BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 22, 2001) - Patrick Carpentier of the Player's Forsythe Racing Team pulled out of a riveting three-car draft coming off the final turn of the final lap to earn his first career FedEx Championship Series victory Sunday in an...
BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 22, 2001) - Patrick Carpentier of the Player's Forsythe Racing Team pulled out of a riveting three-car draft coming off the final turn of the final lap to earn his first career FedEx Championship Series victory Sunday in an exhilarating Harrah's 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan International Speedway.
Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), involved in a three-car battle with Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green and Michel Jourdain Jr. of Herdez Bettenhausen entering the 250th and final lap, watched as Franchitti took the lead off the first turn and held it down the back straightaway. As the lead group headed into Turn 3, Carpentier's teammate, Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), who was one lap down, caught the draft and moved ahead of the threesome.
Tagliani then moved in front of Carpentier as the trio came off the final turn, allowing his teammate to draft across the start/finish line ahead of his two adversaries and into victory circle for the first time in his five-year FedEx Championship Series career.
Franchitti and Jourdain Jr. finished in a virtual dead heat for second place, 0.243 seconds behind. The position was awarded to Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) in a photo finish. Jourdain Jr. (Herdez Ford Lola) finished third for the first podium finish of his six-year FedEx Championship Series career.
The event was typical of recent CART competition at Michigan International Speedway, featuring an amazing 60 official lead changes among 11 drivers at the start/finish line and an unofficial 167 intra-lap lead swaps around the race track. .
The unlikely finish overshadowed a dominant performance by Team Rahal drivers Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) and Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) who combined to lead 138 laps, including a race-high 83 by Papis. But with just 17 laps remaining, the two made side-to-side contact while coming off of Turn 4.
Brack spun into the outside wall and Papis spun against the inside barrier. Neither driver was injured, but the incident relegated them to finishes of 17th and 16th, respectively.
Despite going scoreless, Brack maintained the FedEx Championship Series championship lead with 84 points, three ahead of second-place Franchitti, who has 81. Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske stands third with 75 points following an eighth-place finish Sunday.
Franchitti's performance was his third podium result of the season, including a victory at Cleveland, and his third top-five finish in five career starts at Michigan Speedway. He scored championship points for the eighth time in 10 events this season.
Jourdain Jr.'s third-place finish was by far the best of his six-year career, and his first podium result in his 91st FedEx Championship Series start. His previous best effort had been seventh, at Road America in 1999 and Australia in 2000.
Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing finished fourth, his best result since finishing second at Long Beach in Round 2. Fifth place went to Bryan Herta (Forsythe Indeck Ford Reynard) of Forsythe Championship Racing, who logged his best oval finish since fourth at Rio de Janeiro in 1998.
The Harrah's 500 Presented by Toyota was Round 11 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.
PATRICK CARPENTIER, Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard: "We were close, and when we were second on the last restart, there was the same car behind us as when we were in Detroit, and that was Dario. I said, 'Not this time!' I was hoping to be close enough at the end. In the last few laps, we were battling hard. Then 'Tag' [teammate Alex Tagliani] came in and I wasn't expecting that. I said, 'What is he doing?' But then I was pretty happy. That's what teams are all about. I think it is fantastic racing here. Last year we had a blast. Nobody knows until the end who is going to win the race. It's fun racing. I was really happy. I was crying on the lap coming into the pits and I managed to stall it on the back straight. I never thought I was going to win this one. You need everything to win the race, and everything worked out for us today. I was extremely happy. The engine was as strong on the last lap as it was on the first lap. It's a relief for everyone on the team. I signed a contract last week, but I think this is even better than that."
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "It was an eventful day because for the first time in my career I started last because of the way they decided qualifying. I was really lucky to not go a lap down. At one point, Memo [Gidley] was right next to me. My guys did a great job in the pits all day. It all came down to the last segment from the yellow. I didn't think I had enough, and Bryan [Herta] was especially strong. I was noting that if I could stay flat in Turns 3 and 4, I could pass Michel before the start/finish line. It's unfortunate that 'Tag' got up there. Not to take anything away from Pat, he did a great job, but I'm going to have a word with 'Tag.' I feel great for Pat, we started the series at the same time. It's great to see him up here."
