View from the Topside
Miscellaneous Ramblings

   by Rick Benjamin
November 23, 2005

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About to launch into the 2005 holiday season, traditionally what appears to be a quiet time for motorsports.

But as anyone who lives in the midst of this industry can attest this is really a time when the pace is even faster. Most of the action merely takes place offstage, much of it away from the race track.

These next dozen or so weeks until racing resumes in earnest are chock full of driver moves, team realignments, testing, and building. The annual scramble to secure new jobs is in full bloom for crewmembers, drivers, executives, and even some media members. Some of the best moves to be made all season take place off track in the winter as those in the racing industry jockey for position and influence.

Katherine Legge made quite an impression in her F1 debut

This time of the year is always a time of surprises. Maybe the biggest surprise in 2005 was the emergence of Katherine Legge as a real force in open wheel racing. Legge’s story is a great one. She was able to get herself in front of Kevin Kalkhoven last winter, talked her way into a test, impressed everyone, and by the end of the season had won three Atlantic series events and was preparing for tests in both F-1 and Champ Car this winter. While both Katherine and Kalkhoven said repeatedly she would remain in Atlantics one more year before moving to Champ Car, there are indications that timetable could advance depending on how the test sessions play out these next several weeks.

One indicator in her favor: on opening my copy of the Charlotte Observer this morning, it was a pleasant shock to see a picture of Legge seated in the Minardi at her F-1 test this week. It’s extremely rare for a positive open-wheel picture to appear in one of the flagship sports sections in the heart of NASCAR country; to see a shot of someone in the Champ Car family amounts to a real coup. It shows the kind of attention someone who’s as capable and groundbreaking as Katherine Legge is can generate for Champ Car, when she succeeds on track.

As you’ll read here elsewhere, Katherine crashed on her first day in the Minardi but put together an impressive string of quick laps on her second day. Pending her Champ Car test soon, she could end up being part of the Sunday show come 2006. That will be a sight to see.

While Champ Car has much to be pleased with after a successful 2005, top series officials are assuredly searching for tweaks and new ideas that can improve the racing, the spectacle, and ultimately the audience for the series. It may be time for Champ Car to consider a “chase” format to determine the Vanderbilt Cup Champion starting next season.

No one here needs to be reminded of how NASCAR’s ten-race season closing playoff system has boosted interest and ratings for Nextel Cup racing. Now, the PGA is putting something similar in place to strengthen its position at the end of the season. Why not Champ Car?

My suggestion would be to use the final four races to let the top five point drivers settle the Champ Car title fight. A plan like this would prevent a Bourdais- runaway scenario, as we’ve seen these past two seasons. I’d reseed the top five in points, giving them perhaps a three-point gap between spots, after the Montreal round of the Championship.
Then, line ‘em up and let ‘em go.

A plan like this would ensure that each type of track represented in Champ Car would host a round of the Vanderbilt Cup Challenge (how’s that for a catchy name?), an oval (assuming Las Vegas Motor Speedway remains on the calendar), a street course in Australia, and permanent courses in South Korea and Mexico City. I’d love to see significant bonus money up for grabs at each event and for the overall title. Something like this would ensure that each lap would count for even more, all season long. It would keep the five contending teams scratching and clawing for any advantage until the final lap in Mexico City.

And best of all, no charge for the idea. Let the Challenge begin.

The author can be contacted at feedback@autoracing1.com

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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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