What do you get when you cross the NHL with NASCAR? Canadiens fans are about to find out. When IndyCar and Champ Car veteran Patrick Carpentier signed on with Canadiens owner George Gillett’s own Gillett Evernham Racing last Oct. 10, it was a dream come true for the native of Joliette, QC. Taking the reins of the No. 10 car from Scott Riggs for the start of the 2008 season, the 36-year-old is primed and ready to take on the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and the sport’s other stars as he looks to lead his Dodge Avenger to the top of the Sprint Cup standings.
Follow us for a second. You’re driving the 10 car for Gillett-Evernham Racing. George Gillett owns the Canadiens. The last guy to wear No. 10 for the Canadiens was Guy Lafleur, who first wore it in 1971, the year you were born. Coincidence?
Patrick Carpentier: (laughs) That was just a fluke. I’ve got to admit that holding up a personalized Canadiens jersey at my Bell Centre press conference really made me feel like I was getting drafted myself, though.
Guy introduced you to the fans following that press conference on October 16. Had you known him before?
PC: Actually yeah, I had met him a few times. He owns a Mikes [restaurant] in Berthierville and I had bumped into him there. He’s an awesome guy and always a lot of fun to talk with.
You made your NASCAR debut this past summer in Montreal. How cool was it for you to have that experience in your hometown?
PC: [NASCAR veteran] Brett Bodine told me I should make my debut somewhere I knew and where I would be the most comfortable. And he was bang on. Doing it here was incredible. Montreal has been a lucky place for me.
|Carpentier driving the #10 car in Phoenix on Nov.9, 2007 |
How’d you end up a race car driver instead of hockey player, anyhow?
PC: Look at me, I’m not big enough and I wasn’t that good a player, either. (laughs) I was quick, though, and I knew I liked to go fast. That’s why I turned to speed skating instead.
Were you a hockey fan growing up?
PC: You bet. I was a huge Canadiens fan.
Who were your favorite Canadiens?
PC: When I was growing up, my guys were Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden. But I don’t think I was the only one. (laughs)
How closely do you follow the NHL?
PC: To be honest, I’m not able to follow it much at all. I’ve been living in Las Vegas since 1999 and it’s been almost impossible to get my hockey fix. But I hear there’s a way to get Bell ExpressVu [satellite] in the States, so I’ll make sure to investigate that option.
Are you able to get to any games over the course of the season?
PC: That’s been tough, too, what with us being away from Montreal so much lately. I’ve been to a couple games over the last few years, but not as many as I would have liked.
|Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights |
What would you say is the major difference between a NASCAR crowd and a hockey crowd?
PC: You know what? There isn’t that much of a difference. They’re both really loud, passionate and love their hot dogs.
…and perhaps the odd cold “beverage” to wash those down?
|Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder |
PC: Absolutely. (laughs) I thought that went without saying! Which movie is better: Driven, Talledega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby or Days of Thunder?
PC: Talladega Nights, and it’s not even close. (laughs)
Who’s more convincing as a race car driver: Sylvester Stallone, Will Ferrell, or Tom Cruise?
PC: Let me just say that the worst has to be Stallone. He was way off. And I’ll give Cruise the edge over Ferrell, he was pretty believable in Days of Thunder.
You and Tom actually kind of look alike. Have you heard that one before?
PC: Actually I have. We’re pretty much the same size, too, so that doesn’t hurt either.
What kind of car do you drive in everyday life? Be honest.
PC: We actually just picked up the new Mercedes ML 550.
Do you change your own oil or do you have it done at a garage?
PC: I leave that to a professional and I go to a garage. Besides, I don’t really have the time to handle that myself - even if I wanted to - but I can do it myself, though. I sure did it often enough as a kid for my dad when he ran a diesel garage.
How many speeding tickets have you accumulated over the years?
PC: I’ve had my share, let’s leave it at that. (laughs) But I’m much better now, it’s been over a year-and-a-half since my last one. I was hardly a role model for that before, though, I must admit. I got all kinds of tickets and even lost my license at one point. I’ve had accidents too, but I’ve been pretty lucky. I guess I was born under the right star or something.
|Las Vegas (top) and Joliette |
Do people randomly want to race you at street lights?
PC: No, not really. Not yet, anyways. I think that all boils down to what kind of car you drive.
How much pre-race trash talk goes on in NASCAR?
PC: None really, not like in the NHL.
What about superstitions; do you have any?
PC: I used to be pretty superstitious, but not so much anymore. I was big on numbers. The only thing I do now before a race is sleep. I get a lot of sleep.
You have homes in Las Vegas, NV and Joliette, QC. Is there much of a difference between the two cities?
PC: Yes there is… Las Vegas is actually dull compared to Joliette. (laughs) But seriously, it’s a huge difference. There’s no other place like Las Vegas. My wife and I have really enjoyed our time there. It’s a playground for adults.
Does it feel strange turning right at an intersection?
PC: No, not yet, but I’m sure I’ll be looking to turn left now more than ever.
Track the NASCAR standings and Patrick’s chase for the Sprint Cup on www.nascar.com, or get more info on the man himself at www.patcarpentier.ca.
This article, written by Manny Almela, was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol. 22 No. 2. See table of contents