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Laguna Seca Diary:
Day Three
Carpentier Drops Some Hints

Laguna Seca, CA, September 12 — It’s race day, and as usual, we are at the track early. It’s a 7:15 AM mandatory photographer’s meeting. If you want to shoot the race, you have to go to the meeting. The morning is beautiful, and we’re also among the first people there – just the track workers, the county Mounties, and us. I drop Jeff off at the Media Center, score a terrific parking space for the rental car, and settle in for an hour of napping and reading.

Julie calls after my nap and we are off to pit lane to see how many driver interviews we can arrange. Race day can be dicey for interviews, but we have a deficit to make up from earlier in the weekend. Julie and I are a good team with a great approach. I schmooze with whomever I can while Jules goes in with the microphone for "the kill."

This morning we have a major score with Ryan Hunter-Reay. Right off the bat, we get a terrific quote from RHR about the IRL poaching the St. Petersburg race. Then, we’re off to get a breakfast burrito and coffee which is carried by Julie, and consumed by Jeff, who was off shooting the warm ups. I get the last bite of breakfast burrito and some coffee. Then it’s time to figure out the best place to watch the Atlantics race.

Julie figures it’s exactly where we have camped out in the media center. We can see most of the track from the large window, and there are TV screens all around, so we settle down with points possibility reports. We are confused as to why Champ Car black flags Ryan Dalziel after the first few laps. (And after we figure out why, we are still confused. We think a Fogarty/Dalziel race would have been far more interesting.)

The race is pretty much a snoozer for the TV viewer as Pacific Coast Racing’s Jon Fogarty takes the win. The top three press conference afterwards is fun for us, because we are acquainted with the Figge family who’s team has just won the championship. Alex Figge’s mother Jennifer is there with husband Tom and Jeff gets a great shot of the three Figges with Fogarty. Note to self, have the guys take off their hats next time – too much shadow on their faces. We wish the Figges well as they are driven off for more appearances – and eventually their awards banquet.

At lunch Bruno’s publicist has let us know we will not get an interview today unless he is in the top three and even then – it’s iffy. Champ Car News Manager Eric Mauk wants to know who's covering Las Vegas from Deep Throttle, and it’s the three of us.

The dust at the track seems heavier today. I hope it doesn’t mess up the race.

We wait for the Champ Car pre-race activities to wind down. We are expecting Bourdais to cruise to a victory today. He has looked very strong all weekend, but so have others – including Carpentier. But, with it being so difficult to pass on the track, we figure we are in for another snoozer. Hope springs eternal as Jeff goes out to turn 2 to stake out his spot and Julie and I get ready to watch the race from our unique vantage point.

We don’t have long to wait for the race to get interesting. We both shook our heads at the start. No one was lined up, but it was green flagged any way! Before we know it, Bourdais is heading for the pits with a cut tire. It takes us a while, even in the Media Center, to figure out what has happened to Sebastien. Suddenly, it looks like it’s going to be Tracy’s day. And, we notice that after early trouble, that our old friend Michel Jourdain, Jr. is suddenly looking strong, as well as his teammate, A. J. Allmendinger.

Conversation among the press turns to driver salaries and manufacturer subsidies. When I was talking to Carpentier yesterday, I got the feeling that he wasn’t getting paid very much for driving this year. He told me he has a family to support, and that got me thinking about how Champ Car has changed since the manufacturers took a powder after 2002. It was mentioned that Honda and Toyota will be going to NASCAR soon and probably pulling their development money out of the IRL.

I’m sure it’s the better salaries – bolstered by subsidies – which are drawing a road racer like Patrick Carpentier to the CART Lite version of the IRL. But, he tells me that Forsythe is there this weekend and that they have been talking about his contract. He also tells me not to believe what is being written about his negotiations. He had planned to announce his plans for 2005 last week but would now be announcing later – once the decisions have been made. We’ll see what happens. Pat has always been straight up with me in the past, so if he said there was no deal, I tend to believe him.

In the meantime, as we are discussing what the drivers are making, Patrick has gone into the lead! Suddenly, I am wondering what he will do if he wins. As the race winds down, activity at the track slowly starts to dwindle. When Carpentier does win the race, we three make it over to the press conference tent. I ask Pat what he’s going to do to celebrate. He says he can’t do anything this year. When he last won at Mid-Ohio, he thought the pictures taken of him made him look fat. Wait, that’s my line! He’s a relatively young guy, and to my eye looks about in perfect shape. I guess we all think we look fat now, even Carpentier!

We learn one more thing before we leave good old Dry Lake. We figure out from what one Champ Car official says that the series will be returning next year! This is a huge relief. We can only hope that next year, they actually get some people to attend the race!

Copyright © 2004 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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