DAY ONE AT ST. PETERSBURG NOT KIND TO CARPENTIER St. Petersburg, Florida, Friday, April 1, 2005 - It would appear that there is a dark cloud hovering above Patrick Carpentier's head on each first day of on-track activities...
DAY ONE AT ST. PETERSBURG NOT KIND TO CARPENTIER
St. Petersburg, Florida, Friday, April 1, 2005 - It would appear that there is a dark cloud hovering above Patrick Carpentier's head on each first day of on-track activities during an Indy Racing League Series race weekend. And it just doesn't seem to want to go away. This time, the Red Bull Cheever Racing driver spent most of the day in the pits waiting for his crew to fix his Dallara-Toyota. He went out early Friday morning for a two-hour scheduled practice, but 53 minutes into the session his car was towed back into the pits following a mechanical failure. Carpentier ran only 14 laps around the 14-turn, 2.8968-kilometer St. Petersburg temporary street circuit. Check-in laps they call it, laps to see how the car is handling. He never had a chance to put new rubber on and go out to try and post a decent lap time.
In the afternoon final 30-minute practice session, Carpentier's throttle jammed as he was leaving the pits, and his name would not appear on the time chart. Practice sessions are important during an IRL road course weekend as the combined times set the qualifying order. The Canadian driver was classified 19th overall out of 21 drivers registered for Round 4 of the 2005 schedule. This means that track conditions won't be at their best when he attempts his single-lap qualifying run on Saturday afternoon.
''I went out to see how the car was handling,'' Carpentier said. ''Usually on a street or a road course, you spend the first part of the session on old or wet tires to clean the track when you make sure that everything is working fine on the car. I guess it was not, because everything stopped in Turn 2, and I was towed back to the pits. That was the end of my day's work. It's a shame because there is only half an hour of practice left on Saturday morning before qualifying. It's going to be tough to find in 30 minutes, the right road course set-ups on a car that was built mainly to run on ovals. Fortunately, my teammate Alex Barron looked good with a 10th-place finish. The team will use his set-ups for my car, but I will have to find out whether we then adjust the car for qualifying or for the race. Tonight's meeting will be all about strategy.''
Barron finished 10th overall, 1.135-second behind pacesetter Helio Castroneves. The Brazilian drove his Team Penske Dallara-Toyota around the track in 63.0836 seconds, only 0.0667 seconds better than the Team Andretti Green Racing Dallara-Honda of Dario Franchitti of Scotland. Behind these two drivers, the gap widens. Third quickest was Brazilian Tony Kanaan, 0.7671 seconds behind Castroneves. That means that Barron is only 0.3644 seconds from third place. If the transfer set up is done right on Carpentier's car, there may be hope for another miracle on race day.
Drivers will return to the Albert Whitted Municipal Airport temporary course on Saturday morning for the last practice session which is scheduled to start at 9:15 a.m. The lone qualifying session of the weekend will start at 2:45 p.m. Helio Castroneves, who posted the fastest combined time in practice Friday, will have the option of setting the qualifying order by starting first or last in the single-lap qualifying run scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Saturday. Weather will most likely determine Castroneves choice.
At the conclusion of the single-lap qualifying session there will a 10-minute break for adjustments. Then the fastest six cars will participate in a 10-minute, European-style session designed to give each car the opportunity to better its qualifying time. Cars will be spaced in 10 to 15-second gaps on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit. This will set the first three rows of the starting grid for Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, April 3 on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg, Fla. The race, the first non-oval event in IndyCar Series history, will be telecast live by TSN at 3:30 p.m. (EDT)