Patrick Carpentier is one of Canada's most popular race car drivers. The native of LaSalle, Quebec has been making headlines since 1997, when he was named top rookie on the CART (now Champ Car) circuit. He posted five career victories and finished third in the championship twice before joining the rival Indy Racing League in 2004, recording two podium finished in that series. Carpentier didn't compete in 2006, but he's now behind the wheel again in the Grand American Rolex Series. Carpentier recently spoke to Replay correspondent Randi Druzin about his career, his wife's backseat driving and the bombastic Paul Tracy.
Randi Druzin: You were on the team that finished second at the 24 Hours of Daytona [an endurance race held annually at Daytona International Speedway] in January. What accounted for your team's success there?
Patrick Carpentier: It went really well. Throughout the winter we tested well. We were in top three most of the winter. The car has been fantastic. We had some good power and reliability in that race. The team did a good job and the car just lasted the entire race. That's the key thing in these 24-hour races. You have to have a car that's like the Energizer Bunny. It must keep running and running. All four of us drove well during the race. It was good timing and a little bit of luck - and the car lasted.
RD: You have competed in both the Champ Car series and the Indy Racing League. How do they compare?
PC: They're both good series. I had a good time in the Champ [formerly CART] series and I liked a lot of the tracks we went to. I had a great time in IRL [which was formed in 1994]. In IRL you get more adrenaline. It's more of a survival deal. It's more risky on the oval. You push your luck a little bit more. I enjoyed both series. There are positives and negatives to each.
I really don't agree with them staying apart. I have never been a fan of that split. I don't understand what they're doing. I think it has hurt the sport quite a bit. I hope it changes. I think right now it's people's ego that's in the way, and I think it's wrong. Nobody has the interest of the sport at heart.
RD: In 1997 you were named Rookie of the Year in the Champ Car series. What do you remember most about that year?
PC: It was a tough year because I came to a team that only had one driver. When you come to such a it's good to come with a teammate so you can compare your data, where you're braking, how you're driving - and to make sure you're doing everything right. I was by myself so that was a really tough year. It was a difficult learning experience for me. There was a lot of travelling and a lot of testing at that time.
RD: You finished third in the Champ Car series in 2002. What accounted for your success that season?
PC: It was a breakthrough for me in terms of confidence. First place is always what you want but we finished in the top three and we were pretty happy about it. It was fun year.
RD: You finished fifth overall in 2003, but your teammate, Paul Tracy, won the title. How did you feel about the overall results that season?
PC: Paul did a great job. He was fast that year. He won a lot of races and he had a lot of momentum. No one could beat him.
RD: What was your relationship with Tracy like?
PC: I always had a good relationship with him as a teammate. It was a great relationship. Not all drivers have had a great relationship with him. It depends what kind of personality you have. He's a fighter. On the track, I think we always respected each other and that worked out pretty well. But if you don't respect him on the track he's not going to respect you - and it gets worse from there.
RD: Looking back at your career, which teammate has challenged you the most?
PC: Greg Moore, when he was there. Moore [who died in a crash in 1999] was one of the fastest drivers I have ever seen. Paul is too. But Greg challenged me the most.
RD: What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?
PC: One of the big challenges for me was driving in IRL. We didn't have a strong engine and we were trying to bring the team up. That series is risky. It's wheel-to-wheel driving and pushing hard ... you try to stay flat out. It was a different kind of racing but I really enjoyed it. It was a good challenge.
RD: I have to ask, what kind of car do you drive on the streets?
PC: I have two vehicles. One is a pickup truck and the other is an Aston Martin. I just love that car -- the curves and the front with the big opening. It looks mean. The one I have is all black with black wheels and I really like it.
RD: What kind of driver are you on the streets?
PC: I used to be really bad. I lost my driver's license three times. But now I'm pretty mellow. My wife drives much faster than I do. She drives most of the time. Usually, she drives and I sit in the passenger seat.
RD: When you're in the car with her are you a backseat driver?
PC: You know what? My wife is more of a backseat driver than me.
RD: She's aware of what you do for a living, right?
PC: Yes, but she doesn't care.
RD: What about road rage?
