13 September 2004
Carpentier secures back-to-back Laguna wins.
But third was a long way behind Carpentier at that point as the defending race winner had built a 22-second lead by lap 53. However, a stall by Roberto Gonzalez brought out a full course yellow which bunched the field back up for a restart on lap 57. Junqueira was the beneficiary of the yellow, but took the restart with the lapped car of Rodolfo Lavin, teammate to Carpentier, between himself and the leader.
Junqueira would never get any closer than he was at that point and was forced to settle for second place. The podium finish for Junqueira was his seventh of the season, but more importantly, it allowed him to slice 11 more points from the points lead held by his teammate Bourdais - bringing the Brazilian driver to within 24 points of the series leader.
“I am real happy,” he said. “It was a good weekend for me and the PacifiCare car. We had great expectations coming here this year after running well last year. However, the car was not as good and we couldn't find the right balance. Then I crashed the morning before final qualifying and my team had to work hard to get the car ready.
“We started eighth, which wasn't really good, so we knew it would be hard. The Championship is still wide open and I am still fighting hard. This really gives us a boost for us to do well in Las Vegas and keep fighting.”
Carpentier ran away from the field again at the restart, Junqueira was safe in second while Servia had a five second advantage over his pursuers in third, helping Dale Coyne Racing to a first podium finish since 1996.
“This feels great!” the delighted Spaniard said afterwards. “We were so close in Cleveland and in so many races, it is great to finally get the result. We have all been working very hard and proving that we are capable together. It is a good feeling to finally do it, especially starting were we did. I did not have a great weekend because we were having problems with the car. It was a great race, three cars went off track in front of us, but otherwise, I passed a lot on track, our pit stops were good, and the car was good.
“We still need more speed, but it is great to show what we can do, a team that does not have a huge budget, but a lot of dedication.”
But behind the top three, a train of cars became embroiled in a frantic battle over the final 20 laps as Michel Jourdain Jr, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tagliani and Bourdais all fought fiercely for fourth through to seventh.
Jourdain was equal to the task and would come home in fourth while Hunter-Reay bagged his first top-five finish since Road America – an improvement on the non-finishes he had picked up in the last two races. Tagliani, who led seven laps on the day, finished sixth but the points leader Bourdais had one more brush with misfortune to suffer before taking the chequered flag.
Trying on his last lap to steal a position and two championship points from Tagliani, Bourdais slid off course in turn four, and rather than gain a place, he ended up losing seventh to Mario Haberfeld.
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