Junqueira wins abbreviated Andretti GPPosted: Monday August 04, 2003 12:33 AM
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) -- Bruno Junqueira took advantage of his favorite track to win his first race of the season.
His victory Sunday at the rain-shortened Mario Andretti Grand Prix also moved him into first place in the Champ Car standings.
Junqueira, who started at the pole, held a three-point lead over Paul Tracy after Sunday's race. Tracy slid off the track in the 11th lap and did not return.
"It was a very good week for me," Junqueira said.
Rookie Sebastien Bourdais, Junqueira's Newman/Haas teammate, finished second. Alex Tagliani, who started 13th, finished third.
The race was frustrating for drivers and fans. It started under a yellow flag and was delayed twice because of rain -- the second time for about 2 1/2 hours.
In the end, 34 laps were completed instead of the planned 60. Only 19 were ran under the green flag, with the first crash coming midway through the first lap.
The first green flag wasn't waved until after 10 laps and more than three hours had elapsed. Less than a lap later, the yellow flag came out again because of a crash on turn eight that ended the day for Michel Jourdain and Tiago Monteiro.
Bourdais and Tagliani questioned whether CART officials should have stopped the race after it started on schedule. They both said the track was damp, but not wet.
"I really didn't understand why we had to red flag the race," Tagliani said. "When they started the race here, there were no puddles."
Bourdais said CART officials should have either postponed the race or let it run after it started, because the drivers didn't know what conditions they would eventually run in.
But Junqueira said the rain made it difficult for drivers in the back of the pack to see and it was safer to just wait for the rain to stop.
"From my experience, after 130-140 mph the spray from the cars is so big that the guys behind cannot see," he said.
Despite the weather, Junqueira dominated the field. His lead was never challenged. Bourdais did begin to run faster laps than Junqueira at the end of the race, but decided not to push his teammate.
"I'm not going to try anything silly on Bruno," he said. "Let's try to make it safe."
Tagliani, meanwhile, was happy to finish third after a rough weekend at what he called one of his favorite tracks. On Friday, he crashed during the 10-minute practice before qualifying, when his car sailed over that of Mario Haberfeld in turn 12.
"For the last three years, I loved [Road America]. Yesterday, I hated it and today I like it again," he said.
Several crashes by the drivers in front of him and a good pit stop helped Tagliani move to third.
Junqueira also repeatedly said Road America's permanent road course was his favorite on the circuit. He won the first CART race of his career at Elkhart Lake in 2001 and started at the pole last year before a poor pit stop dropped him to third.
His comfort on the track showed throughout the weekend. He won both qualifying rounds and had the fastest laps in every practice.
He said he was determined to take advantage of his good fortune there after watching Tracy win five of the first 11 races.
"I knew that I had to win a race this year to keep me motivated and keep the team believing we could do well in the championship," he said. "I knew that my best shot to win a pole and win a race was at this race track."