Jaime Camara provided all the highs for Conquest Racing in Saturday's SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway before what appeared to be a career-best result went begging.

The erstwhile Champ Car team continued to show its progress since switching to the IRL, as Camara led his first laps in the IndyCar Series and ran at the front for the majority of the race.

Starting from 24th on the grid, the Brazilian made many passes on his way towards the front and, taking advantage of restarts after numerous yellow flag periods and an early pit stop on lap 34, eventually took the lead on lap 72, when the leaders came in for their first stop.

Camara went on to lead 44 laps, fighting off eventual race winner Tony Kanaan all the while, before eventually losing to Marco Andretti on lap 116. He remained in second position, however, until his last stop, under yellow, on lap 136 but, with some drivers choosing to stay out when most of the frontrunners pitted, found himself eighth when he returned to the track.

Once the race restarted, he began to make his way back up the order, and found himself in third by lap 206, gaining on Helio Castroneves. However, just as the younger Brazilian - who only made his IRL debut when Franck Perera lost his sponsor after Long Beach - appeared set for a top-three finish, he lost control of his car exiting turn four, sliding into the wall and out of the race. He was classified 14th, still his best finishing position of the season, but that came as little consolation.

"The tyre wear is pretty abrupt here, and the fuel load was getting lighter and lighter, as was the car," he explained in his post-crash interview, "I was neutral every lap and it was getting more and more neutral. I was trying with the tools inside the car to make it better, but I lost it on the exit of turn four.

"It was especially hard in traffic today, and it's a shame for the Conquest Racing Sangari car. I feel sorry for the guys. It was going to be a great result, we needed that and now it's all gone."

Camara's performance was appreciated by many, including fellow countyman and eventual winner Kanaan.

"He was driving the hell out of that car," the AGR man reported, "I think, for such a small team, he proved he has a lot of potential, even though he ended up in the wall. But you know, I feel his pain and I know the kid is talented. I think it shows pretty much what he can do.

"So much for teaching the kid - all of a sudden, you get all you teach him back. I'll have a chat with him at home. He won't be allowed in the office for a couple weeks."

"It felt great to lead though and it helps us build momentum," Camara continued, "It's good for the team - I just wish I could have finished this race."

The momentum will be important for Conquest as the series gives the teams little chance for a rest. Team members headed back to Indianapolis on Sunday morning to start repairing Camara's car and preparing for next weekend's race at Watkins Glen, when it hopes that troubled team-mate Enrique Bernoldi will be in his road racing element.

"As we have said before, we felt the team was up to score some good results and we proved tonight, with Jaime, that we have the performance in race trim," team owner Eric Bachelart commented, "He truly drove an amazing race and impressed many people tonight.

"Jaime was able to pass many competitors on the outside, something you see only once in a while, but, unfortunately, we did not have a happy ending. But we will keep the momentum and we will try to finalise a good oval result in Nashville in two weeks."