Carpentier earns praise in any language


Hearing Elvis sing "Viva Las Vegas" nearly makes me pass out on the toilet after eating a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich.

It was a wonderful song until I moved here eight years ago and was forced to overdose on it.

Each night of the 10-day National Finals Rodeo kicks off with the Presley tune played at decibels rivaling a Top Fuel dragster. It's worse than stepping in poo in the corrals.

In English, Las Vegas means "The Meadows," and "viva" can mean "long live."

I have nothing against the Spanish language, but it's become too mainstream in our English-speaking country. This week my time was wasted during a bilingual NASCAR teleconference with Juan Pablo Montoya.

Waiting through 15 minutes with Juan Pablo in English followed by 15 minutes with him in Spanish -- all that to hear from new NASCAR racer Patrick Carpentier, who spoke solely in English despite being a native of Quebec and fluent in French.

This has nothing to do with me almost flunking Spanish in the 10th grade.

No mas!

It's time to boycott Spanish for at least a week and introduce a new mantra to melodically hail accomplishments by inhabitants of The Meadows.

Vive Les Pres!

That's my French twist in paying homage to our city while honoring Carpentier for a stellar debut Saturday in NASCAR.

It's also a proper tribute to the city of Montreal, where Carpentier won the pole and finished second in his first NASCAR Busch Series race. The city greeted the event as though it were Formula One.

More headlines for an athlete from The Meadows.

Carpentier's big weekend inspired this French-Canadian mood and about the only development that could joyously conjure visions of ol' swivel hips' trademark song without inducing cramps.

Vive Carpentier!

The six-year resident of The Meadows will see his NASCAR dreams exceed expectations today when he tries to qualify for his first Nextel Cup race on the road course in Watkins Glen, N.Y. He'll try to make it into his second consecutive Busch race Saturday at the Glen.

Carpentier, 35, spent nine years successfully competing in open-wheel Indy-style cars before giving up last year on the Champ Car World Series and Indy Racing League.

He deserves this chance in NASCAR and is an asset for any series; he's articulate, handsome and marketable. He also can wheel a variety of race cars.

In January, he was part of a four-driver team that finished second in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in the Grand American Rolex Series. He planned to stick with sports cars this year and devote more time to his Southern Nevada real estate business, but NASCAR presented a challenge too great to ignore.

He blends cultures like ingredients of a smooth martini. His telephone answering machine begins with a recording in French followed by one in English. He drives an Aston Martin or a pickup.

He's a veteran and, more important, a fresh personality for NASCAR.

His venture into stock cars comes on the heels of another Canadian invasion.

This week, George Gillett Jr., owner of the Montreal Canadiens, was introduced as new majority owner of the NASCAR operation that Ray Evernham started. Evernham remains a partner and will continue to run the racing operation as its chief executive.

And Carpentier will try to qualify for this weekend's Cup race in the No. 10 Dodge owned by Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

Gillett and Carpentier were photographed wearing Canadiens hockey sweaters last week.

Hmmm.

This could be the start of Canada's revenge for us stealing many of its hockey teams, eh?

Do French-speaking Canadiens say "eh"?

Regardless, it's time to cheer -- in any language -- for Carpentier, one of several elite racers living in The Meadows.

Celebre Carpentier!

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com.

 

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