CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston: Pre-race notes, quoteboard

WHOS HOT Filling in for injured Paul Tracy, Oriol Servia ( ...

WHOS HOT

Filling in for injured Paul Tracy, Oriol Servia (#3 INDECK Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) made the most of his first race in the new DP01. After qualifying a somewhat disappointing fifteenth the Catalonian took advantage of well timed full course cautions to improve his track position leading 7 circuits around the Long Beach course, then went on to record a second place finish capturing the point for improving the most positions during the race. In just one race Servia has put himself into the 9th position in the point standings.

Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) continued his strong sophomore campaign by capturing the outside pole position in Long Beach and made a last lap pass to earn a podium finish. Currently the Australian leads the points standings by fifteen points over his closest competitor. In last year's Houston Grand Prix the 2006 Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-year started in the tenth position and finished seventh which was his best finish in the first seven races last year.

Alex Tagliani (#8 LXN2 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) has been consistently near the front since his reunion with the RSPORTS (formerly Rocketsports) team. After two top five finishes in the first two events in 2007, the Canadian holds on to second in the point standings.

On the streets of Long Beach Tristan Gommendy (#22 Pay by Touch-Megaspiera Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) led the first laps of his young Champ Car career when his PKV Racing team used an alternate pit strategy to hand the lead over to their rookie driver. The Frenchman held the top spot over a hard charging Sebastien Bourdais for 13 laps before handing over the lead to his fellow countryman, when he had to pit for fuel late in the race.

Rookies Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pacific Coast Motorsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) and Graham Rahal (#2 Medi|Zone Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) scored the first top ten finishes of their Champ Car careers in Long Beach. After starting in the sixteenth position Dalziel picked up seven spots to finish in the ninth position. Rahal on the other hand earned his first top five qualifying spot and ran a consistent race bringing his car home in eighth.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Mario Dominguez (#7 Telmex Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) showed a lot of muscle last year in Houston recording his first career pole position under the lights. The Mexican went on to lead 66 Laps during the event, before a miscue sent him into the runoff area in Turn 5. He rejoined the pack in the third position and held on for a podium finish.

In Houston Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonalds Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) won his second consecutive race last year. After starting the day in fifth which was the farthest back he had qualified in the last nine races, the Frenchman inherited the lead on lap 67 and never looked back leading the last 30 revolutions around Reliant Park.

In last year's Champ Car Atlantic Championship race Simon Pagenaud (#15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) took his first step in winning the Atlantic championship by scoring his first podium in Houston. After qualifying in the fourth position the young Frenchman climbed into the second spot before the fall of the checkered flag.

Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) had a quiet but consistent weekend last year in Houston. After starting the day in the seventh position the Brit moved into the top-five on a tight street course that was very difficult to pass on.

DID YOU KNOW

In August 1836, John Kirby Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen purchased 6,642 acres of land and named the area Houston after General Sam Houston who was the first president of the Republic of Texas. Currently Houston is the nation's fourth largest city, home to 2 million people and a hub of international businesses. Houston is also home to NASA's mission control and was the first word spoken from the surface of the moon. The city is also known for its state-of-the-art sporting facilities for fans of all sports. Judge Roy Hofheinz made Houston famous in the 1960s when he built the world's first air-conditioned stadium, the Astrodome, hailed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World." Today, Reliant Park is not only home to the Houston Grand Prix it is also home to the world's first domed stadium, the world's first retractable roof, air-conditioned, and natural grass football stadium. Reliant Park has established itself as the premier sports, entertainment and convention complex in the country, because of the distinct versatility offered by the venues.

NOTEWORTHY

This year the Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston is returning to the light. Last year the Houston Grand Prix marked just the second time in history that Champ Car has run on a temporary circuit under the lights.

In five visits to Houston there have been five different winners in Champ Car competition. The streak began in 1998 when Dario Franchitti won the first ever Champ Car race to be held on the streets of Houston. Since then Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Gil de Ferran and Sebastien Bourdais have gone on to collect checkered flags in the Lone Star state.

The Houston Grand Prix has been led wire-to-wire twice in event history. Both circumstances happened on the old downtown course. In 1998 Dario Franchitti led every lap of the event and again in 2001 when Gil de Ferran was the only driver to lead the pack around the street course.

Twice in Houston event history the person who has led the most laps has not gone on to win the event. The first time it happened was in 2000 when Jimmy Vasser won despite leading less than half of the laps ran. Last year it happened again as Mario Dominguez led the 63 laps, but the win went to Sebastien Bourdais.

The Houston Grand Prix has been one event that historically has seen the yellow flag fly early and often. Twice in event history the pace has been slowed by six caution periods (2006 and 1998). The least number of disruptions was four and it has happened twice (1999 and 2001).

