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
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
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
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
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