PC: I once passed a car because the guy in front of me was going really slowly. He was insulted that I passed him and moved back in front of him. I was far ahead of him and didn't cut him off. But he started chasing me. He tried to pass me. The thing I'm afraid of here [in Las Vegas] is that drivers carry guns under their seats. It got really crazy. He really started chasing me. I didn't want to turn into my neighbourhood because I didn't want him to know where I live. I accelerated and finally lost him. That was a really scary moment.
RD: So you put your driving abilities to good use.
PC: Yes, I did. The guy was weaving left and right and trying to cut me off. He was crazy.
RD: You live in Las Vegas. What, if anything, do you miss about Canada?
PC: The nature. In Vegas, it's mostly rock and desert. There are some trees but they are planted. It's all man-made. I miss the snow sometimes. But I don't miss the taxes, and I don't miss the snow enough to pay those taxes.
RD: If you weren't a race car driver, what would you be?
PC: I'd be a contractor. I'm starting to do that now, buying and selling houses. I'm taking classes to become a contractor. I really like working with my hands. I love working with houses and stuff like that. But you know what kind of life I would have liked outside of racing? I would have liked the rock star life. I would have loved to be a rock and roll singer.
RD: They get speeding tickets, too.PC: You know a lot of them really like racing and a lot of us really like rock and roll music. The members of Rush once invited me to a party. One time at Homestead, I posed for photographs with Lenny Kravitz. He wanted Greg and I to go to a party. I didn't end up going but I should have.
Sidney Crosby is one of hockey's brightest stars. Selected first in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the Nova Scotia native finished sixth in scoring in his rookie campaign and became the youngest player in league history to score 100 points in a season. All eyes are on him this season as he anchors a Pittsburgh Penguins team loaded with young talent. Correspondent Randi Druzin recently spoke to the 19-year-old athlete about his teammates, his superstitions and the women who want to marry him.
Randi Druzin: Once he recovers from a dislocated shoulder, Russian Evgeni Malkin [the second overall selection in the 2004 draft] will be joining the Penguins on the ice. You and he are considered two of the best young players in hockey today. What kind of effect does that have on your relationship with him?
Sidney Crosby: Not much at all. At this point he's just learning English so we're trying hard to understand each other. [Russian teammate] Sergei Gonchar has been doing a lot of translating. Malkin seems like a great guy though. His English is getting better every day. I'm looking forward to playing with him for a long time, and building some chemistry with him.
RD: How is your Russian?
SC: It's like drool. I'm not very good at Russian so, hopefully, Malkin will be able to pick up English.
RD: The Penguins had the worst record in the Eastern Conference last season. What are the team's prospects this season?
SC: We have a young team. We have to go out there with the attitude that we want to win every night. If we make mistakes along the way, we have to correct them. But we have to realize that we're young and we're going to make mistakes. We can't be too hard on ourselves.
We have to play to our strengths, do what we can and see what happens. But I don't think it would be good for us to put too much pressure on ourselves because we're so young. If we go out there, have fun and work on getting better, hopefully good things will happen.
RD: You scored 102 points last season becoming the youngest player in league history to notch 100 points in a season and breaking the Penguins' rookie assist record set by the legendary Mario Lemieux. How did he react?
SC: He congratulated me but we didn't discuss it too much. It was a pretty fun ride toward the end of the season. We were getting closer and closer [to making the playoffs]. It was a great honour to be congratulated by Lemieux, and to be in that company. Was Mario's pride wounded? I don't think so.
RD: Despite your success last season, you finished second in voting for the rookie-of-the-year award. The Calder Trophy went to Russian Alexander Ovechkin, who scored 106 points for the Washington Capitals. How did you feel about the outcome?
SC: Ovechkin deserved it. He had a great rookie year. I was just happy to have a good year and be part of that group of rookies. It's hard to say what future rookie classes will look like, but I think ours will be a good candidate for being considered one of the best.
He can score goals from anywhere so he's dangerous when he's out there. There's always an element of surprise because he's really creative. It's pretty hard to get a step on him or to read what he's going to do.
We did a thing with Sports Illustrated a while ago. [In an NHL preview, the magazine ran a story focusing on the two players.] Other than that, I've only come across him during and after games. I don't really know him that well.
RD: There was some controversy surrounding the decision to leave you off the Canadian team that competed at the 2006 Winter Olympics. How did you feel about that?
SC: I was fine with that decision. I would never second-guess anyone representing the country. Obviously, the team fell short [and was eliminated in the quarter-finals]. The expectations were high. But that kind of thing happens.
