View from the Topside
Bristol review, Long Beach preview

   by Rick Benjamin
April 5, 2005

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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.

The 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 weekend.

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.

Sebastien 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 4pm Eastern.

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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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