Editorial

View from the Topside
A look ahead to Champ Car's only Superspeedway race

   by Rick Benjamin
September 6, 2005

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The Champ Cars put on quite a show last year in Las Vegas under the lights

Gearing up for another week chasing major motorsports events coast to coast, and thinking ahead to the next Champ Car World Series round at Las Vegas in less than three weeks.

This year’s race will once again be held at the beautiful Las Vegas Motor Speedway, under the leadership of old friend Chris Powell and his terrific Speedway Motorsports staff. It’s the only superspeedway round of the Champ Car championship these days, and as such should generate extra attention from drivers, teams, and fans alike.

While it’s true that a Champ Car could likely lap the Vegas 1.5 mile layout at upwards of 220 mph if some rules were relaxed, no one in the Champ Car offices wants to see what might happen if the race were to be run at those speeds.

So again the cars will wear higher-drag wing packages aimed at keeping them nailed to the race track and at keeping the competition close. As we saw at Montreal, some teams have worked wind-tunnel magic in an effort to gain hundredths of seconds of additional quickness around the Vegas high banks.


Last year Sebastien Bourdais won a side-by-side dual over his teammate Bruno Junqueira

We saw how the Newman/Haas squad had come up with a trick new mirror configuration, building wedge-shaped mirror housings that mount flush on the sidepods, thus taking the old bullet-shaped pieces down out of the airflow over the pods. That came on the heels of their earlier modification to the rear wing endplates, cutting a couple of scallops into each plate to help dirty air escape from the wing tray area.

Newman/Haas was the only team to bring the revised mirrors to Montreal; it’ll be most interesting to see whether Forsythe, RuSPORT, or anyone else will try to come up with a similarly-efficient piece for the year’s only high-banked oval track clash. As my broadcast colleague Derek Daly has pointed out, even if something like that is only worth 1/100th of a second per lap, over ten laps that equals a tenth….and over 100 laps, a full second. With Champ Car speedway races routinely decided by much less, that’s an advantage not to be taken lightly.

The other significant change, one that should be much more noticeable to fans, is the addition of Cosworth Power to Pass. Last year Champ Car officials decided to leave P2P on the trailer, as it were, in a nod to safety.

This time around CCWS VP of Operations Tony Cotman has committed to giving drivers the extra boost worth an additional 50 HP per press on the button. Still unclear is how much push-to-pass (P2P) time each team will receive for the race, and how long each burst will be. Recall that Champ Car increased P2P time to 75 seconds for Montreal, still accessible in 10 second bursts, due to the track length and speeds reached on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Champ Car wants to ensure there’ll be passing at Vegas with safety maximized. Since officials don’t want a power burst from P2P to run out at a critical moment, the length of the burst could change.

I’m looking forward to the event for a couple of other reasons this year. We’ll get started earlier, and hopefully faster, after the Craftsman Trucks finish their event. Expect an 8:30-8:45PM local time start, which should keep new fans in their seats much longer. And I’m hoping for a new winner on the tour. The race will be close by definition, and the series can use the kick of excitement and visibility another first-time winner will bring.

While Timo Glock will surely cash in soon, I get the feeling Vegas will be AJ Allmendinger’s breakthrough moment in Champ Car. We’ll find out in little more than two weeks. Hope you can join us there….or on that Sunday afternoon on SPEED.

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