RD: Do you think you could have made a significant contribution to the team?
SC: It's always easy to say 'What if?' I don't think I was the only player people are talking about in that context. I think there are a lot of players who arguably could have been there. But I'm not going to second-guess anything. I'm just looking forward to hopefully getting a chance to play at the 2010 Winter Games.
RD: I have heard that no one is allowed to touch your sticks once they have been taped. Is that true?
RD: Has anyone ever touched one of your sticks after it's been taped?
SC: Oh yeah, lots of guys have. When that happens I say to them, politely, "Could you please not touch them?" But now that I've been playing on the team for more than a year, the other guys are usually quick to stop anyone from touching the sticks.
RD: So, the other guys have been understanding?
SC: Yes, it's the same kind of thing with goalies. Some goalies don't like to have their pads touched. So their teammates stop people from touching them.
RD: With so many players having so many superstitions it must get a little tricky in the dressing room.
SC: Yes, it can. But players seem to make allowances for everything. Every player has his thing and others respect that.
RD: What would you do if Mario Lemieux [who owned the Penguins from 1999 until October 2006] touched your stick after it was taped? Would you bring it up with him after the game?
SC: It would depend on how I played in that game. You know, sometimes a guy will touch my stick before a game and I play well. So, I use the same stick in the next game and the game after, until the good luck wears off. It's funny how that works. But if a guy touches my stick and I don't play well, he'll probably hear from me in practice the next day.
RD: Last season, you lived with Mario's family. Describe the experience overall.
SC: It was great. I came into the league at a pretty young age. so coming into a family atmosphere, it was pretty nice. It was great to be in a family environment -- and to be around Mario.
RD: Are you living with his family this season, too?
SC: Yes I am. I came back for another year, another extension of the contract so to speak.
RD: How is it different from the home you grew up in?
SC: As far as the way a family operates it's pretty much the same. But Mario has four kids so it's a pretty busy house-a little busier than it was in my house with just me and my sister, Taylor.
RD: What did you like best about living with the Lemieux family?
SC: Just being in a family atmosphere. As a hockey player, you sometimes go through tough times so it's good to come home to a family environment. Also, you don't want to [dwell on problems] too much. So it's good to be in a setting with a positive atmosphere.
RD: Which family events did you take part in?
SC: I watched movies with the kids. I even babysat them sometimes. Mario has three daughters and one son. One time, he and I got stuck watching, Legally Blonde.
RD: That must have been torture.
SC: Yes, it was.
RD: I understand you used the family clothes dryer as a goal when you used to play hockey in the basement of your parents' home.
SC: That's a misconception. I used to shoot on the net, and the dryer was behind the net. When I missed the net, I hit the dryer.
RD: So the dryer has a few dents in it.
SC: Yes, I missed the net a few times over the years.
RD: Is your mother still using the same dryer?
SC: No. It broke last year so she has a new one.
RD: You appeared on The Tonight Show last summer. What is your most vivid memory of that experience?
SC: Meeting [fellow guest] Rob Schneider. That was pretty cool. Obviously, it was nice to meet Jay Leno, but I wasn't as familiar with him as I was with Schneider. He mentioned that he was a hockey fan. He was on the show to promote the movie, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.
RD: Have you seen that movie?
SC: Yes, I have.
RD: Did you like it better than Legally Blonde?
RD: What has been the biggest change in your life since joining the NHL?
SC: In junior hockey guys are the same age so you spend more down time together. You go to school with them or watch movies with them and stuff like that. In the NHL there's a bigger age range. When the guys have free time, they spend it with their families. But then, you travel so much you end up seeing your teammates a lot.
RD: Are you doing much dating?
SC: Not a lot. It's tough during the season. I haven't done too much dating to be honest with you.
RD: It seems that at every one of your games there is at least one young woman in the stands holding a sign that says, "Marry me, Sidney!" Have you ever considering taking anyone up on the offer?
SC: No I haven't. But I have seen a few of those signs.
RD: You never know. You could meet your wife that way.
SC: I don t know about that. The chances aren't too good, but we'll see.
RD: If you could go out for dinner with any female celebrity, who would it be?
SC: Wow. You put me on the spot with that one! Let me think about that for a second.
I like Eva Mendes.
RD: And if she wasn't available?SC: Jessica Alba.