By Don Markus, Sandra McKee and Jonas Shaffer
Baltimore Sun Media Group
9:40 PM EDT, September 2, 2012
Ed Carpenter, the only driver who had finished the previous 13 events on this year's IndyCar Series circuit, did not make it to the end Sunday in the Grand Prix of Baltimore.
The same chicane where Carpenter's car went airborne Saturday turned out to be even more problematic on Sunday. Instead of coming down unscathed, Carpenter's car skidded into the wall on Lap 9 of the 75-lap race.
“I was trying to gain time through the chicane and I just pushed too hard and hit the wall,” said Carpenter, 31, the only owner-driver on the circuit. “I really feel badly for our crew guys and the Fuzzy's Vodka folks [his sponsor]. I am pretty frustrated.”
Carpenter, who had his best 2012 starting position, eighth, in Baltimore, looks at Sunday's crash as a bump in the road.
“We have been making progress with our new team,” said Carpenter, who formed the team late last year. “We'll just lick our wounds and get ready for the big oval at Fontana [Calif.]. I'm disappointed that we ended our finishing record too. Our crew has done a great job throughout the season with a well-prepared race car to finish every race. We'll regroup for the season finale [in Fontana]. I know we'll have a strong car for that race.”
Pagenaud on the move
IndyCar rookie of the year Simon Pagenaud moved into fifth place in the season points standings after an impressive third-place finish Sunday. But it was his move from sixth to first on a Lap 37 re-start that had everyone talking.
“Yeah, that was pretty cool,” Pagenaud said after the race. “I should thank my fellow competitors for letting me by there. I think I just timed it perfectly and it's one of those deals, sometimes you get a little bit lucky and sometimes you don't. I want to say this time I was just 100 percent perfect.
“I went push-to-pass, went back on the power just before everybody when the green flag was dropped, and I had a good draft. So I had a lot of speed to go into Turn One. Made my way, and, wow, when I was braking in Turn One, I'm like, ‘I think I'm P1 [position 1].' And I started to count back, ‘Where did I start?' So, yeah, it was cool. It was definitely a great thing.”
The 28-year-old Pagenaud dropped back later in the race, but worked his way back up to third.
“Third is good today,” he said. “You always want a little bit more but I've got to remind myself that it's the first season. But we are knocking on the door, so that's a pretty good feeling.”
Bernard on Baltimore
IndyCar chief executive officer Randy Bernard seemed to be picking up positive vibes at the Grand Prix of Baltimore.
“I'm very tickled with the way it's going,” Bernard said Sunday. “The Andretti group has done a good job organizing the event and [Race On LLC head] J.P. Grant has stepped up. All the vendors have been taken care of, eliminating any embarrassment.”
As to whether the Grand Prix will return to Baltimore, Bernard said the IndyCar Series board of directors will meet Sept. 20 to finalize the 2013 schedule. That gives Baltimore officials 18 days to finalize plans. Bernard said it would be enough time for Race On LLC to sort through the post-race information. He added that he does not want to be making multiple announcements about the schedule.
“I want one announcement for the schedule,” he said. “As for Baltimore, I had a very good conversation with J.P. Grant. He's been a huge supporter of this race and wants it to work for the city. He definitely would like to see it back on the series schedule.”
Bernard said he expects to have a 19-race schedule next season.
Big weekend for Vautier
There must be something about Tristan Vautier and Baltimore.
Then again, Vautier's success rate is pretty high just about everywhere he races.
A year after winning the Star Mazda Series race in the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix en route to coming in first in the circuit for the 2011 season, the 33-year old Frenchman led the entire way Sunday in winning the Indy Lights race.
Gustavo Yacaman of Colombia finished second, despite having trouble with his car after making early contact with Esteban Guerreri of Argentina, who came in third. Carlos Munoz of Colombia, who had made it from the middle of the pack to second behind Vautier during Lap 24 of the 35-lap race, ran off the course on Lap 30.
“It was a great weekend, a great race,” Vautier said after his fourth victory this season.”Really satisfying. It was not an easy race, not an easy weekend. The track is very intense, technical. It was a lot of work in the car.”
The win helped Vautier pass Guerreri, his teammate in Sam Schmidt Racing, for the overall points lead. It was also the 53rd victory overall for Schmidt's team, which was formed a year after Schmidt, a former Indy Car driver, was left paralyzed in a 2000 crash while testing.
“At some point we're all fighting for the title, everyone wants it so bad,” Vautier said.
Yacaman was relieved to finish with his race car intact after the early contact with Guerreri.
“It affected the handling terribly,” Yacaman said. “I just had massive understeer everywhere. …I'm just happy the car made it back home.”
Brabham rolls in USF2000
It was a Sunday of firsts for Matthew Brabham, even though none of them was anything new to him.
First to start the USF2000 Baltimore Grand Prix. First to reach the checkered flag in the 16-lap race. And, most important, first overall in the USF2000 Championship standings.
With a flag-to-flag victory, Brabham extended his lead over teammate and Saturday winner Spencer Pigot to 41 points. The USF2000 Championship season concludes Sept. 14 at the Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va.
“I am just happy how everything turned out at the end of the weekend,” said Brabham, who won the pole for Sunday's race after posting the fastest lap time in Saturday's opening race. “It was disappointing yesterday to make a few mistakes, so today I was just concentrating on not making any mistakes, keeping it clean, staying out in front and out of trouble. It worked out for me in the end and the track was really, really fun to drive on.”
Brabham finished first in 29:19.911, while Scott Anderson (29:21.717) and Scott Hargrove (29:22.593) joined him on the podium.
Karam takes Star Mazda
Sage Karam, driving an Andretti Autosport Honda, streaked to the checkered flag Sunday morning, beating Jack Hawksworth in his Team Pelfrey Mazda by 10.170 seconds on the streets of Baltimore.
It was quite an effort as teams coped with the ever-changing street course conditions surrounding the light-rail tracks on Pratt Street.
This was Karam's third victory of the season and his second on a street circuit. The win moved him back to second in the points championship, behind Hawksworth, who won the Mazda race Saturday.
Hawksworth, even with the second-place finish Sunday, has a 61-point lead heading into the final three races of the season.
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