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
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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