Monday, April 30, 2007

NASCAR getting nasty?
Tony Stewart gets whacked in the wallet and put on probation for suggesting NASCAR throws "debris cautions" to affect the outcome of races--
AT&T can't replace Cingular on Jeff Burton's #31, even though that brand is morphing to AT&T--
The anti-trust lawsuit between Kentucky Speedway is proceeding apace--
Some boneheaded spectators showered Jeff Gordon with beer cans after Gordon notched win number 77, passing Dale Earnhardt's career victory total--
The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Left--Champ Car point leader Will Power (3rd place finisher) and Center--race winner Sebastien Bourdais, who won his 3rd consecutive Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Oriol Servia, who replaced the injured Paul Tracy, finished second, 2.61 seconds behind Bourdais, who led 58 of the 78 laps run.

Long Beach Impressions--a typically good Long Beach crowd, so the "bulldog" was fed very well. If the series can get past next week in Houston to that 6 week break until Portland, then they can work a little on the chassis. What looked like a lazy hit for Paul Tracy certainly wasn't--and the series can ill afford to have their series "bad boy" and leading active open wheel driver in terms of starts, victories and laps led on the sidelines. However, Tracy is just shy of 40, and recuperative powers diminish with age.

Cristiano da Matta continues to make progress from his head injuries suffered last summer at Road America; he was roaming the paddock this weekend.

Rookie Graham Rahal kept his nose out of trouble; the son of legend Bobby Rahal finished 8th. Graham (like it or not) has big shoes to fill; it would also help the series to have a credible American born contender. One does not become a contender by crashing, but completing laps, and learning how to go faster.

The Champ Car field needs at least 20 starters. That's a rough number to make when the DP-01 production line is shut down. To attract sponsors, you need "buzz" and it can be created with visuals like those which came from Las Vegas and Long Beach. The product must sustain the "buzz", somewhat like sourdough bread starter.

Next on-scene blog will be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. We'll check in with comments before then, to be sure.

Posted at 4:48 pm local time

Left--A look into the driver's "office", a/k/a cockpit of the Panoz DP-01 Champ Car. This is chassis number 001, which is used as a demonstration unit.
Right-- The pole winning car of Sebastien Bourdais after the morning warmup. The three-time and defending series champion won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2005 and 2006. His speed in the warmup was 102.8 miles per hour.
Posted at 10:22 am local time
Day 3, "The Roar by the Shore", a/k/a Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Update--the American LeMans Series results were under a bit of a protest when we left last evening. The results stand as we reported then.

We'll roam around and maybe post a few snapshots.

Posted at 8:20 am local time

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Top--Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas (L&R) of Penske Racing after the first ever American LeMans Series overall sweep of the top 3 finishing positions by LMP2 prototypes. They beat teammates Lucas Luhr and Saacha Maassen by 8/10s of a second. There's a controversy about the rules on driver time in the car, so this is a "provisional" result at Long Beach. ALMS will sort this out overnight.
Bottom--LMP1 class winners Rinaldo Capello (L) and Allan McNish talking about the Audi R10's 10th consecutive class win since its 2006 debut.
More from tomorrow's Champ Car race.
Posted at 7:15 pm local

Above--the Red Bull DP-01 of PKV Racing rookie Neel Jani getting checked from front to back before the day's practice and qualifying at Long Beach. If it looks complicated, it is.
Below--Will Power's car in the pits--The Australian is the first from his country to win a Champ Car race. Power starts 2nd in Sunday's race.

Posted at 5:16 pm local time

American LeMans Series Prototypes at Long Beach
About halfway through, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta of Andretti Green Racing were leading and their Acura LMP2 car was being chased by the LMP1 Audi R10 diesel driven by Marco Werner and Emanuele Pirro...a half second behind. On lap 31, Pirro snuck past the Acura...but not by much.
Posted at 4:56 pm local time

Front Row for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Left to Right--Simon Pagenaud, rookie, starts 3rd; Sebastien Bourdais, after winning his 26th pole in 61 CART/Champ Car events with a speed of 104.8 miles per hour in 2nd day qualifying (he's a two time and the defending winner of the race); and Will Power, who starts 2nd. If Bourdais wins, the victory would be his 24th.
Posted at 3:50 pm local time

