Pat back on familiar track

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

For the first time since Patrick Carpentier launched his NASCAR Sprint Cup career almost one year ago, the native of Ville Lasalle, Que., will be racing on a track Sunday where he has tasted victory champagne.

Back in his first season with Team Players in the Champ Car World Series in 2001, Carpentier got his maiden win in top open-wheel racing at Michigan International Speedway.

Yesterday, he was recounting that experience.

"I couldn't believe it," Carpentier said. "I was crying on the lap coming into the pits and managed to stall it on the back straight. (The win) had been a long time coming."

The car he passed to win that day was being driven by Dario Franchitti, who has joined Carpentier this season as a rookie in the Cup series and who will be on the track with him again on Sunday -- that is if both qualify.

Under NASCAR's byzantine rules, only drivers in the top 35 in points automatically will get in the LifeLock 400. The remainder -- the so called go-or-go-home teams -- have to fight it out for the final eight spots. So far this season, Carpentier has made every race where he had the chance to qualify and has moved to 38th in the driver championship, an achievement in the world's most competitive racing series that certainly is worthy of praise. Yet Carpentier knows that he still is pretty much a raw rookie.

"Michigan will be a welcomed change from some of the tracks we've been racing at recently," he said. "It's a place where I have a lot of open-wheel experience but absolutely zero experience driving a stock car. But the LifeLock team will be up to the challenge again this weekend. We really want to do well because LifeLock will also be sponsoring the race."

There is little doubt anywhere in the Cup garage that when NASCAR starts making second stops at tracks this season that there will be a marked improvement in both starting and finishing positions for the No. 10 Dodge.

MCLAREN BACKS HAMILTON

Left over from last weekend's Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal was the matter of what the McLaren's team response was going to be to Lewis Hamilton slamming into the back of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari, taking them both out of the race.

It seems the 23-year-old Briton can do no wrong in the eyes of team boss Ron Dennis, who first blamed Nico Rosberg.

"Nico ran into the back of Lewis. It was a chain reaction as they were accelerating out of the pitlane," he told Autosport magazine. "Obviously the guys in front started to stop, but, you know, we don't have brake lights."

Mercedes Benz racing chief Norbert Haug blamed F-1's use of safety cars on full-course yellows for the incident.

F-1 BREAKAWAY SERIES?

McLaren team chief Ron Dennis would support an overhaul of Formula One to restore stability in the wake of the Max Mosley sex scandal, and doesn't rule out backing a breakaway series.

Dennis gave his outlook on the sport's future yesterday, days after participating in F-1 boss Bernie Ecclestone's talks about breaking away from the FIA, which has governed the sport for its entire 58-year history.

"I will always support what I think is in the interests of Formula One," Dennis said.

FINISH LINES

Former F-1 Toyota team principal Ove Andersson was killed yesterday in an accident during the Milligan classic rally in South Africa. The 70-year-old Swede is believed to have been involved in a head-on collision with a truck. Andersson oversaw Toyota's F-1 team when it made its grand prix racing debut in 2002 ... David Zucker, a former ESPN and Disney executive and now managing director of Boston Ventures, was named CEO of Petty Enterprises. It marks the first time since the team was founded in 1949 that someone other than a Petty will be at the helm.


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