Houston, Texas, October 7, 2001 Patrick Carpentier of Team Player's overcame some problems with the pop-up valve that relegated him near the back of the pack early in the race and drove to a 10th-place finish Sunday at the Grand Prix of Houston...
Houston, Texas, October 7, 2001 Patrick Carpentier of Team Player's overcame some problems with the pop-up valve that relegated him near the back of the pack early in the race and drove to a 10th-place finish Sunday at the Grand Prix of Houston in the FedEx CART Championship. The three points that Carpentier recorded boosted his season total to 86 and moved him into seventh place in the drivers' standings.
Carpentier's teammate Alex Tagliani, who was in second place with only six laps to go, saw his race end in heartbreaking fashion when his Team Player's car, which was running on old tires at that stage of the race, slipped away from him in turn 5 and made contact with the retaining wall, breaking the right front suspension.
Brazil's Gil de Ferran, who won the pole Saturday, led the race seven times before taking the checkered flag and the victory, his second in a row and his second of the season. He finished 3.4 seconds ahead of Scotland's Dario Franchitti and 18.8 seconds ahead of Memo Gidley of the United States. The 22 points that de Ferran compiled on the weekend pole, race win and most laps led moved him into first place in the drivers' standings with 163 points, 10 more than Sweden's Kenny Brack.
After starting 20th on the grid and then losing several positions early on because of the damaged pop-off valve, Carpentier demonstrated his grittiness by consistently working his way up the field. Pit-stop strategy helped him go from 23rd to 13th, as he had topped up with fuel just before a caution flag occurred, and many of those ahead of him went into the pits. He finally moved into the top 10 with four laps to go in the 100-lap event.
"This was about the best I could hope for on this track today because it was a real struggle out there," said Carpentier, who earned his eighth top-10 finish of the season. "This isn't the type of track where you can gain a lot of positions through passing. "All race long the car had no grip and I was fighting every inch of the way. But it was good to be able to pick up the three points and move up another place in the standings. We still have our sights on getting into the top 5."
Tagliani, who started fifth from the grid, had a sensational opening lap, passing both Brack and Helio Castroneves to take over third place. Tagliani was only briefly out of the top 5 for the next 93 laps. Running fifth on lap 78, he gained a position on each of the next three laps, and stayed in second from laps 81 to 93, when, because of the worn tires, he was unable to negotiate turn 5.
"It's not the ending I was hoping for," remarked Tagliani, who maintains his 15th spot in the drivers' standings with 51 points. "We had a good car today good enough for a podium finish. Team Player's had a different pit strategy than Team Penske and Team Green, and for quite a while, it looked like we were going to be able to pull it off. The main thing is that we were competitive today. I fought hard right to the end because I wanted to stay ahead of Dario (Franchitti). I race to win. That's the way I am."
Team Player's returns to action next weekend when the CART series heads to the 2.238-mile road course at Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, the site of Round 19 in the championship, on October 14.