Day Two, "The Roar by the Shore", Long Beach Grand Prix, 33rd edition
Today we'll post a few snapshots from the Champ Car practice & qualifying, and the American LeMans Series race.
The first shows the Forsythe Racing #3 DP-01 Cosworth Champ Car of four time Long Beach winner Paul Tracy getting last minute tweaks. The question is whether he can qualify well enough to use his experience to capitalize on other driver's mistakes during the race.
Posted at 10:29 am local time
Tracy hit a wall in Turn One during practice. The Champ Car Medical Team iced his back, but Tracy was taken to a local hospital, complaining of back spasms. He'll be checked out; we're not sure if he will be back for second round qualifying. His first day speed of 103.318 would likely get him a mid-pack start, if he decides to sit out second round. Sebastien Bourdais clocked in at 104.6 miles per hour; Will Power is at 104.211 miles per hour; qualifying later this afternoon.
Posted at 11:31 am local time
Update--Tracy is getting a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) exam, so veteran Oriol Servia will qualify the #3 Forsythe Racing DP-01 Cosworth Champ Car this afternoon. Servia, a substitute, would start in the position he wins this afternoon; Tracy would indeed stand on his Friday time and speed (as we suggested earlier).
Posted at 1:13 pm local time
Update--Paul Tracy is out of this weekend's Long Beach race. The MRI exam and x-rays showed Tracy suffered a compression fracture to the first lumbar vertebrae (L1). The four time winner here at Long Beach will be evaluated early next week by Dr. Terry Trammell, noted orthopedic specialist from Indianapolis, who's worked on many open wheel drivers through the years. No timetable was given for Tracy's return; he's expected to leave St. Mary's Hospital later today. Servia has replaced Tracy at Forsythe for the time being.
Posted at 2:02 pm local time

Friday, April 13, 2007

"Roar by the Shore"--Day 1 at the Champ Car Long Beach GP/33rd edition

In 1975, an expatriate British travel agent named Christopher Robin Pook had a blue sky idea: Why not have a street automobile race, similar to that in Monte Carlo, Monaco, in the streets of Long Beach, California? Thirty-three years later...the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is the signature event for the Champ Car World Series. This year, the Champ Cars are joined by the prototypes and GT cars of the American LeMans Series (whom we last saw a couple of weeks ago at St. Petersburg, FL).

The downtown of Long Beach was somewhat seedy when we covered our first LBGP in, the city has upscale hotels, light rail transit, upscale nightspots and eateries...simply because a group of people had a vision about what could be, and acted to make that vision reality--which put Long Beach on developer's radar.

We'll show you some snapshots throughout the weekend.

Posted at 2:24 pm local time
Top (left to right)Dario Franchitti of Andretti Green Racing, after winning the pole for the American LeMans Series race in an Acura LMP2 prototype, just a tick under 100 miles an hour; Right, Rinaldo (Dindo) Cappello in the Audi LMP1 R10 diesel, a scant second slower--98 & change for the speed.
Center--Rookie Simon Pagenaud (3rd), 1st day pole sitter Will Power (lap of 104.311 miles an hour) and three-time and defending Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais (104.234 miles an hour). Power will start no worse than second, no matter what happens tomorrow in final Champ Car Qualifying.

More to come tomorrow, especially pictures.

Posted at 4:21 pm/6:10 local time

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Race Day, 4/8/2007--Easter Sunday

Greetings from the race course. Our day began early with Mass at the Golden Nugget; the Vegas Grand Prix had Mass and a non-denominational service at 6am local time. Props to them for remembering what is truly important today; we hope all who could were able to celebrate. We hope they remembered the men and women who are in harm's way holding our enemies at bay, so we can do all of our celebrating without fear.

Will Power (one of auto racing's best names) was fastest in morning warmup for the Champ Cars. Sebastien Bourdais' team sorted out the qualifying problems; the three-time and defending champ clocked in 5th. The series gives no points for practice; I still think the race will be between Bourdais and Tracy. But that's why they run races...we'll post a few snapshots and results later.
Posted at 10:38 am local time

Bobby Rahal (yes, the father of Graham Rahal, 3 time Champ Car/CART era champion and the Rahal in the Rahal-Letterman IndyCar series team) won the Historic Grand Prix for old time Formula One and Indy style cars. But wait, there's more (on the way)!
Posted at 12:07 pm local time

Late pre-race observation

Art doesn't feed the bulldog. While this weekend had everything go about 85% right, the people (or lack thereof) watching in the stands will tell a different story. You will see every fancy camera angle NBC Universal can muster to show people in the stands if you watch the broadcast/replay. From our observation point (16th floor of the World Market Center) we don't see many people in the stands, but we see clusters of people on top of parking ramps, etc. We wonder whether this race fits the old bromide about sports car racing, where (unlike NASCAR) the drivers know the fans by name. We'll cut through the spin later.
Posted at 1:02 pm local time

Top Three from the Champ Car Season opener & musings

Photo--left, 2nd place finisher Robert Doornbos, center, winner Will Power, right, 3rd place finisher Paul Tracy.

