Editorial

View from the Topside
Champ Car drivers take on other stars in Rolex 24

   by Rick Benjamin
January 24, 2005

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Newman-Brockman Daytona Prototype

As I write this, we’re about to find out who the NFL’s two Super Bowl teams will be, with the Big Game a couple of weeks away. But while most in my family try to root for the New England Patriots on to another title, I’m setting my sights on warmer climes. It’s almost time to put race cars on race tracks for real in 2005, and that’s a thought that should warm the heart of anyone who loves our sport.

I’ll have the distinct pleasure of heading to Phoenix at the end of the coming week for my first broadcast of the new year, the NASCAR West season opener at Phoenix International Raceway.

Yes, the West series has struggled of late, losing its title sponsor when Winston had to leave the sport two years ago. And yes, there’s no schedule for NASCAR’s Grand National series announced as yet, other than opening weekend at the rejuvenated Copper World Classic next Saturday and Sunday.

But just the thought of visiting the Valley of the Sun in January and hearing motors fire surely quickens this fan’s pulse. Hope you can join us on HDNet Sunday afternoon, to close January.

For those of us who are rooting hard for the Champ Car World Series to continue on its new growth curve, the following weekend is even more enticing. The Rolex 24 will play to mostly empty grandstands at Daytona, but I say a ticket to the Rolex is one of the great bargains in the sport.

You never know what the weather in central Florida will be the first weekend in February. But again this season the France family and the Grand Am hierarchy has done a wonderful job bringing together a terrific cross section of driving talent from many top series. Champ Car will be well represented at the Rolex, given that the past three series champs will drive.


PL Newman at Daytona

I can’t wait to see Cristiano da Matta in action alongside Sebastien Bourdais at Daytona. Da Matta might be a bit rusty, but pairing with Seabass surely makes the Newman-Brockman Daytona Prototype team one to fear.

I think, though, that the best shot for a Champ Car win in the Rolex lies with Paul Tracy’s effort for the Bell Motorsports team. The Kodak squad is the defending Daytona champ, and they’ll also field former Champ Car star Christian Fittipaldi, Ralf Kelleners, plus the incredible Terry Borcheller…who might be the best American racer you’ve never heard of. Despite the presence of three of Roush Racing’s finest in a Ford-powered Daytona Prototype, and another 25 or so DP teams, my money’s on Tracy in his return to sports cars.

Given that the Rolex field also includes other NASCAR champions and several IRL stars, a win by either the Newman team or the Tracy-led squad will give Champ Car fans plenty to cheer about all summer long.  And even though the season’s first road race is one of the toughest tests in the sport, I wouldn’t bet against it. The best part is we’ll find out in just two weeks.

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