lost two positions to teammate Sebastien Bourdais and Patrick Carpentier, who short filled their cars with fuel on the first pit stop.

Laps 28-30 were run under caution conditions after Patrick Lemarie stalled in Turn 1. The race resumed for three laps until Alex Yoong ran into the tire barrier in Turn 1 and brought out the caution flag again from Laps 33-35. Once the race was restarted the caution flag came out for the third and final time from Laps 37-40 when Rodolfo Lavin drove into the tire barrier in Turn 5 and Roberto Moreno was unable to avoid hitting the stopped car as he came around a blind corner. Lavin was previously third in the running order although he was actually a backmarker and his excursion into the tires occurred immediately in front of Junqueira although quick reaction by the Brazilian enabled him to avoid colliding with the Mexican rookie.

These three caution periods enabled many drivers to change their pit strategy. Junqueira moved into fourth place on lap 34 when Carpentier made his second stop and into third place on lap 37 when Bourdais made his second of three mandatory pit stops. He held third place to race leader Michel Jourdain and second place runner Paul Tracy for the ensuing laps and was able to stay within a six seconds from Jourdain before he temporarily moved to second place before his second stop on Lap 56. He returned to the race in 13th place behind Jourdain and barely ahead of Tracy. After a few corners of battle, Tracy was able to put pull ahead of Junqueira who was on cold tires. As the drivers who made their second stops during the three caution periods began to make their third and final stops, Jourdain, Tracy and Junqueira moved up in running order. By Lap 66 he was in third place again and by Lap 69 was only 1.1-seconds behind second place Tracy. Immediately before his third and final stop on Lap 79, Junqueira had been 4.4 seconds behind leader Jourdain and 2.1-seconds behind Tracy but also 30.5 seconds ahead of fourth place runner Adrian Fernandez. Ideally at least 32 seconds was needed in order to enter the pit lane without exceeding the speed limit, make a complete pit stop and return to the track under the speed limit ahead of Fernandez.

Unfortunately Junqueira was unable to get back on track ahead of the driver who made his stops on Laps 28, 35 and 63 - timing that the flow of the race favored. Junqueira moved into third place on Lap 83 when leader Jourdain made his final stop which was trouble free until he attempted to depart his pit box but wasn't successful due to an apparent transmission failure. He held the position until the checkered flag after 90 laps and collected 14 points for his third place podium finish - the ninth of his Champ Car career. Like Jourdain and Tracy his fastest race lap came on Lap 77 - which was second only to Jourdain. He collected 14 points for his finish for a total of 38 and moved ahead of Jourdain in the standings to second place, 26 back from Paul Tracy who has 64. Following are his post race comments:

"I think it was a pretty beautiful day," said Junqueira. "On the first set of tires, the tires were not balanced, and the front tires started to lose their grip. I just was hanging in there, trying to save fuel to go to the next stint. After there were so many accidents, a lot of people started to do different strategies. I saw myself behind Paul and Michel. But I think after the race start, Michel was on such incredible pace, I was trying to keep up. I was trying to keep up with Paul. They were able to open a gap a little bit. On the second stop, we made another change and then the car was really good and I started to lay down some really good laps. I was able to catch up Paul and Michel a little bit. But after the last pit stop, I just got a bit behind Adrian. I just thought that third place was good for me and sat back. I'm quite happy to finish third today. I think the PacifiCare team did a great job, especially because they didn't start with the best car, and at the end of the race I was very competitive.

"I'm pretty happy with the way the season has gone so far. I think we struggled a little bit. I think at the start of the season we were really fast. We've been struggling a little bit in qualifying to start a little bit up front. The first two races I had really fast car in the race. This race, at the start, my car wasn't too good. I think we could get better results, but third is not bad at all and it put us second in the championship. The only problem is that Paul is doing too good. I think the Championship is long, and being consistent is very important. But on the other hand is important to win races as well. Let's see if we can get some wins for the next couple of races."

Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais failed to collect championship points for the first time this season in this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach when engine failure ended his race in 16th place after he completed 70 of 90 laps and led three. A third consecutive pole position was not meant to be in Long Beach and Bourdais started fifth for the race after being third fastest in Friday's provisional qualifying session. He held fifth place until his first of three mandatory pit stops each 28 laps when he pitted on Lap 28. The Lilly crew elected to short-fill his race car in order to gain some positions and he returned to the race in third place ahead of his teammate Junqueira and Patrick Carpentier.

Laps 28-30 were run under caution conditions after Patrick Lemarie stalled in Turn 1. The race resumed for three laps until Alex Yoong ran into the tire barrier in Turn 1 and brought out the caution flag again from Laps 33-35. Once the race was restarted the caution flag came out for the third and final time from Laps 37-40 when Rodolfo Lavin drove into the tire barrier in Turn 5 and Roberto Moreno was unable to avoid hitting the stopped car as he came around a blind corner. The three caution periods enabled many drivers to change their pit strategy and the Lilly crew called Bourdais in for his second stop on Lap 37. He returned to the race in ninth place and held the position until Lap 56 when the field began making their second or third stops, depending on which pit strategy they were running.

By lap 63, Bourdais moved into the lead and held it for a total of three laps before he made his third and final stop on Lap 65. He returned to the race in sixth place ahead of Jimmy Vasser who was able to pass Bourdais, who was on cold tires, on the following lap. Bourdais held his position ahead of eventual fifth place finisher Mario Dominguez until the Mexican passed him on Lap 70 - the same lap his engine began losing power before smoke erupted from the back of his car and he pulled off course to a "safe haven" off of the racing line. He retired in 16th place and dropped from his 14th place rank in the point standings to 16th with a total of five. The three laps he led made him the first rookie since Nigel Mansell in 1993 to lead in each of his first three Champ Car starts. Following are his post race comments:

"I only knew something was wrong immediately before the engine blew," said Bourdais. "The car felt different when I drove into Turn 9 and then the engine blew suddenly. What can you do? It's not too good to have so much bad luck in the first three races but the situation should turn around soon. The first set of tires we put on in the first stop were only scuffed but we had to stop too soon after the first one because we short filled and didn't get to make the most of the new tires. The car was really not that good at that point in the race. When we restarted after the second and third stops the car gradually got a little better especially after the third stop but I didn't get to drive much after the final stop before the engine blew. After the second stop there were really no passing opportunities so I just stayed with Dominguez and tried to save fuel. Two-thirds into the race the car was so loose that when I was able to have a clear track in front of me I couldn't really push the car too much. After the third stop I got back on track but Fernandez, Servia and Vasser passed me going into Turn 1. I was able to keep Dominguez behind me. The car was good at that point but we didn't run that much longer. It's very disappointing not to have more points than we do to show how competitive the Lilly team has been in the first three races."

- The Stars Came Out in Long Beach...A few of the celebrities seen around the track this weekend included Luke & Owen Wilson, Luke Perry, Steven Dorf, Larry Wilcox and George Eads. Luke Wilson's movie credits include "Legally Blonde," "Full Throttle" and both Charlie's Angels films, Owen played Roy O'Bannon in "Shanghai Noon" and the sequel "Shanghai Knights," Lt. Chris Brunett in "Behind Enemy Lines" and Deacon Frost in "Blade." Perry is best known for his role of Dillon McKay on the hit TV series "90210." He also appears on the HBO series "Oz." Eads plays crime investigator Nick Stokes on the popular TV show "CSI." Wilcox patroled the California highways as Officer John Baker in "CHiPs."

- Next Up...The Champ Car World Series will cross the "pond" for their next two races. On May 3-5 the series will hold Round 4 of the Championship on the Indy Circuit of Brands Hatch in England. The following weekend they will make their second appearance at EuroSpeedway Lausitz for their first race of the season on an oval track on May 10-11.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Lemarié , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Nigel Mansell , Alex Yoong , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Emerson Fittipaldi , Rodolfo Lavin , John Baker , Michel Jourdain