Carpentier’s NASCAR ride extended

Patrick Carpentier was content at the start of the year to cut back on racing to begin other business ventures. The 35-year-old joked about being semi-retired.

“Yeah, that kind of went out the window, didn’t it?” said the Quebec native, a seven-year Las Vegas resident who won the pole and finished runner-up to Kevin Harvick in Saturday’s Busch series road-course race at Montreal, Carpentier’s NASCAR debut.

The effort earned him another chance in the Busch series and his first shot to qualify for a Nextel Cup race this week when both series visit the road course in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

“At one point I was kind of like … I’ll do the Rolex (sports car series) and that’s it,” Carpentier said. “But Montreal came, we had this result in Montreal, and believe me, I’m not going to say no to anything.”

Carpentier, who spent nine years competing in open-wheel Indy-style cars, said he had made only about 20 laps in a Busch car before last weekend.

“The last couple weeks have been fantastic. It’s been kind of a dream,” he said Tuesday in a national teleconference interview. “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 again will drive the No. 22 Fitz Motorsports Dodge in the Busch series. Qualifying and the race at Watkins Glen are scheduled for Saturday. On Friday, he will try to qualify for Sunday’s Cup race in the No. 10 Dodge for Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

“There’s hundreds of thousands of kids who would like to drive a Nextel Cup car and a Busch Car on the same weekend. I get a chance to do it this weekend, so it’s fantastic,” Carpentier said.

“I’m never going to refuse that. It doesn’t matter if I’m retired, semi-retired … if I have to run there to do it, I will. Hopefully it’ll be a start of a different (racing) career.”

Carpentier said he has no desire to return to the Indy Racing League or the Champ Car World Series, where he finished third after starting on the pole three years ago for the inaugural Champ Car race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile tri-oval. He won five of his 140 Champ Car starts.

But he has yet to drive a Busch car on an oval.

“I don’t know why, I really, really felt at home in the Busch car,” Carpentier said. “I felt like I have been driving this thing for a long time. I just felt comfortable.”

He might take advantage of the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the speedway when he returns to Southern Nevada to gain stock-car oval experience before he tries to qualify for his first Busch oval race this year.

“I always have time to go there and knock on the door and sit in one of those cars,” Carpentier said.

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