View from the Topside
Looking ahead to Edmonton - Many storylines

   by Rick Benjamin
July 20, 2006

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Midsummer in motorsports often means a calendar that’s overcrowded, airport lines that are overfull, and sleep patterns that are overstressed. But it’s also the time when championships are decided and driver and team futures are solidified.

That’s the situation I find myself contemplating as we head to Edmonton for the second running of the West Edmonton Mall Champ Car Grand Prix this weekend. Last year’s inaugural event may have been the best first-year race I’ve ever experienced, whether on a temporary circuit or a permanent track.

The airport-based course was wide, fast, and produced wildly competitive action. The fans turned out in droves despite weather that wasn’t the greatest, and as is normally the case in Canada, their enthusiasm for the action was about the strongest we saw all season long.

Add to that the story lines we saw that weekend, most of which should be replayed this time around, and you have the makings of another terrific Champ Car round north of the border. A year ago most of us were wondering when AJ Allmendinger would finally win his first race.

A dejected AJ Allmendinger after crashing out of the lead in Edmonton in 2005
Hiroshi Nakajima

Edmonton saw the young gun firing from all cylinders just about all weekend, leading late in the race in his RuSPORT machine. But as we’d seen all too often to that point AJ found the wall on one of the track’s final turns, ending his bid for that inaugural victory. The picture of Allmendinger, inconsolable, sitting on the pit wall, his helmeted head in his hands, was a screenshot I’ll not soon forget.

Of course the other memorable story from Edmonton ’05 was the incredible run to victory by Sebastien Bourdais. Seb had struggled in qualifying with his McDonald’s machine and had to line up for the Sunday fun in 10th spot. Most of us preparing the broadcast coverage assumed he would not be a factor that day. But once the green dropped the story line changed dramatically.

While Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, Paul Tracy, Oriol Servia, and others would have their shots, Bourdais was strong and steady, taking what the event gave him, running brilliantly to the front. And after AJ slammed the fence, Bourdais was right there to capitalize and bag another in his incredible string of wins on his way to his second straight championship.

This year of course the back story is different. Bourdais began the season as hot as anyone’s ever been on the tour, winning four in a row. Then tough times arrived for Seb, Allmendinger’s life and career were turned upside-down, and now it’s AJ whom everyone else is chasing.

While Bourdais is still the championship leader and title favorite, Allmendinger’s string of three straight wins has given him an aura of invincibility and plenty of reason to think he can become the series’ first American champ since Jimmy Vasser ten seasons ago.

Allmendinger’s inspired run to victory at Toronto was further proof that the combination of the third-year Californian with Michael Cannon, Phil LePan, and the rest of the Forsythe Championship Racing bunch could end up being the toughest in the series. Now it’s up to AJ to take another giant step, conquer a track where he was oh-so-close last season, and further close the points gap on Bourdais.

That’s the stuff of which memorable title fights are made.

See you Sunday on CBS Sports at 1pm Eastern.

The author can be contacted at feedback@autoracing1.com

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Columns by Rick

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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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