CHAMPCAR/CART: Champ Car season ends early due to California fires

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CART officials announced today that the season-ending King Taco 500 at the California Speedway in Fontana, California would not be run and that the 2003 Champ Car season has ended. On Tuesday, California Speedway officials had announced a ...

CART officials announced today that the season-ending King Taco 500 at the California Speedway in Fontana, California would not be run and that the 2003 Champ Car season has ended.

On Tuesday, California Speedway officials had announced a postponement of the event due to the continuing problem with wildfires in the immediate area of the Speedway. When officials of the speedway and the Indianapolis-based sanctioning body were unable to find a suitable alternate date for the race, it was cancelled.

"Our thoughts are with those families dealing with the disaster in Southern California and we hope for a speedy end to the situation," said CART President and CEO Christopher R. Pook.

In CART's official statement, Pook went on to explain the delay in responding to the postponement announced the day before and to explain other options considered: "Our diligence in pursuing the continuation of the race was only to ensure that we had exhausted every option available to us. CART Champ Car regrets that the event has been cancelled and we offered to explore every possible avenue, including running the event on Monday or Tuesday at Phoenix International Raceway, which is owned by California Speedway's parent company International Speedway Corporation; or running at the California Speedway track sometime next week, allowing us to run this race in a safe manner and have a proper end to the 2003 season."

The Champ Car Awards Celebration will be held next Tuesday night, November 4, in Palm Springs, California as previously scheduled. Among other awards, Paul Tracy will be honored as the 2003 Champ Car Champion and Sebastien Bourdais will be given the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year award.

PF Racing driver Tracy had already been handed the Vanderbilt Cup last weekend in Surfers Paradise, Australia after his last rival for the 2003 championship, Bruno Junqueira, was eliminated from contention by a DNF in the race. But many other positions in the final points standings were to be determined at Fontana. With the elimination of this final weekend, the standings will remain as they were when the Champ Car teams left Australia on Monday.

Runner-up to Tracy is Newman/Haas Racing's Junqueira, repeating his finish in the 2002 championship. Third this year is Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain, Jr. after the best season of his eight-year CART career. Bourdais' stellar rookie season with Newman/Haas places him fourth in the final rundown, followed by PF Racing's second driver Patrick Carpentier.

Mario Dominguez' breakthrough season with the improving Herdez Competition team earned him the sixth spot in the 2003 championship. Oriel Servia took Patrick Racing's Lola to seventh in points despite a disappointing second half of the season.

Owner-driver Adrian Fernandez had an up-and-down year and earned eighth position. Well-liked rookie Darren Manning was ninth in points in Walker Racing's Reynard (the only Reynard chassis in the top ten.) Alex Tagliani took the Rocketsports team to tenth on the season, the highest standing of any of the new-for-2003 teams.

Tracy led all drivers in wins and poles, taking the top spot on the podium seven times in the 18 races and getting the fastest qualifying time at 6 races. Bourdais was runner-up in both categories with 3 wins and 5 poles and his teammate, Junqueira, won two poles and two races.

Jourdain broke through for his first career win in Milwaukee and followed that up with another victory in Montreal. Rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay also was a first-time winner, making American Spirit Team Johansson the only new team to get a race win with their stunning 1-3 finish at Surfers Paradise. Carpentier, Dominguez and Fernandez each won a single race.

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Series INDYCAR