CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Round eight preview

Patrick Carpentier vaults into championship contention as Jourdain leads CART Champ Car World Series pack to Portland. INDIANAPOLIS (June 17, 2003) -- Michel Jourdain Jr. ( ...

Patrick Carpentier vaults into championship contention as Jourdain leads CART Champ Car World Series pack to Portland.

INDIANAPOLIS (June 17, 2003) -- Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) showed the form that wins championships in last week's Grand Prix of Monterey, overcoming a penalty that put him 13th on the starting grid to finish fourth and maintain his lead in the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car Powered by Ford.

The timing of his climb was well-placed for Jourdain as his three closest competitors in the points chase all occupied the podium at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, but Jourdain's fourth-place run kept him ahead of the baying pack nipping at his heels. Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) used his Monterey win to vault directly into the heart of the title hunt while podium sitters Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) each closed the gap to Jourdain's series lead.

That hunt heads to the Pacific Northwest this weekend in the second of back-to-back road-course CART Champ Car races as Portland International Raceway will host the G.I. Joe's 200 on the winding 1.969-mile layout. The track, which features a tricky first turn and the fabled Festival Curves, will be celebrating its 20th year of hosting the CART Champ Cars this season and will have a full dance card this weekend as the up-and-coming drivers of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship as well as the Barber Dodge Pro Series join their Champ Car brethren.

Of the drivers that can leave Portland with their names atop the point standings, Carpentier comes in with the most momentum as well as the best recent track record at PIR. Carpentier has earned consecutive podium finishes, capped by last week's win at Laguna Seca, and has earned top-10 finishes in each of his last five visits to the Rose City including fifth-place runs in each of the last two seasons. The most consistent driver through the first seven events this year, Carpentier is the only driver to finish in the points in every race this year, leads the loop in laps completed and has set a new team record for most consecutive top-10 finishes (7) to start a season.

Junqueira will be looking to do his 2002 finish one better as the Brazilian spirals in on his first 2003 victory. Junqueira followed his Belo Horizonte, Brazil neighbor Cristiano da Matta to the stripe in last year's G.I. Joe's 200 and is stepping in to the Newman/Haas car that da Matta won from pole with at Portland last year. Junqueira led his first qualifying session of the year last weekend at Laguna Seca and has a pair of runner-up finishes to his credit already this season.

Jourdain is coming off of a year that saw him post his best-ever Portland finish as the points leader climbed from 17th on the starting grid to place sixth in 2002. Portland is the site of the first-ever permanent road-course race of Jourdain's Champ Car career, but he had not scored championship points on the Oregon layout since 1997 before last season.

Tracy comes into the weekend only eight points behind Jourdain for the championship lead, but will have to break a personal Portland drought in order to ensure that he does not fall further behind. Tracy, who has 22 Champ Car wins to his credit, has never won at Portland, making it just one of two tracks (Mid-Ohio) on the current schedule -- among those that have hosted at least 10 events - where Tracy has not won. The winner of the National Driver of the Quarter Award for the first quarter of the season scored podium finishes in both of his first two trips to Portland, but has only scored points in two of his last eight visits.

Interestingly, the only driver on the grid this coming weekend that does have a Portland win on his resume, will be making his first CART Champ Car start of the season. Max Papis (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will be taking over the driving duties of the PK Racing entry for the remainder of the 2003 campaign, making his first start since he subbed for an injured Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/ Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) last year at Fontana. Papis brings a wealth of Portland knowledge with him, having won from the pole in 2001 as well as earning a runner-up finish in 2000.

The Portland track has long been a test for many of the series veterans, and is one that both Fernandez and Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) hope to pass in 2003. Neither driver has scored points in their last three Portland events and Vasser's second-place run in 1995 is the only podium for the two vets in their 19 combined starts.

Fernandez has kept himself in the points hunt with good performances in the last two events, finishing sixth in Milwaukee and seventh at Laguna Seca after qualifying fifth at both stops. Vasser has scored top-10 placings in each of the last three races, but is looking for his first top five since he placed fourth at Long Beach. Vasser does however have a chance, as does 11 of his competitors, to leave Portland with a spot in the top five in the standings.

Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) propelled himself into the thick of the Rookie-of-the-Year chase with his second top-five finish of the year, closing to within 17 points of frontrunning Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Bourdais has suffered problems after earning the first two wins in his CART Champ Car career, finishing ninth in Milwaukee and then fading to 17th after a bad pop-off valve robbed him of boost during last week's Grand Prix of Monterey. Bourdais had made his way around Tracy and into third at Laguna before his power started to wane, and would fall back to fifth place in the season standings after seven races.

A pair of drivers that are starting to find their places among the series' top tier find themselves locked in battle directly behind Bourdais in the standings. Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) are locked in sixth place, just five points out of fifth, and are both on career-high five-race scoring streaks. Servia will need to score his first-ever Portland points in order to keep his streak going, while Dominguez returns to the track that gave him his first-ever CART Champ Car top-10 finish after placing 10th last year.

Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) showed his road-course background last weekend at Laguna Seca, moving up six spots over the course of the day to earn his third top-10 finish of the year. Monteiro moved up from 15th to place ninth, taking four of those spots in the first 22 laps.

Many of the future stars of the series will be on display for the Portland fans as the Champ Car Ladder System will take to the track as well in the form of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship and the Barber Dodge Pro Series. The Atlantic Championship will race on Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time with the BDPS event running Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m.

The G.I. Joe's 200 will take place on June 22, and will be broadcast live by CBS Sports at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. The race broadcast will be preceded by qualifying coverage on SPEED Channel starting at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Tiago Monteiro , Sébastien Bourdais , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain
Teams Conquest Racing