Carpentier says Indy 500 on his mind

Updated: November 11, 2004, 4:18 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Lured by the Indianapolis 500, Patrick Carpentier jumped to the Indy Racing League in the latest switch of a top driver from the rival Champ Car World Series.

Carpentier will join the IRL's Red Bull Cheever Racing next season, a series change he said Thursday he had been considering for the last few years to race at Indy and on more oval tracks.

"I always for some reason have done well on ovals,'' he said. "It is always a type of racing that I have always enjoyed.''

The 33-year-old Canadian has driven in Champ Car for eight years, the last seven for Forsythe Racing. He has five victories, including a win this year at Monterey, Calif.

Carpentier finished third this year in the season points, trailing only Newman/Haas Racing drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira. That matched Carpentier's career best in the Champ Car series.

The Forsythe team said it had hoped to keep Carpentier as a driver and regretted that he made his decision so soon after Sunday's season-ending race in Mexico City. Carpentier, however, said he had told Forsythe long ago about his interest in the IRL.

"I have always wanted to race the Indy 500, and I have always wanted to race ovals,'' he said.

Carpentier began racing in Champ Car's predecessor CART in 1997, the year after the IRL-CART split that kept Forsythe and other teams from Indianapolis.

The Champ Car schedule is mostly road and street courses, while the IRL is adding its first three road races to a previously all-oval schedule in 2005. One of Carpentier's victories came in 2001 on the 2-mile oval at Michigan International Speedway.

He will replace Ed Carpenter, the stepson of IRL founder Tony George, on the Cheever team, which is keeping Alex Barron as its other driver.

Carpentier follows several other top open-wheel drivers -- Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Adrian Fernandez -- who have joined the IRL in the past few years as premier teams have drifted away from Champ Car.

Cheever team owner Eddie Cheever also said Toyota will replace Chevrolet as the team's engine supplier.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press