MONTREAL – Patrick Carpentier played out this scene in his head many times, just like any kid from Quebec would.
His career took him to the race track instead of the hockey rink, but Carpentier finally hit center ice Tuesday night – proudly wearing a No. 10 Montreal Canadiens jersey.
All that, and he’s heading to NASCAR, too.
Carpentier was introduced as the new No. 10 driver for Gillett Evernham Motorsports, the NASCAR team recently purchased by George Gillett, the Canadiens’ owner. His welcome to stock car racing came with a full-fledged ceremony before the Canadiens played the Florida Panthers.
He was presented with a personalized Canadiens jersey by Hockey Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur, whose No. 10 was retired by Montreal.
“It’s unbelievable. Last year I was digging holes on my farm and now I’m going to be racing NASCAR next year,” Carpentier said a few hours before his on-ice introduction in front of a sold-out crowd at the Bell Centre.
An experienced open-wheel driver in CART, Champ Car, and IRL, Carpentier made the most of his opportunity to move into the stock car world when he finished second in the inaugural Busch Series race in Montreal on Aug. 4 after taking the pole in qualifying.
He is still wide-eyed in recalling his first test drive just before the Montreal event.
“I thought it was like a rental car on steroids,” Carpentier said.
Carpentier made his Nextel Cup debut the following week at Watkins Glen, driving the No. 10 for Scott Riggs, who is leaving to drive for Haas CNC Racing next season. Carpentier, who has yet to race on a NASCAR oval, led seven laps and finished 22nd.
Despite competing in only three NASCAR races on road courses, Carpentier made it clear that he was looking forward to oval racing, a passion he said dates to his childhood experience in long-track speed skating.
“Everything aligned, everything came together – the race in Montreal, the timing, these guys needed a guy for Watkins Glen, car No. 10 and with the Gillett family buying the team, everything came together so it couldn’t have been better,” Carpentier said. “I’m very happy.”
The Gillett family, which has owned the Canadiens since 2001, purchased controlling interest from Ray Evernham after acquiring Liverpool FC of the English Premier League earlier this year.
“The two are related in the fact that we love Quebec and we spend a lot of time in Quebec,” Foster Gillett said. “We know and respect Patrick as a driver from what he has done here, but we also respect his ability as a driver. It means a lot to us to give an opportunity like this to a Quebec driver.”