Team Player'S drivers Carpentier and Tagliani primed for Portland As CART battles heat up on the track and in the standings. Portland, Oregon, June 13, 2002 The battle for the driver's title in this year's FedEx CART championship is...
Team Player'S drivers Carpentier and Tagliani primed for Portland As CART battles heat up on the track and in the standings.
Portland, Oregon, June 13, 2002 The battle for the driver's title in this year's FedEx CART championship is currently as tight as some of the corners that Team Player's drivers Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani will have to handle on the Portland International Raceway road course this Sunday. Heading into Round 6 of the championship, only 25 points separates the top 14 drivers in the 20-driver field, and the gap between 14th place and 5th is a slender nine points.
"I've said all along that this is an extremely competitive series, and one-quarter of the way through this season it looks like it's going to be more competitive than ever," said the 11th-place Carpentier whose 28 points is within 23 points of Brazilian Cristiano da Matta, who has compiled all but two of his points on road courses. "With so many drivers bunched up in the standings, it just highlights the importance of finishing races and picking up as many points as you can in the process."
At the 110-lap G.I. Joe's 200 in Portland, Carpentier will be competing on a 1.969-mile road course where he has finished in the top 10 in each of his last four races, including a fifth-place performance in 2001 that was his career best on the Oregon track.
"It was a very satisfying fifth place, considering the fact it rained quite hard during the race and you constantly had the spray from the wheels of the other cars in your face," recalled Carpentier. "And last year when we went to Portland, it was at a time when Team Player's was struggling to get points after a slow start to the season. This time, we're going into Portland with some good momentum from the fifth-place finish last Sunday on a very tough Laguna Seca road course.
"The fact we were able to turn several of the fastest laps of the day in the second half of that race definitely adds to our optimism about performing well in Portland. I believe it's an indication that our first race win isn't far off."
The 10th-place Tagliani, whose 29 points are within six points of getting into the top 5 in the standings, has almost an even distribution of points 13 on ovals and 16 on road courses. He was able to collect three points on the Laguna road circuit last Sunday, a race in which some technical glitches prevented him from moving up the field.
"It's very disappointing when these unforeseen things come up and affect the outcome of the race," admitted Tagliani. "It's something that all of us at Team Player's are determined to overcome. After the first five races of the season last year, we were still looking for our first point, so we've got a lot more points at the same stage this year. What we have to do now is consistently turn in some top-5 finishes so we can continue to move up the standings."
Tagliani, who before leaving California this week spent some time touring the San Francisco island of Alcatraz, site of the infamous former prison, is intent on performing well on a Portland course that he describes as "one of the best technical tracks in the CART series. It's very fast and there are two long straights that allow for some good passing moves."
Racing fans can follow Team Player's progress at the Grand Prix of Monterey throughout the weekend by logging on to the team's website at www.teamplayers.ca. They can also watch the race on tape delay on The Sports Network starting at 8:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.