Defending Champ Car Champion Paul Tracy Wins Molson Indy Vancouver VANCOUVER (July 25, 2004) -- What looked like another romp in the park for Paul Tracy ( ...
Defending Champ Car Champion Paul Tracy Wins Molson Indy Vancouver
VANCOUVER (July 25, 2004) -- What looked like another romp in the park for Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) turned into a nerve-racking sprint during Sunday's Molson Indy Vancouver, but the defending Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion overcame a pit miscalculation to win in front of 63,406 of his countrymen.
Tracy rolled from the top spot after taking the Greg Moore Pole Award Saturday and immediately took the point ahead of teammate Rodolfo Lavin (#3 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and series points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), although Bourdais challenged Tracy for the lead on the 1.781-mile street course around Vancouver's Concord Pacific Place after swiping second from Lavin in the first corner.
Bourdais shadowed Tracy for the first 32 laps but was never a factor after his first pit stop, allowing Tracy -- who won the 2003 Vancouver race by more than 17 seconds -- to roll away and build a 20-second lead on the field. The second set of pit stops yielded no dramas initially as Tracy maintained his lead, but heart rates were climbing under the awning of the Forsythe Championship Racing pit wagon as the engineers checked the team's fuel supply.
The team quickly discovered that it had not put enough methanol in Tracy's car during his second stop, leaving him unable to complete the entire 85-lap race distance without coming in for more fuel. Tracy's lead was 12 seconds over Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) when he got the call from his team, telling him that he needed to build a 25-second lead before pitting in order to hold the lead.
Tracy put his head down and starting clicking off fast laps, narrowly brushing the Turn Six tire barrier at one point, but managed to build a lead of 28.2 seconds before heading down Pit Lane. The Forsythe squad gave Tracy the fuel he needed and got him back on course before the Gigante-sponsored RuSPORT car of Jourdain could make up all of the ground, securing Tracy's third Vancouver win.
He bested Jourdain by 5.557 seconds to take his second win of the year and the 28th of his Champ Car career, then stopped in Turn One to salute the boisterous Vancouver crowd. The win, coupled with a fifth-place finish from Bourdais, brought Tracy to within 44 points of the series lead as the 2004 schedule approaches its halfway point.
The sunny British Columbia day was understandably a big one for Tracy, but it may have been even bigger for the Carl Russo-owned RuSPORT squad, which had the best day of its blossoming Champ Car career. The team used shrewd strategy and strong pit work to vault both Jourdain and A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) into contention. The pair started in the sixth row but immediately found themselves promoted to second and third respectively after their first stops, even leapfrogging the normally-quick Newman/Haas cars of Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) during their trips down Pit Lane.
Upon finding themselves in the chase for podium finishes, the RuSPORT guys immediately turned up the wick. Allmendinger passed his teammate in Turn 12 to take second and then set the fastest lap of the race on three consecutive passes as he attempted to keep the rest of the pack at bay. Bourdais, who had short-filled to try and catch Tracy, started the final run of pit stops on Lap 56 with Allmendinger following a lap later. Tracy and Jourdain both waited until Lap 60 to make their final fuel stops, with Jourdain leapfrogging Allmendinger during the stops.
But the third spot was not sewn up for Allmendinger as the machine of Junqueira loomed large in the rear-view mirror with five laps to go. Junqueira closed to within less than a half-second of the rookie and pressured him relentlessly, but the Californian was equal to the task. He would hold off the two-time series runner-up by just .405 seconds to score the first podium finish of his young career and to also seal the first double-podium finish for the first-year RuSPORT team.
Junqueira took the fourth spot ahead of his teammate Bourdais, although Bourdais would maintain his series lead. The top-five run for Bourdais left him with a 27-point advantage over Junqueira while Tracy closed to within 44 points after seven of the year's 16 races.
Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was credited with leading a lap during the first cycle of pit stops and came home in sixth with Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) following in seventh. An early show of strength from front-row starter Lavin ended with an engine fire on Lap 69 while a top-five run for Memo Gidley (#17 U.S. Air Force Reserve Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was lost after an early-race spin. Gidley recovered and went on to finish 11th.
The series takes next week off before heading to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America Presented by the Chicago Tribune.
QUOTES FROM TOP THREE FINISHERS
PAUL TRACY (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "The first part of the race was going the way that we wanted. We were able to build a 2-3 second lead. The last stop of the day went according to plan, on the radio they said I was good to go. Then they came on the radio and said I needed to start saving fuel. They said that we weren't going to make it and that I needed to build at least a 25 second lead. After running laps like I was qualifying and bumping a few times into the wall, I was able to do that. We made that stop, filled up, and finished on top. It is good to get these points and be back in the battle for the Championship."
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "I am very happy. It is fantastic that both of the RuSPORT cars finished on the podium today, am I very happy for A.J. (Allmendinger). We had both cars finish in the top-five in Milwaukee, so it is showing that our team is improving. We've lost points in the last couple of races by making mistakes, but it is good to have a result like this today. It is my first podium here in Vancouver and it is nice to share it with A.J. It was a tough race, we went fast when we had to and it was backed up by a good race strategy."
A.J. ALLMENDINGER (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "I am physically spent, tired, and very happy. It was an awesome race. I paced myself to save some energy because I knew that Bruno (Junqueira) was closing in. I wanted to have enough energy to keep him off and I pushed my hardest during the last laps of the race. In terms of the Rookie-of-the-Year battle, it is good to earn these points. I wasn't too worried about that before, but knowing I am in a close battle with a terrific driver Justin (Wilson) who is not in any way a rookie, it is a battle I would like to win because it would be a great accomplishment for me this season."
* Paul Tracy's 28th career Champ Car victory gives him sole possession of eighth on the all-time Champ Car list, putting him ahead of Johnny Rutherford. Rick Mears sits in seventh on that list with 29 wins. Tracy is also the first driver since Michael Andretti in 1991-92 to lead at least 70 laps in consecutive Vancouver events.
* Today's race-day attendance at the Molson Indy Vancouver was 63,406 making the total for the three days 158,420. This marks the 11th consecutive season that the Molson Indy Vancouver has drawn more than 155,000 fans.
* Today's podium finish for A.J. Allmendinger gives him an 18-point lead over Justin Wilson in the series Rookie-of-the-Year race. It is the first time this season that Allmendinger has led the rookie standings.
* Gaston Mazzacane did not make the start of today's event, spinning and hitting the frontstretch wall on the warmup laps. This marks the second straight season that one of the Dale Coyne Racing machines have suffered accidents on the warmup laps in Vancouver. Both Geoff Boss and Gualter Salles crashed before the start of last year's Vancouver race.