CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Round four preview

Bruno Junqueira Perches Precariously Atop Champ Car Point Standings as Series Heads to Pacific Northwest INDIANAPOLIS (June 9, 2004) -- The Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford has run at Portland International ...

Bruno Junqueira Perches Precariously Atop Champ Car Point Standings as Series Heads to Pacific Northwest

INDIANAPOLIS (June 9, 2004) -- The Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford has run at Portland International Raceway 20 times in its long history, but rarely has the series brought such a tight points battle to the racing fans of the Pacific Northwest.

Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) leads the series point standings after three races by a single point over Forsythe Championship Racing's Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) with three other drivers sitting less than 14 points behind. The points race becomes especially unpredictable when you look at the past successes -- or lack of -- of the current Champ Car field when it comes to Portland.

Furthering the notion that this year's driver lineup is one of the deepest in the last few years, three different drivers have taken the checkers in the season's first three races. The chase for Round Four glory comes this weekend in the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland as Junqueira leads the pack to the 1.969-mile PIR road course.

Junqueira may have the best memories of Portland and comes in with a Newman/Haas Racing team that knows plenty about PIR success, having won there six times in the past with Mario and Michael Andretti as well as Cristiano da Matta. Junqueira scored a podium finish in Portland in 2002, finishing second to da Matta, and then climbed from 11th to finish fourth a year ago.

Carpentier, who holds the highest perch in the points chase of his eight-year career by sitting second after three races, had a streak of five consecutive top-10 Portland finishes snapped last year when he failed to finish the race and ended up being scored in the 16th spot. Carpentier has seven previous starts at the Portland venue with a pair of fifth-place runs as his high-water mark. He has been the most consistent driver over the early part of the season however, parlaying two fourth-place finishes and a runner-up placing at Milwaukee into the second spot in the title hunt.

His teammate Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) started his Champ Car career acting like he had Portland figured out, but was soon shown that the track can be an unforgiving mistress. Tracy scored podium finishes in each of his first two PIR events, but then earned only one top-five run in his next eight trips. He erased that last season by winning the pole and leading 42 laps but would fall to second after a spin and a resulting penalty cost him the lead. He would roll home in second place however, marking his best-ever Portland finish.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) comes to Portland hot on the heels of the most dominant single-race performance in Champ Car history. The second-year Herdez Competition pilot went wire-to-wire in taking a Milwaukee victory, setting a new series record by leading 250 laps around the Milwaukee Mile. Hunter-Reay vaulted to third in the championship with his second career win and comes to a Portland track that saw him qualify a then season-high seventh before clutch problems sidelined him after 21 laps.

As his teammate had done the race before, Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) comes to Portland with what is likely the busiest travel schedule in the paddock. The winner at Monterrey this year, Bourdais comes to Portland one week after competing in the 24 Hours of LeMans for the fifth time in his career. Bourdais led a lap during his first trip to Portland last year after qualifying fourth, but also succumbed to mechanical woes and finished 14th.

About the only driver with any consistent Portland success sits in the Dale Coyne Racing stable as Oriol Servia (#11 yokeTV.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brings a streak of three straight top-10 finishes to the track this weekend. Servia scored eighth- and ninth-place runs in 2000 and 2001, sat out the '02 event and returned with a vengeance last season starting sixth and finishing fifth. He comes off his best finish of the season in Milwaukee where he placed seventh.

Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has the most Portland experience on his resume but counts a second-place run in 1995 as his only top-five Portland run. Vasser has never led at Portland but did run well last year, taking his Reynard to a seventh-place finish. The Ironman of the paddock, Vasser will make his 187th consecutive start this weekend as he closes in on the series record of 192 held by Al Unser Jr.

Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the Portland podium a year ago, finishing just 4.457 seconds down to the race winner in third place. The five-year veteran is fighting to stay in the thick of the title hunt after three races and a reprise of last year's run would help that cause. He has qualified in the top five in each of the last two Portland trips but last year's run was his first top-10 finish in the Rose City.

Also looking to make a move in the points chase will be Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who has two 10th-place Portland finishes to his credit. Riding a streak of eight consecutive top-10 finishes in Champ Car, Dominguez sits in fifth place in the quest for the Vanderbilt Cup but is only 14 points behind the frontrunning Junqueira.

The RuSPORT team will be looking to build on its momentum after having its most successful Champ Car weekend in Milwaukee. Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned the eighth podium of his career with a third-place run while rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#10 BG Products/Red Bull Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brought his car home in fifth. The team tested at Portland six weeks ago and will look to climb even higher in the championship chase.

Jourdain has eight previous Portland starts and earned his first-ever Champ Car series points there in 1997 but had never had much luck on the 1.969-mile course until last season. Qualified second, Jourdain led 42 laps on the day before an entanglement with Tracy left him out of contention and dropped him to 12th in the final standings. Allmendinger started 13th a year ago during his Toyota Atlantic championship season and climbed nine spots to place fourth.

Rookie-of-the-Year points leader Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has his lead shaved to 15 points by Allmendinger in Milwaukee and will join Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Gaston Mazzacane (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) , Alex Sperafico (#14 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Nelson Philippe (#17 Lease Plan Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) as drivers making their first visits to Portland.

The 94-lap Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland will take place Sunday, June 20, with qualifying being held on Friday and Saturday. Saturday's qualifying will be shown live on HDNet at 4:45 p.m. Eastern. Sunday's race can be seen live on HDNet and Spike TV starting at 4 p.m. Eastern, 3 p.m. Central. Fans can also follow all the action at their own pace with the use of the new Race Director feature on the official website of the series, www.champcarworldseries.com.

-ccws-

Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Event Guide - 8

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gaston Mazzacane , Justin Wilson , Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Roberto Gonzalez , Alex Sperafico , Nelson Philippe , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain
Teams Dale Coyne Racing