IRL: St. Pete: Patrick Carpentier preview

HISTORICAL RACE FOR THE IRL SERIES IN THE STREETS OF ST. PETERSBURG St. Petersburg, Florida, Thursday, March 31, 2005 - When the Indy cars take to the track this weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Indy Racing League Series will write a...


St. Petersburg, Florida, Thursday, March 31, 2005 - When the Indy cars take to the track this weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Indy Racing League Series will write a page of motor racing history as it runs its first-ever non-oval track event. After completing 85,724 consecutive left hand turns, the next official turn at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will see the cars turning right for the first time on the 14-turn, 2.8968-kilometer temporary street circuit. Red Bull Cheever Racing driver Patrick Carpentier will be one of two current IndyCar Series competitors with experience on the Albert Whitted Municipal Airport temporary course.

But this experience alone will not make Patrick Carpentier one of the favorites to win this first street course event. Late Wednesday evening, the Canadian driver was still feeling the aftershock of his encounter with the Turn 2 wall at Phoenix two weeks ago. ''I went to see a doctor because I was still feeling pain on the left side,'' Carpentier said. ''He snapped one of my ribs back into place and that was very painful. I had one rib jammed on top of the other, and every time I made a move it would hurt so much that at one point I thought that I would have to skip this event. Fortunately, it feels much better now and I'm ready to go. You can always endure the pain on an oval, but left and right turns on a street course are another matter. I have sweet and sour memories of the St. Petersburg track where I finished 8th in 2003. I was running second behind my teammate Paul Tracy, but coming out of the pits on cold tires, I hit a bump and made contact with the tire wall. Fortunately, it was a light hit and the team changed the nose cone. I lost two laps but I was able to finish the race. I guess I was too eager and it cost me a podium finish.''

''To be successful here, we need to have a car that is well balanced over the curbs. The track is quite rough and you also need to have a stable car over the bumps. Brakes will be an issue for everyone on this track. I will have to work very closely with the team this weekend. I know the track but this will be a new experience for Red Bull Cheever Racing. Coming from Formula One, Henri Durand, the team technical director, has plenty of experience on road courses, and will be a key player this weekend.''

The Ones To Watch this Weekend
The only other current IndyCar Series driver with experience on the St. Petersburg Street Circuit is Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Darren Manning. The British driver competed on the temporary street circuit when he drove for Walker Racing in the Champ Car World Series in 2003, qualifying 11th before mechanical failure forced him to retire on lap 75 of 105. If Manning and Carpentier are the only ones with knowledge of St. Pete's course, most of the other IndyCar Series drivers have plenty road course experience. All the Brazilian and European drivers made their debut in karting and progressed through the rank and file of road racing as did most of the American drivers. It won't take them long to get back into the groove.

Two current IndyCar Series teams, who made the switch from Champ Car to the IRL at the end of the 2003 season, have experienced the runways of Albert Whitted Municipal Airport. Rahal Letterman Racing qualified fifth and finished second with Mexican driver Michel Jourdain while Fernandez Racing owner Adrian Fernandez qualified his car third, but exited the race early following contact with a rival. But, don't count the Penskes, Andretti-Greens and the Chip Ganassis of this world out of the running as these teams have plenty of experience on road and street courses.

Qualifying Format
The Indy Racing League will employ a unique and entertaining road course qualifying procedure for the first time to determine the Pole Award winner. Unlike the oval events, practice will play a key role in determining the starting field at the three road and street course events on the 2005 schedule. Under the road course qualifying procedures, all cars will participate in the opening two-hour session of practice (10:20 a.m. Friday). The performance based at the end of that session will determine the groups for split practice sessions Friday afternoon (2 p.m. Friday). The combined Friday practice times will determine the event qualifying order, with the driver posting the fastest combined time from the first day of practice having the option of driving first or last in single-lap qualifying (2 p.m. Saturday). At the conclusion of single-lap qualifying 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.

Top 10 in the IndyCar Series Point Standings after two races
In the point standings, Sam Hornish takes over the lead with 90 points, followed by Dan Wheldon, winner of the season opener, with 84 points. Helio Castroneves is tied for third with Tony Kanaan with 70 points each. Darren Manning is fifth with 52 points, one more than Vitor Meira. Carpentier is still in seventh place with 48 points, followed by Scott Sharp (47), Dario Franchitti (44) and Brian Herta with 42 points.

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)


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Helio Castroneves , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , Brian Herta , Michel Jourdain , Sam Hornis , Vitor Meira
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing