Patrick Carpentier secured his first win of the 2004 Champ Car World Series as he followed up his start-to-finish win at Laguna Seca last season with a second straight win at the venue in the Grand Prix of Monterey.
The Forsythe Championship Racing pilot spent the first part of the day behind teammate Paul Tracy, but once he got to the front of the line after the first round of pit stops, the Canadian simply threatened to run away from the field.
At one point he established a 22-second lead over the field, but even a late caution period wasn't to deny him the victory as he came home 5.395 seconds ahead of Newman Haas driver Bruno Junqueira to take the fifth victory of his Champ Car career.
“I almost lost it towards the end because I just lost focus,” Carpentier said afterwards. “Since I was running by myself, I just drifted off and caught myself just in time as two of my tyres went off, I was lucky to be able to save it.
“The Indeck car was good, it got a little loose on the last 4-5 laps, but not complaints other than that. I really love this place. I guess you have to flip over the fence to do good here, because I have done real well here since that incident!”
The race was action-packed from the drop of the green flag as Tracy and polesitter Sebastien Bourdais roared into the first corner nose-to-tail, leaving Carpentier back to third. However Bourdais would not last through the first lap as contact with Tracy left the series points leader with a flat left rear tyre. With the Frenchman forced into the pits, Tracy found himself at the head of a three-car train that included Carpentier and rookie A.J. Allmendinger, who had started an impressive fourth on the grid.
The trio stayed within two seconds of each other through to the first set of pit stops, but as they took place, the whole field was jumbled up.
Alex Tagliani, out of sync with the rest of the field after an early stop, briefly assumed the lead as Carpentier leapfrogged ahead of Tracy as the Forsythe duo made their stops. However the defending series champion would drop out of the running just seven laps later, as he went off course in turn two on lap 38, suffering damage to his front wing assembly that would cause him to stop again for repairs.
Allmendinger followed suit soon after as he tried to make an inside move on Oriol Servia in the Corkscrew turn and came off worse when the two touched. He returned to the pits with suspension damage, and although the RuSPORT team got him back on track, albeit well down on the rest of the field, he was forced to call it a day. Servia, who had started 12th, continued unharmed to put himself firmly in contention for a podium finish.