Editorial

View from the Topside
Looking ahead to Montreal

   by Rick Benjamin
August 25, 2006

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Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais go at it in Denver.  Will the controversy continue in Montreal?
Champ Car

Denver’s in the rearview mirror and Montreal awaits the Champ Car family this weekend….with all of us wondering how the series’ major rivalries will play out this time around.

It seems to me after ten races in 2006 a new level of intensity is brewing in Champ Car.

A couple of significant rivalries are blossoming, fueled by genuine dislike as well as tight competition. And while that may make things tense on the grid and in the paddock, it’s great for all of us who are fans. And it’s better yet for the series, which has needed some of its drivers to step forward and begin to battle hard on and off the track.

We’ve enjoyed the rough and tumble warfare between Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy for the past couple of seasons. And now, as Tracy searches for the final pieces in his performance puzzle, another driver’s emerged who’s fast enough to give two-time series champ Bourdais fits. And best of all, AJ Allmendinger is American-born and bred, perhaps the heir apparent to drivers like Mears, Unser, and Vasser.

And you can throw Justin Wilson into the mix as well. The young Brit has three wins these last two seasons, and while it appears his CDW squad isn’t yet ready to contend for a championship you have to think they soon will. Justin has to be challenged by the emergence of his friend and former RuSPORT teammate. And Wilson is very capable of winning another race or two before this season comes to a close.

With RuSPORT remaining a single-car team at least for this weekend’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve run, it’s possible Wilson will gain ground. Despite his Denver disappointment the team’s considerable engineering brainpower will be focused completely on the 9 car which could pay off with a victory.

Tracy meantime will try to bounce back, perhaps literally, after his fateful final-turn wheel-wanging with Bourdais in Denver. Whether it was over-driving, old tires, or just simply a case of the red mist, it appeared from our vantage point PT tried too hard to keep Bourdais from checkering second. The post-checkered flag dustup between these rivals injected this weekend’s run with yet another dose of adrenalin and anticipation.

Allmendinger meantime has regained his mojo just in time for the stretch run. After his three wins in a row earlier, Allmendinger had returned to earth in the Indeck #7. But he and engineer Michael Cannon again found just the right combination of strategy, tires, and setup to come up with the fastest car by far in the middle stages of the Denver GP, and Allmendinger’s machine remained quick until the finish.

A repeat of that effort on Sunday, especially if Bourdais has another difficult weekend in Montreal, would tee us up for a great title fight over the final three rounds this season.

We’ll also be watching the Champ Car Atlantic drama this weekend. Simon Pagenaud has earned the championship lead with consistent speed and opportunism. Graham Rahal, on the other hand, has had a dominant car at many tracks but mistakes and some mechanical issues have put him behind in the $2-million dollar sweepstakes. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of Champ Car’s best stages, full of speed and challenging corners. Whoever can put together the smoothest 50 miles Sunday morning will likely be in position to grab the big prize next month at Road America.

We’ll be trackside all weekend with our Champ Car coverage live on NBC Sports Sunday afternoon. If this is in fact the last roundup for Champ Car in Montreal I suspect it will be an outstanding one. Hope you can join us for all the action.

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