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR., Herdez Ford Lola: "What an unbelievable race! I'm very happy to be part of this series. The Herdez Bettenhausen team did a great job all day. We didn't lose positions - we gained positions. On the last lap, I was sure that it was going to be Dario and I. Pat was there the whole time, but then Alex [Tagliani] appeared from nowhere. I didn't take Dario out by a miracle. I thought we were going to hit each other, but we didn't. I think we should both get points for second. It was really hard. I'm sure each one of us had a couple of times where we were going straight into the wall. It was so hard to run. But that's why we get paid, and we have to do it. All the drivers did a great job, and it was really safe. It was an exciting race."
* Patrick Carpentier's (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) victory was his first race triumph since capturing a 1996 Toyota Atlantic event at Laguna Seca Raceway en route to that series championship. It came in his 79th career CART start and was the fifth podium finish of his six-year FedEx Championship Series career. His previous career-best result had been second three times, at Gateway International Raceway in 1997 and 2000 and Vancouver in 1999. Carpentier's season-best finish prior to Sunday was fifth at Portland last month. The 20 championship points Carpentier collected for the victory moved him from 21st to 14th in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 35 points.
* Patrick Carpentier became the eighth different winner in 10 completed FedEx Championship Series events this season. The others have been Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing at Mexico; Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske at Long Beach and Detroit; Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group at Nazareth; Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal at Japan and Milwaukee, Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) of Team Rahal at Portland; Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green at Cleveland and Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola at Toronto. The FedEx Championship Series record for different winners in a single season is 11, established last year.
* Patrick Carpentier's victory from the 21st starting position established a CART record as the deepest point on the grid from which anyone has driven to victory on a superspeedway. Al Unser had previously held the distinction after driving from 20th on the grid to victory at Indianapolis in 1987.
* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) recorded his third top-five finish in five career starts at Michigan, and his second consecutive podium result on the superspeedway. He also finished third last year and fifth in 1999. Franchitti's improvement of 23 places from his 25th and last-place start to his runner-up finish was the best in the 25-driver field.
* Dario Franchitti recorded his third podium finish in his past five events, including a victory at Cleveland and a runner-up performance at Detroit.
* Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez Ford Lola) earned the first podium finish of his six-year FedEx Championship Series career with his third-place effort, which moved him from 27th to 22nd in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 16 points. His finish was the best for the Herdez Bettenhausen team since Helio Castroneves finished second at Milwaukee in 1998.
* With Patrick Carpentier and Michel Jourdain Jr. claiming their first podium finishes of the season Sunday, 18 different FedEx Championship Series drivers have made an appearance on the podium at the season's halfway point.
* The 60 official lead changes were only two shy of the all-time Champ Car record of 62 lead changes established at Michigan Speedway in 1998.
* Rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) finished 10th to earn championship points for the sixth time in his past eight starts. Dixon, the 2000 Dayton Indy Lights champion, began his run with a victory at Nazareth, and it also includes a podium finish of third at Milwaukee. Dixon owns a 57-27 lead over Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the race for the $50,000 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award. Dixon also leads the FedEx Championship Series in laps completed with 1,358 of a possible 1,404; and miles completed, with 2,174.315 of a possible 2,277.542.
* The crew for Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Toyota) became the first finalist in the 2001 Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge when Gugelmin spent the least time in the pits among cars completing Sunday's event. The team thus earned a "wild card" slot in the Craftsman Challenge finals to be contested at the FedEx Championship Series season finale in November at California Speedway. Gugelmin's crew will join four others in competing for the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge trophy and a $50,000 cash award. The remaining four finalists will be determined by the number of points they collect through the first 19 events of the FedEx Championship Series season. Points are awarded according to the same scale used to score FedEx Championship Series drivers (20-16-14-12-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1). Through Sunday's event, the crew for Helio Castroneves leads the season-long point standings with 78 points, followed by the crew for Roberto Moreno (Visteon Toyota Reynard) with 70. The crews for Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) and Gugelmin round out the top four, with 66 and 64 points, respectively. The crew for Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green is the two-time defending Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge champion.
The FedEx Championship Series continues with its sixth event in seven weeks, the Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer, next weekend, July 26-29, at Chicago Motor Speedway in Cicero, Ill.