CHAMPCAR/CART: Championship battles to be waged

Title Fight Not The Only Battle To Be Waged as 2004 Champ Car World Series Season Enters Final Rounds INDIANAPOLIS (October 13, 2004) -- Much of the attention during the final two rounds of the 2004 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car...

Title Fight Not The Only Battle To Be Waged as 2004 Champ Car World Series Season Enters Final Rounds

INDIANAPOLIS (October 13, 2004) -- Much of the attention during the final two rounds of the 2004 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season will be on the hard-fought title battle between Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), but there will be plenty of skirmishes throughout the 19-car fields that will yield equally important consequences for teams and drivers.

Career-best season results for not only drivers, but long-time team owners are up for grabs as the series wraps up its season with the Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise, Australia Oct. 22-24, to be followed by the Gran Premio Telmex/Tecate Presented by Banamex at Mexico City's sparkling Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez November 5-7.

Defending series champion and 1995 Surfers winner Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will head to Australia looking to become the first driver since Al Unser Jr. to amass seven top-five Champ Car season finishes. Tracy is currently fourth in the standings and heads to an Australia track where he has qualified in the top five in each of the last eight years.

"The atmosphere in Australia is always fantastic; it's an amazing country," Tracy said. "In terms of the race -- it's a difficult one, the proof being that no one has ever had a repeat win. My goal is to be the first to achieve that and to improve my position in the Championship."

But holding onto that top-five spot will not be an easy proposition for the 14-year veteran as the two drivers breathing down his neck are looking to cap their best-ever Champ Car seasons with strong finishes in the final two events. Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) sits in the fifth spot, 12 points behind Tracy, while Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) lurks just three points further back.

Both Tagliani and Dominguez are gunning for their first top-five Champ Car season finishes and are looking to set themselves up with strong results in Australia. Dominguez has an undeniable fondness for the Surfers layout as it was there that he earned his first Champ Car victory at the rain-soaked 2002 event. Both drivers are among the six current pilots that have scored podium finishes at the 2.795-mile Gold Coast street circuit

"I like Surfers a lot because it's a great place and a great race," Dominguez told Gordon Kirby in a recent Champ Car website feature. "The track is a beautiful course and it's pretty quick. It's one of the longest street courses we run and it is very exciting."

Even closer competition looms deeper in the pack as seven drivers are in the hunt for the seventh through tenth spots. The tenth position is key because it is the spot in the season standings from where additional end-of-year bonuses are paid to the teams and drivers, beginning with an award of $70,000 for 10th place. In addition, the top ten drivers are recognized at the season-ending series awards banquet, to be held this year at the Camino Real in Mexico City on November 7.

Veteran Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) currently holds down the 10th spot with two races to go with 171 points, and heads to a Surfers Paradise track where he has already tasted victory champagne. The 1996 series champion is only three points behind Oriol Servia (#11 YokeTV.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for ninth, but is also only three points ahead of veteran Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) who sits in 11th.

Servia has made a strong late-season run, stringing four consecutive top-10 runs together to get into the top 10. The position is important not only for Servia, who would earn his second consecutive top-10 season finish, but for long-time competitor Dale Coyne Racing. The 21-year Champ Car team is in the midst of one of its best seasons and is in position to earn its first-ever top-10 season finish if Servia can hold his place in the pack.

Holding serve won't be as easy as just showing up though, although strong performances could move Servia, Vasser and Jourdain even higher in the standings. Servia is just two points behind eighth-placed Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) while top rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is eight points ahead of Hunter-Reay in seventh.

Meanwhile fellow rookie Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is just 21 points out of the 10th spot in the points while Walker Racing sophomore Mario Haberfeld (#5 Cummins Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) is six points in arrears to Wilson. Fellow sophomore Rodolfo Lavin (#3 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is also still in the top-10 hunt, just two markers behind Haberfeld in 14th.

With a maximum of 70 points available to each driver for the rest of the season, the action will be heated both in Australia and Mexico City where a combined crowd of over 700,00 fans attended last year's Champ Car events. Each of the top 14 drivers in the standings have placed in the top five in at least one race this year, showing that all of them have the ability to make a move that could really shuffle that standings as the 2004 season draws to a close.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Justin Wilson , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Rodolfo Lavin , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain
Teams Dale Coyne Racing