Power and Tracy dueled back and forth for the lead...F1 test driver Doornbos snuck ahead of "hometown hero" Tracy. Power brings Derrick Walker his 2nd Champ Car win since 1999. Today was also Mr. Walker's birthday.
Graham Rahal and Matt Halliday crashed on lap 2; Rahal ended up against the wall, just like in Saturday practice. He was credited for last place.
Katherine Legge finished 6th, on the lead lap, equalling her best Champ Car performance.
The veteran motorsports writer for the Las Vegas Review Journal, Jeff Wolf, estimated the crowd at 20,000. The Vegas Grand Prix erected 28,000 seats. So NBC TV anchor Bill Weber's bleating about a sell out was specious.
The new DP-01 Champ Cars really look sharp, and there's no sound in racing quite like a turbocharged Cosworth V8. You have to like the fact that all the chassis are made in the USA.
We'll join you next week from the mother of all American street races, the Long Beach Grand Prix.
Thanks for putting up with our learning how to 1) use the autofocus point & shoot camera and 2) figuring out a somewhat attractive layout for the pictures we upload.
Posted at 5:32 pm local
Paul Kaminski

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Day Two, "Glitter Gulch", April 7, 2007

Top Left--Will Power, polesitter for the Vegas Grand Prix Champ Car season opener.
Center--The Vanderbilt Trophy in the Champ Car Paddock. The trophy goes to the series champion at season's end.
Right--The Newman-Haas Lanigan Team working on rookie Graham Rahal's #2 DP 01 Champ Car during morning practice. He smacked the wall after setting 3rd fast time. The team likely would go to a backup.

04/07/2007--10:40 am local

Sophomore Will Power is on the pole for the Champ Car Vegas Grand Prix, with a speed of 113.154 miles per hour. It's the second pole for the Australian driver, who drives for Derrick Walker. Paul Tracy is 2nd thanks to yesterday's run; rookie Robert Doornbos starts 3rd. Sebastien Bourdais starts 17th, because he brought out a red flag with a gearbox problem and his time was negated. Rookie Graham Rahal recovered from the morning crash; he'll start 10th. This is the first time in the last 54 races that Bourdais has started in a position outside the top 10.
Two thoughts: Will the Golden Nugget post a number on how quick Tracy might snooker Mr. Power on the start (first turn, methinks) and how many laps before Bourdais gets to the front? The race is a timed, 1 hour 45 minute event.
Happy Easter Vigil
Paul Kaminski
04/07/2007--4:08 pm local

Friday, April 06, 2007

Greetings from "Glitter Gulch", a/k/a Downtown Las Vegas

The Champ Cars are on track this afternoon local time. For 2007, the series will use a new chassis, called the DP-01 (DP represents Dr. Don Panoz, legendary sports car maven and owner of the company that designs and builds the cars). The DP-01 is all American built.

This is the debut for a bunch of rookies---8 of the 17 drivers will wear the rookie designator...including Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal, 1-2 finishers in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship in 2006. Vegas resident, bad boy and past CART Champion Paul Tracy will start no worse than second...his speed over the 2.4 mile temporary street circuit was 110.097 miles an hour. In Champ Car road/street course qualifying...the fastest in the first session is guaranteed at least second starting spot. Tracy also gets a championship point. He says a driver must be precise when setting up for corners on this circuit.
The top three were Tracy (center), Pagenaud (right) and 3-time and defending series champ Sebastien Bourdais (left). Rookie Pagenaud clocked in at 109.803; Bourdais stopped the timers at 109.530 miles an hour.
We'll share more impressions and photos tomorrow.
Paul Kaminski

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Race Day--April 1, St. Pete.

Catch-up from the ALMS race: Alan McNish & Rinaldo Capello kept the Audi R10 TDi win streak alive with the overall win at St. Petersburg. The duo fought back from a stop-and-go penalty and put the 12 cylinder diesel powered car in Victory Lane. Penske Racing won the LeMans Prototype 2 class with Saacha Maassen and Ryan Briscoe.

More to come, plus some pictures, later.

Helio Castroneves (top) won from the pole and beat Scott Dixon by 6/10ths of a second to win his 2nd consecutive Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. "Spiderman" climbed the fence after notching his 18th career win in Indy Style cars. Castroneves led 95 laps, but had to nurse a balky gearbox...and fight off charges from Dixon, Tony Kanaan, and Marco Andretti. Of Penske Racing's 133 wins in Indy style cars, 51 have been on street/permanent road courses. Don't cry for Dixon; his 2 consecutive second place finishes put him in the IndyCar series point lead with 80.
That's it for this weekend; next week we'll join you from "Glitter Gulch"--downtown Las Vegas--for the Champ Car World Series season opener.
Paul Kaminski