After strong Busch finish, Carpentier to get shot at Watkins Glen

Updated: August 7, 2007, 7:58 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Patrick Carpentier spent almost two years trying to break into NASCAR. When his chance finally came, in his hometown of Montreal, he knew he had to be perfect.

"There was a lot of pressure because we only had the budget, the money to do one shot, one race, and it had to work,'' Carpentier said Tuesday. "If that race wouldn't have been good, that was the end of it for me for NASCAR.''

Carpentier had a stellar NASCAR debut, pacing almost every practice session, winning the pole, leading 14 laps and finally finishing second in the Busch Series debut in Canada on Saturday.

The performance earned him more work this week -- he was hired to drive in both the Busch Series and Nextel Cup events this weekend in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

"I'm extremely excited,'' the former open-wheel star said. "The last couple weeks have been fantastic. It's been kind of a dream. We've been knocking on the door and been meeting with people for the last year-and-a-half to try to get into NASCAR, and last weekend went perfect.''

Carpentier will again drive the No. 22 in the Busch Series for Fitz Motorsports, the same car he drove last weekend.

"I am honored to have Patrick in the car again this weekend at Watkins Glen,'' car owner Armando Fitz said. "We really hope to keep the momentum going from last weekend in Canada, [and] we are working on the schedule right now for the remainder of the season.''

For the Cup event, Carpentier will replace Scott Riggs in the No. 10 Dodge. The car is not inside the top 35 in points, so it is not assured a spot in the field and Carpentier will have to qualify it on speed to make Sunday's race.

Jim Rocco, who co-owns the car with Ray Evernham, said the team hopes Carpentier can drive the No. 10 to a strong finish that pushes them closer to the top 35. The team is 37th in the standings, 134 points away from the crucial top 35 mark.

"Carpentier turned a lot of heads with his strong run in Montreal last weekend,'' Rocco said. "This team is focused on doing everything we can to make races, and we have made 12 so far while outside the top 35.

"We believe that Patrick can place Valvoline Evernham Racing in a good position leaving Watkins Glen in order to help Scott Riggs make a run to the top 35 in points by the end of the season.''

The pairing in the No. 10 car is actually a perfect fit for Carpentier, a Quebec native. Evernham sold the majority stake in his team Monday to Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr.

"Sometimes in life things happen for a reason,'' said Carpentier, who has a Canadiens shirt with his name on it. "I met George a few years back when I was racing Champ Car and IRL, and we talked briefly and had fun, and that was it.

"And now George is right here today.''

Although Carpentier was successful in open-wheel, his experience in stock cars was so limited he didn't drive his first one until last Monday, when he tested a Busch car in South Carolina.

Juan Pablo Montoya, who raced against Carpentier in Champ Car, is looking forward to competing against him again this weekend.

"I think he did a hell of a job [in Canada],'' Montoya said. "We had good races together back in '99 and 2000. I think it'll be exciting. It'll be nice to see him again. I haven't seen him in like six years, so that should be pretty nice, and I'm sure he'll perform pretty well there.''

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press