Tracy's optimism elevated after second consecutive victoryPosted: Sunday March 23, 2003 5:50 PM
Updated: Sunday March 23, 2003 10:04 PM
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) -- Paul Tracy is in uncharted territory, off to by far the best start of his 13-year CART career.
"It's a strange feeling. This is quite a different scenario for me," Tracy said Sunday after adding a victory in the Monterrey Grand Prix to his win last month in the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The 34-year-old Canadian has never finished better than third in the Champ Car World Series -- a feat he has managed three times. But his first two races with Team Player's has raised hopes of the championship he has coveted for so long.
"This is only the second race of a long season, but this team makes me feel very confident," Tracy said. "They brought in some new people and did a great job of getting prepared, and the team is very motivated.
"And there are a few people on the team that I've worked with before and I'm very comfortable with. I kind of feel like I'm at home, and that makes the job a lot easier."
He's made it look real easy so far this year.
Tracy held off Michel Jourdain Jr. Sunday for the same 1-2 finish as the opener. This one was almost a carbon copy of that race for Tracy, who again took the lead when rookie pole-winner Sebastien Bourdais pitted. Tracy never gave it up, this time leading the final 69 of 85 laps around the 2.104-mile, 14-turn road circuit in Fundidora Park.
He got the 21st victory of his career despite driving the second half of the race with an upset stomach that affected his concentration.
About the only other thing that went wrong for Tracy was stalling his Ford-powered Lola while trying to do victory doughnuts after beating Jourdain's Team Rahal entry to the finish line by 2.039-seconds -- about half the final straightaway.
"We're making all the right calls," Tracy said. "I just have to work on my doughnuts. That was embarrassing."
Bourdais, a 24-year-old Frenchman, led the first 30 laps in the opener, but got behind because of a failed pit strategy and crashed out of the race.
In that event, his Newman/Haas Racing team chose to leave him on the track when the other leaders made their first pit stops. This time, it was a faulty radio that caused the youngster to stay on the track when the other leaders came in on lap 14 during a caution period.
Bourdais gave up the lead to Tracy when he finally pitted on lap 17. He fell to 16th in the 19-car field, but charged all the way to seventh before clipping the wall on the way in for his second stop on lap 40, ending his day.
"Everything went wrong," Bourdais said. "It's so frustrating again."
Alex Tagliani gave Trans-Am star Paul Gentilozzi's new team a third-place finish in only its second Champ Car race, with Mexican star Adrian Fernandez -- the local favorite -- fourth and Bruno Junqueira, Bourdais' teammate, fifth.
Tracy missed the final qualifying session on Saturday after damaging his car when he slid off course in practice. He drove a backup Sunday.
"It was a good, solid race car," he said. "[The crew] had to work hard to get this car ready, and it was really good."
It wasn't close to a perfect race, though.
Tracy stalled his engine on his second pit stop, then drove through the grass while trying to hold off Jourdain late in the race.
"We figured out the problem in the pits was our pit speed limiter, so we just turned it off and kept it below 50 [mph]," Tracy explained. "And I lost a little time when I went off course, but it didn't hurt. I was able to pull away when I wanted to."
The fifth and final caution period of the race began on lap 79 when Patrick Carpentier tried to pass two cars at once to take fifth place and wound up sliding into the grass and stalling his engine.
That cost Tracy a lead of more than six seconds, but he was able to pull away from Jourdain on the restart on lap 82 and went unchallenged to the end.
"He was just faster than anyone else, and we couldn't catch him," said Jourdain, who matched his career-best finish and now trails Tracy by 11 points in the series standings.
Carpentier, Tracy's teammate, missed Saturday's final qualifying session with a virus that nearly closed one eye and also gave him flulike symptoms. Max Papis flew to Monterrey as a precaution, but Carpentier was able to drive the entire race, finishing a lap down in eighth.
"I am tired, but it was fun," Carpentier said. "I tried pretty hard and, on that pass, I was a bit too optimistic, I guess."