IRL: St. Pete: Patrick Carpentier race report

THIRD TOP-10 FINISH FOR CARPENTIER IN ST. PETERSBURG St. Petersburg, Florida, Sunday, April 3, 2005 - After starting 14th on the grid, Red Bull Cheever Racing driver Patrick Carpentier managed to finish eighth overall, in the ...

THIRD TOP-10 FINISH FOR CARPENTIER IN ST. PETERSBURG

St. Petersburg, Florida, Sunday, April 3, 2005 - After starting 14th on the grid, Red Bull Cheever Racing driver Patrick Carpentier managed to finish eighth overall, in the first-ever IndyCar Series non-oval race, which was held Sunday on the 14-turn, 2.8968-kilometer St. Petersburg temporary street circuit. It was the third consecutive top-10 finish for the Canadian driver who has yet to crack the top-5 in this series. As for the IRL, their debut at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was, if not overly exciting from laps 1 to 100, was, to say the least, as spectacular as it can get on a road course.

Andretti Green Racing took the spoils in this historic event by placing all its cars in the top four spots. UK native Dan Wheldon scored his second win of the season ahead of teammate Tony Kanaan of Brazil. Third place went to Dario Franchitti of Scotland, who finished ahead of polesitter Bryan Herta of the USA. Brazilian Vitor Meira, of Team Rahal Letterman, finished fifth ahead of Scott Dixon and Buddy Rice.

Gambling on a pit strategy that almost paid off, Carpentier made stops, as did winner Wheldon. But it was Wheldon's extra lap on the track prior to his final stop that helped him win the race and move back into first place in the standings. Wheldon won the season opener at Homestead-Miami. There was plenty of on-track action with Kanaan leading the charge. Dropping down to the 16th spot on lap 21 after problems in the pits, Kanaan made contact with then race leader Ryan Briscoe, around lap 9, paving the way for Wheldon's the claim his fifth IRL victory. Wheldon profited from the contact between Kanaan and Briscoe, the latter who ended his day in the tire barrier, to cross the finish line almost a full second ahead of his teammate.

"It was a good race.'' Carpentier said. ''I feel like I saved too much of the car. I didn't expect the brakes and the tires to last as long they did. The car was really good at the end. (On last restart) Buddy Rice was trying to pass me but he wasn't even beside me. He came in too hot. He hit me in the side pod and spun me around. I slid through turn five backwards. I was able to spin it around and keep going but I lost a lot of time and some positions. The car was good at the end once I got some heat in the tires. We made a lot of progress this weekend. We ran with the leaders consistently which was the first time this year that we have done that. It was a good show

Top 10 in the IndyCar Series Point Standings after three races With his second win of the season, Wheldon moves back into first place with 134 points, 24 ahead of his Andretti Green teammate Tony Kanaan. Sam Hornish Jr. falls from first to third with 105 following his on-track retirement. His Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, who also posted a DNF in this race, sits in fourth place with 82 points. Brazilian Vitor Meira is fifth overall with 81 points, followed by Dario Franchitti with 79 points. Darren Manning is tied with Bryan Herta with 74 points apiece while Patrick Carpentier falls two spots down to ninth overall with 72 points.

Indy Racing League Series drivers will enjoy 21 days off before flying to Japan for Round 4 of the 2005 season. This will be the IRL's third visit to the Twin Ring Motegi track. Scott Sharp, of the United States, won the inaugural event in 2003. Last year, British driver Dan Wheldon won from pole, leading 192 of the 200-lap affair. It was Wheldon's first pole and first IRL win. The race will be held Saturday, April 30.

-mdo-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Vitor Meira