CHAMPCAR/CART: Road America: Newman/Haas Racing race report



- Hole in the Wall Camps driver Bruno Junqueira rebounded from a Lap 1 incident that put him in the back of the field to lead 12 laps in the 51-lap Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America and finish second to A.J. Allmendinger and move from eight place in the series rank to sixth, only five out of fourth place. The event was red flagged in the closing laps of the race for 42 minutes to clear the debris from a violent crash when Kathryn Legge's car experienced a rear wing failure. Fortunately she received only bruises from the experience. Wet conditions Friday and Saturday limited Junqueira's qualifying effort to tenth place despite being fast in the dry sessions. Junqueira was optimistic after setting the fastest lap in the pre-race warm-up today. At the start of the event under sunny, clear conditions, Junqueira gained a few positions on the front straight before being hit by rookie Will Power in Turn 1. He was stopped in the middle of the track but was quickly restarted by the Safety Team and traveled around the 4.048-mile road course before entering the pits to replace the damaged right sidepod and was able to return to the track on the same lap despite the lengthy stop due to the length of the course and the full course caution. When the race resumed on Lap 3 he was in 16th place but quickly moved up to 11th place by Lap 6 without using any of the 75 seconds of Push to Pass. As the field cycled through their first of three pit stops on Lap 15 he moved into second place before making his second stop, and first for fuel on Lap 16 and retuned to the race in ninth place. Once back on track he immediately reported a vibrating problem but was unable to pit for new tires without losing the ground he had regained. He continued until the second fuel window opened and he came in for his second stop on Lap 25, which was earlier than planned, so that the tires could be replaced. Once the stop was completed a large flat spot was found on his right front tire which explained the vibration. He was in 13th place but moved into 10th on the following lap and into the lead on Lap 28 when the field pitted during the caution for rookie Juan Caceres, who was making his first Champ Car start and went off course. He led Laps 29-40 while holding the lead for three restarted from caution and had built a lead of 5.5 seconds before he was quickly called into the pits for his final stop on Lap 40 as the team anticipated a caution period for Nelson Philippe, who had just returned to the track from a pit stop without one of his tires being properly attached. Junqueira was temporarily held up by Philippe but was able to safely get around him. Allmendinger, who had started fifth pitted one lap later than Junqueira and was able to get back on track ahead of him in fifth place while Junqueira was sixth. On Lap 44 race leader Bourdais pit and got back on track in front of Allmendinger but the American took advantage of the cold tires Bourdais was on and passed him as did Junqueira who was now in second place after the field cycled through their pits. On Lap 46 a caution flag came out for Legge's accident and was subsequently replaced by the red flag. Engines were restarted 42 minutes later and the field took one warm-up lap before the green flag was thrown. Race leader Allmendinger had no Push to Pass left while Junqueira had 23 seconds. Due to understeer when he closed on Allmendinger he was unable to get close enough to attempt a pass despite using the Push to Pass and he finished in second place. He earned 27 points for his finish and one for leading the race to bring his total to 177 and move from eight to sixth place in the standings, only five out of fourth place. It was his fourth podium finish in five races at Road America.

Following are his post race comments:

"It was very entertaining race for me," said Junqueira. "I made a very good start from 10th. I was already behind A.J. I don't know which position, but maybe eighth or seventh. Someone hit me on the exit of turn one and I spun. Then Andrew Ranger hit me big time when I was spun, and hit me sideways. I was lucky it didn't damage much of the car. A little bit of the under wing at the side pod, between the side pods was damaged. I started from last and I was passing guys and I think I went up to eighth. I think I passed seven or eight guys on the track, not using the 'push to pass', trying to save it. I decide to give a different strategy on the second stop, to stop really early. I said from here we can finish fifth, but to have such a great car, let's gamble a little bit. Even so, we stopped earlier than anybody. I knew I couldn't get clear track and run fast so we did that. Luckily the yellow came out, put me in the lead; I couldn't believe it. Then when I took the lead, my car was so good. I said 'Great, I think it's my day, my lucky day.' I opened a gap on the three restarts on Nelson. They were very good gaps of five or six seconds ahead. I was not pushing as much; the car was just perfect. Then there was a guy, I think Nelson Philippe, that lost a wheel. Then they called me in earlier because they thought a yellow was going to come out. When I came out of the Canada corner, going to the bridge, I see Nelson in the middle of the track trying to survive. Then I had to slow down, brake, put it in second gear. Maybe I lost four, five seconds on that and that was the in-lap.

"Because of that, I lost a lot of time. For sure that gave the opportunity to A.J. to pass me in the pits and do one extra lap. Then I knew that I had more 'push to pass', but my car started to have so much understeer, I don't know if it's something on the undertray that broke because the car was good before but it became really bad after the last stop. I think something broke big time there because it was bad, especially on the high-speed corners. I just tried the 'push to pass' on A.J. but I wasn't close enough to pass him so I finished second. I'm quite happy with the result, especially after what happened in Turn 1 on the first lap. But after leading, at one moment I thought I was going to win again at Road America, but it didn't happen. Anyway, it was a great day today. I'm very happy that Katherine didn't get hurt because when I looked, the car was pretty nasty. That's a very fast corner, so I'm pretty happy with that. I'm pretty happy that Cristiano had a chance a couple of days ago to go back to Miami. That's the most important thing. And I'm very, very happy that after not racing here in 2005, to race here in Road America again. It's my favorite track. I love to race here, so I'm very happy with that.

"I think I had like six or seven races I was taken out in the first lap. That's more than my whole time here in racing. Seriously, I'm usually a guy that gets through no problem. I don't know what's happening. In the warm-up, my car was so good. I was very confident. I said the only guy that can match my speed is Sebastien. We were like a second and a half clear of the field. At least a second. I said I can get through the field today and I can get a great result. Even when I went last after the stop, I said to myself, I'm going to pass people, I'm going to get through the field. For sure it is really hard because I had the run on everybody, and everybody was using the 'push to pass'. I didn't want to burn it passing the slower guys too early in the race. So I had to pass people like bonsai moves. I had so much nice passes on people early on. But I think the big thing was to take a big gamble in the second stop, stopping early, getting lucky. I think in the end I need to get lucky a little bit, you know. I mean, not unlucky. But A.J. got even more lucky in the end."

- McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais led a race-high 28 laps, set the fastest race lap and held leads of 15 and 12 seconds over second place in the 51-lap Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America but was limited to a third place finish which postponed the outcome of the Championship fight to the next race in Australia as A.J. Allmendinger earned his fifth win of the season and staved off the outcome. Wet conditions Friday limited Bourdais' qualifying effort to fifth place on Friday despite being fastest by a sizeable gap in the dry session on Friday and again on Saturday. Rain fell again during final qualifying but Bourdais was able to run a quick lap before the rain picked up and the time stood as the fastest of the session which guaranteed him a front row start of second place. Under clear skies on race day Bruno Junqueira and Bourdais were quickest, respectively, in the pre-race warm up and were optimistic for the race. At the start Bourdais fell back to third behind rookie Charles Zwolsman took over the lead when the green flag waved on Lap Four after a caution for Will Power who made contact with Junqueira. He first passed polesitter Dan Clarke who was in second then race leader Zwolsman. Once in front, Bourdais built a 15-second lead even after the first cycle of green-flag pit stops. That lead was erased on Lap 18 when Power went off course again in Turn One, enabling Allmendinger to close on Bourdais. Once the race restarted, Bourdais built a five-second lead in the next two laps and extending it to 12 seconds in five more. That lead evaporated when first time Champ Car starter Juan Caceres brought out the caution flag when he landed in the gravel trap on Lap 27. Bourdais made his second stop and took on a full load of fuel and was beat back on track by Wilson and Allmendinger who most likely short filled. He was in fifth place behind the two title contenders while Junqueira lead Nelson Philippe through two restarts. Once Philippe pitted, Bourdais moved into fourth place but Philippe was in jeopardy of losing one of his wheels that was not properly attached and the front runners jumped into the pits anticipating a caution and Bourdais reclaimed the lead. The final lap before pitting is always a crucial one as a driver can set a quick lap time with a low fuel load and hot tires but Bourdais lost valuable ground while being held up behind the lapped car of Caceres. The situation was already tight for Bourdais to make his stop and get back on track in front of Allmendinger, which he was able to do so but was passed in the Turn 4 due to being on cold tires compared to Allmendinger's who had three laps on them. Junqueira was also able to pass Bourdais, and dropped him to third place. On Lap 46 a caution flag came out for a frightening accident by Katherine Legge, whose rear wing failed and was fortunately only bruised. The series threw the red flag so that the large debris area could be cleared and a two lap shootout could be held. Engines were restarted 42 minutes later and the field took one warm-up lap before the green flag was thrown. Bourdais trailed second place Junqueira and neither were able to challenge Allmendinger who won the event. Bourdais earned 25 points for third place, one for leading and one for setting the fastest lap of the race for a season total of 338 with two races left in the championship.

Following are his post race comments:

"It was just about the most frustrating day for the McDonald's team," said Bourdais. "When you have that dominant a car, it just seems unreal that you can actually lose it. It just shows how uncertain these races are when the yellows come at the wrong time, you catch a (backmarker) at the wrong time. That's that. I was really upset because losing three full seconds on the in-lap to a guy that's running around five seconds off the pace is not acceptable at that level of racing. It still happens. That lost us the race. I am just very unhappy with the situation. In the meantime, you know, we were looking forward to go racing and show everything we had. We did that the whole time. Just a wrong timing prevented us to win that race. Right now we're not really thinking about the championship because from there on, as long as we take the start of the race, even if it goes bad, it's still pretty much wrapped up. We'll have to delay a little bit the happiness.

"Right now I guess I'm going to have help people understand why I'm not smiling, I guess. We lost the race on the inlap, period. When I exited the pits, A.J. was coming right there, and Bruno wasn't very far off. On cold tires, cold day like that, there's just no chance. You exit the pits, you don't stand the chance if you don't have three seconds' advantage over the guy by turn five, you're done. That's pretty much what happened."

- STATISTICALLY SPEAKING... Bonus points not withstanding, today's result means that Sebastien Bourdais officially clinches the 2006 Champ Car title with a ninth-place finish in Surfers Paradise.

- UP NEXT... The Champ Car World Series will take three weeks off before Round 13 of 14 takes place in Surfer's Paradise, Queensland, Australia on Sunday, October 22.

-credit: nhr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Nelson Philippe , Andrew Ranger , Will Power , Daniel Clarke , Juan Caceres