You might have heard about “Breakfast at Wimbledon”….the
traditional summertime strawberries and cream at the world’s premier tennis event.
This morning may be the start of a new tradition….”Breakfast at Bristol”. This
version is more likely to feature fried eggs, bacon, and grits to go along with a
battle for the lead between Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, and Martin Truex….but for
most of us it’s a great way to spend an early-Spring Monday morning.
In fact, judging by the numbers of folks up in the Tri-Cities who must’ve had
early dentist’s appointments, I’d say race promoters everywhere might take a cue
from the forced postponement of the Saturday 250 lapper, and think about a
midday-weekday start time. If you live in a city where pro baseball is played, you
likely have a couple of opportunities each year to enjoy what used to be called a
“Businessman’s Special”, a noon first pitch complete with discounted beer and
hotdogs. Given the seas of empty seats at some racetracks these days, I’d say a
Monday 11am or Friday noon green flag might actually draw a couple thousand fans
to an event that on a weekend might be a tough sell.
What won’t be a tough sell are tickets to this Sunday’s Toyota Long Beach Grand
Prix. It’s the 30th anniversary of the event…actually the 31st time the
continent’s first street race will unfold. While there are plenty of questions yet
to be answered about the Champ Car World Series going into 2005, keep in mind the
list of questions is quite a bit smaller than what we saw a year ago.
series is under strong new leadership, with Dick Eidswick preparing for his first
full season at the helm. Public relations for Champ Car is in great shape now that
Steve Shunck is back in charge. And the tour’s driver lineup is stronger than it’s
been in a long time, what with four champions ready to do battle starting this
I’ve been asked by many in the past couple of weeks what to expect
on track at Long Beach. I think we’ll see a terrific battle up front among the
Newman/Haas, Forsythe Championship Racing (FCR), RuSPORT, and PKV teams. Certainly
Rocketsports, Mi-Jack, and even Dale Coyne’s team with Oriol Servia will be in the
hunt. And Team Australia/Walker Racing will make some noise. But I’m looking for
two drivers….Cristiano da Matta and AJ Allmendinger…to battle for the win Sunday.
Surely Paul Tracy (above) will be a factor, given his status as
defending race winner. But there’s been some instability at FCR, what with the
late move to bring Mario Dominguez on board. And the possibility of Rodolfo Lavin
rejoining the squad could further distract the FCR crew as they work to get Tracy
ready to defend his victory at the Beach. PKV has tested extensively under the
watchful eye of Jim McGee, and da Matta surely is ready to remind everyone just
how good he is.
Bourdais comes to Long Beach wearing the Champion’s mantle for the first time, and
I know he will wear it well. Unlike most in the Champ Car paddock he’s gone racing
a couple of times already this year, and that’s quite an advantage. Allmendinger
(pictured right) was ready to win last year, couldn’t quite close the deal, and is
unbelievably hungry to break through at this legendary event.
But when the checkered flag falls Sunday, I believe it’ll be da Matta in Victory
Lane, celebrating his return to Champ Car, and celebrating PKV’s first series win.
We shall see, on NBC Sports, this Sunday. Hope you can join us starting at
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