The Champ Cars put on quite a show last year in
Las Vegas under the lights
If itís close competition
you hanker for, youíre in for a double dose this Saturday night at Las
Vegas Motor Speedway. I donít think thereís a better ticket value
anywhere than the opportunity to watch the best in the Champ Car World
Series do battle on the high-speed Vegas oval right after NASCARís
Craftsman Truckers fight it out on the same race track.
The Trucks are a strong partner, with close-quarters action at very high
speeds the norm on the mile-and-a-half tracks they run regularly. The
NCTS comes to Vegas off an exciting event at New Hampshire where Ford
picked up its first series victory in nearly a year. The Ford win came
at the hand of a fine driver and a wonderful guy, Rick Crawford. His
Circle Bar team is one of the sportís best and the Truck Series couldnít
ask for a better ambassador. Crawford will have his hands full Saturday
night going for two straight, but donít be surprised if the 14 truck is
up front as the final laps wind down.
Last year Newman/Haas teammates Junqueira and
Bourdais went wheel-to-wheel lap after lap
Weíll be watching the Champ Cars most closely of course Saturday night,
preparing our telecast for Sunday airing on SPEED. Last year the
Newman/Haas mates dueled to the finish, with Sebastien Bourdais and
Bruno Junqueira swapping the top spot numerous times over the last 30
laps. Iíd think itís fair to say the 1 and 2 cars will be among the top
contenders this time around in the Las Vegas 400. Oriol Servia will bid
for two in a row, and will keep up his drive for a top-three points
finish, but I believe the N/H guys will have half a dozen other cars and
drivers to contend with.
Remember that last year Paul Tracy, running in his adopted hometown,
never really got goingÖa wheel problem took the í03 Champ out of the
event early. This year Iím certain PT feels the Vegas oval owes him one,
and heíll be digging hard all evening. The RuSPORT squad surely will be
strong too, and I think AJ Allmendinger could well be a threat to bag
his first career win on the high banks. AJ is fearless, his car will be
fast, and heís run well on the flat mile at Milwaukee both of the past
Jimmy Vasser, too, should be a contender in his Gulfstream/PKV Lola.
Jimmy is also playing in front of a nearly-hometown crowd and his
high-speed oval credentials are without peer. Recall that Vasserís last
win came at Fontana in í02, where the speeds are the highest. Last year
the 12 car was strong, but didnít quite have enough to remain in the
lead draft as the final shootout took shape. Iíd also look for the HVM,
Rocketsports, and even the Dale Coyne teams to turn in good showings
Of particular note is the plan to add Cosworth Push-2-Pass to the mix
this time around at Vegas. Race Director Tony Cotman and his staff will
allow teams 60 seconds of the additional 50 horsepower to enhance the
show. Drivers will get a full ten-second burst each time they use the
button, and that should create quite a strategic showdown. Do you use
P2P at the drop of the green? Do you use it defensively? Or do you
conserve for the last 30 or so of the 166-lap, 250 mile, 400 kilometer
race? Lap times at least some of the time will come down a good bit, and
the addition of P2P will no doubt shuffle the leaderboard several times
before the checkers fall.
Saturday also marks the start of the Steve Johnson era at Champ Car.
Johnson is an experienced motorsports leader with a strong track record,
and his stewardship of the series will be strong. Weíll watch with
interest to see the course he charts for the CCWS in the months to come.
Hope you can join us Sunday afternoon on SPEED for Champ Car Qualifying
from Las Vegas, followed immediately by our coverage of the Las Vegas
400k. The fun starts at 3pm Eastern. See you then..
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