View from the Topside
Champ Car is in the driver's seat

   by Rick Benjamin
January 10, 2005

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AutoRacing1.com would like to welcome noted auto racing TV announcer Rick Benjamin as the latest addition to our staff.  Rick has been involved in motorsports media for many years and will bring fresh perspective to AutoRacing1.com primarily in the Champ Car arena.

What a treat to be asked to return to the keyboard by Mark Cipolloni and the staff of AutoRacing1.com! It’s been a few months since we’ve had the opportunity to put together some thoughts on various motorsports issues on a regular basis, and I’m really excited at the prospect of adding to AR1’s tremendous content.

I have the rare opportunity to go to dozens of races, big-time and grassroots, each year…and I’ll do my best to provide some perspective on key issues, trends, personalities, and more throughout the 2005 season.

After a year covering the Champ Car World Series from the broadcast booth, and anticipating year number 2 topside, let me first offer congratulations to all who worked 24/7 the past 13 months or more to insure that one of the world’s great race series survives.

From the ownership triumvirate of Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerry Forsythe, and Paul Gentilozzi, to any of the dozens and dozens of series staffers, through the hundreds of team members who fill pit roads and paddocks around much of the world, all are deserving of thanks. I have an entirely new appreciation for those who not only go into the arena 14 or more times a year to compete…but who also risk substantial parts of their personal fortunes to insure that Champ Car stays alive and has a chance to thrive in the seasons to come.

At this point in January there are still many elements of Champ Car in play….the potential of two more races, the likely team and driver roster, and the ever-present question of television, just to name a few. But compared to the IRL, I like Champ Car’s chances.

It’s no secret the IRL has made its name on incredibly close competition on high-speed ovals, while Champ Car has chosen to continue to race on a mix of tracks. I agree that’s a plus, and produces an even more deserving driving champion. And with Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe’s recent moves to buy Cosworth and Pi Research from Ford, Champ Car has secured a quality engine supply for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile the IRL, at this writing, faces huge challenges in that critical department. And it’s not much of a stretch to say Champ Car, while needing desperately to build its television product and audience, is capable of selling a lot more tickets across North America than its competition.

Champ Car still, in my view, needs to find and develop a few more fine young American drivers; AJ Allmendinger is truly a champion in the making, and Ryan Hunter-Reay looks to be a worthy successor to drivers like Jimmy Vasser.  But bringing along, say, a Scott Speed or Michael McDowell would be a tremendous asset. Here’s hoping Champ Car’s leadership finds a way to help young talent like that find a good ride.

So as teams conduct preseason testing, and wrap up final details, it’s not a stretch to say the Champ Car World Series is in the driver’s seat….in big league open wheel racing in America.

I can’t wait for Long Beach.

The author can be contacted at feedback@autoracing1.com

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Columns by Rick

Las Vegas GP Preview

Champ Car Laguna Seca postscript

Champ Car on verge of significant announcements

2007 NASCAR Media Tour Day 1

We enjoy the PRI Trade Show

A joyful holiday season this year for Champ Car teams

Who will have rides in Champ Car in 2007?

Looking ahead to Mexico City

What will Champ Car look like in 2007?

Road America postscript and new 2007 venues

Looking ahead to Road America

Looking ahead to Montreal

 Looking ahead to Denver

Looking ahead to Edmonton - Many storylines

For Allmendinger, life could not be any brighter

A big sigh of relief

Bourdais threatening to make it a runaway

Houston postscript

Looking ahead to Houston

Long Beach postscript

Paul Dana was living his dream

2006 Champ Car seats filling up

A view from the top - Miscellaneous pres-season ramblings

A look at the All-American Driver Challenge

2006 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 4 Wrap-Up

2006 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 3 Familiar Faces

2006 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 2 Toyota announces teams

2006 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 1

Some off-season thoughts heading into the holidays

A look at the collapse of the National Sprintcar League

Champ Car: Miscellaneous Ramblings

Champ Car teams/drivers in transition over the winter

A well deserved 2nd title for Sebastien Bourdais

We look at the benefits of the new Champ Car

Who will win Champ Car's only Superspeedway race?

A look ahead to Las Vegas, Champ Car's only Superspeedway race

Bourdais' winning percentage stacks up with the best of them

Looking ahead to Denver and Paul Tracy's first NASCAR race

Looking ahead to San Jose

Champ Car hits a home run in Toronto

Send F1 far from these shores

Milwaukee musings

May Happenings

Newman/Haas has a good chance to win Indy 500

Sebastien Bourdais and ALMS are making news

Bristol review, Long Beach preview

A look back at Sebring

A peak at Champ Car TV for 2005

IROC is foreign for the open wheel drivers

Rolex 24 Recap: A short day for Champ Car drivers

Champ Car drivers take on other stars in Rolex 24

Champ Car is in the driver's seat

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