Carpentier Ends His Own Streak At Cleveland GP

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - The only streak Patrick Carpentier cared about was the one of bad luck he finally ended.

Carpentier, whose car had one problem after another a week ago, had a fairly uneventful trip around the track Sunday as he earned his second career CART victory by winning the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland.

Carpentier's surprising win also ended a four-race winning streak for series points leader Cristiano da Matta, who blew an engine and was done after 21 laps.

"Getting the second one was tough," said Carpentier. "I had a perfect car."

That was a drastic change for the 30-year-old Canadian, who couldn't seem to catch a break during the first nine races this season. His best finish had been a fourth at Japan in April.

"For once, we had everything going our way," said Carpentier, who took the lead on Lap 49 when defending champion Dario Franchitti also broke down. "Cristiano had problems and so did Dario. We had no problems, zero problems."

Carpentier, who blew an engine during Saturday's practice session, won by 17.059 seconds over Michael Andretti, and 28.295 seconds over Paul Tracy.

Kenny Brack was fourth, and Alex Tagliani fifth in the 18-car starting field, quickly reduced to 16 following a four-car pileup on the first turn.

Carpentier averaged 120.998 mph over the 115-lap race -- Cleveland's longest since 1983 -- on the temporary 2.106-mile Burke Lakefront Airport course laid out on runways and taxiways.

Da Matta has dominated the circuit all season, and was seeking a record fifth straight win. The Brazilian was leading when an electrical problem cut out his engine, and cut short his run at history.

"It's a huge shame," da Matta said. "What happened was just one of those things in racing. I'm not disappointed about not setting a new record. The streak doesn't mean anything. The championship is my goal."

Carpentier won for the first time since the Michigan 500 last season. That victory came on an oval track. Now Carpentier, one of the better road racers on the circuit, has a road course victory, too.

"I'm more happy to get this one," he said. "It happened when I least expected it."

Carpentier's surprising win came a week after a 10th-place finish at Molson-Indy in Toronto.

"Last week, we had a problem every 10 to 15 minutes," said Carpentier, who hasn't been offered a contract with Team Player's for next season. "We had a problem in every qualifying session, the practices, everything. This weekend, everything was perfect. It was completely the opposite of Toronto."

However, he did have an early problem as his dashboard electrical system malfunctioned and he was unable to gauge how his car was performing.

He was able to take care of the problem, and soon after got another break when da Matta, the pole sitter and overwhelming favorite, went out.

"Man," Carpentier said, joking. "I was so disappointed you couldn't believe it."

For the first 20 laps, the 28-year-old da Matta, who won two bonus points this weekend during qualifying to raise his series total to 120, looked to be on his way to a sixth win in nine races this season.

Da Matta had built a 2.3-second lead over Franchitti when he unexpectedly pitted after 19 laps, telling his crew over the on-board radio that he didn't know what was wrong.

"The car started losing power," he said.

After getting fuel and new tires, da Matta returned to the track, but it wasn't long before his streak went up in a puff of grayish-blue exhaust smoke on the back straightaway.

"I'll be honest with you," Carpentier said. "If he didn't break down, he would have been really tough to catch. He was pulling away with every lap."

Until he can put another string of wins together, da Matta will have to share the CART record of four consecutive victories with Al Unser Jr. (1990) and Alex Zanardi (1998).

Despite his early exit, da Matta leads the standings through eight races with 120 points - 50 more than Bruno Junqueira, and 56 more than Franchitti.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)