Sebastien Bourdais scored the 24th race win of his Champ Car in Long Beach, moving him into a tie with Bobby Rahal and Ralph DePalma for 12th on the all-time Champ Car list. He also led 58 laps, boosting his total to 1,698 and moving him into 16th on the all-time list. In addition, this was his 15th win from pole, which ties him with Bobby Unser for third on the career list

BY THE NUMBERS

120 -- Alex Tagliani will be making his 120th Champ Car start this weekend. 100 -- The most laps one driver has led in one Houston race (Gil de Ferran, 2001). 96 -- The number of laps in last year's Houston Grand Prix. 33- The total number of laps Sebastien Bourdais led in last year's Houston Grand Prix. 7 -- Will Power was the highest placing rookie last year, finishing in the seventh position. 13.733 -- The largest margin in seconds the Houston Grand Prix has been won by (1999 Paul Tracy). 1.527 -- The length of the original Houston Street circuit Champ Car ran on from 1998-2001. 1.238 -- In seconds, the margin of victory by Sebastien Bourdais last year. 1- How many times a Champ Car race on the streets of Houston has been won from the pole position (Gil de Ferran, 2001).

PRE-RACE QUOTES

Will Power #5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone -- "It's great heading into Houston, going to another circuit that I'm familiar with. I really enjoyed the track a lot, but this year I think the race will be even more interesting, because they changed it a lot. It flows a lot better and we have a car that is good for this type of track. The team is headed in the right direction and is working very hard. Our plan for the weekend is to have another positive weekend, a good result, get a solid point lead where we can relax on our break and get some more good development on the car"

Alex Tagliani #8 LXN2 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone -- "With everything that happened so late in the off-season, we felt that the most important thing is to get out of the first three races in the best possible position that we could. I feel that we are fulfilling our goal with two solid top-five finishes. However, I was left a little disappointed in Long Beach, during those last two laps when I lost a podium finish because we couldn't defend our position without Cosworth Power-to-Pass and because we were lacking grip. But I am excited to go to Houston. The RSPORTS boys are doing a fantastic job on the #8 LXN2 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone. It is going to be important to end the first three races at the beginning of the season as strong as we can. I feel that we have a shot at winning the race this weekend, with our consistency of running up front during the last two events. I think that we are only getting stronger and that even better results for RSPORTS are on their way. The Houston track is pretty challenging for the drivers physically and for the team. It is a track that is tough on the race cars, so it will be interesting to see how they perform this weekend. So far we have had no major issues with the new DP01, but this track is going to put the new car in a situation where it has to be very reliable. It is an interesting track, and I look forward to racing on it again this weekend."

Sebastien Bourdais #1 McDonalds Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone -- "It was a pretty hectic race in Houston last year for the McDonald's team. Definitely the hardest piece of work was passing Mario. The first four drivers to pass were kind of not easy but I was surprised that I was actually forcing the issue so early on in the race. And by the time I got to Mario I think he was aware that I was on the move and he was pretty quick so it was pretty tough. It would have taken quite a few efforts to actually get to pass him but it worked out when he made the mistake. It was a great venue; the fans loved the Champ Car race. I think smoothing out the track is a big positive. The layout was already interesting. It was diverse and really, really nice for a street course it just needed to be less rough and just by doing this they are going to make the show that much better. I think with a smoother race track it really is going to be a first class event. I've said that to start the season on the right foot doesn't win you a championship but not to have it can lose you a championship. And the confidence built through starting the season strong with four wins last year was very much of a positive. We had a bad event in Las Vegas but the McDonald's team came back to win in Long Beach and I hope we can carry that momentum over to Houston."

Justin Wilson #9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone -- "I feel that we excelled in Houston last year. I hope that we can be even stronger here in the #9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone this year, and get a better result after a fifth place finish in 2006. I think that what we learned in Long Beach will help us continue to excel this weekend and give us a good race car in Houston. The track is very bumpy, and at times last year it was hard to see. I hear that they have made some improvements to the track for this year so it should be even nicer to drive on. But it is a great course, a great location, and I look forward to getting back there and racing hard!"

Oriol Servia #3 INDECK Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone --"Well I have to again thank Jerry Forsythe and the Forsythe Team for giving me another opportunity to drive their car. Long Beach went really well for us, even though I had very few laps in the car I managed to get up to speed right away and the Team gave me a great car. Hopefully we'll do just a little better in Houston! I know Paul Tracy well and I know that he will be back sooner than expected, so I'll just have to keep trying my best so I can make things happen on my end."

Ryan Dalziel #28 Pacific Coast Motorsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone -- "I've heard great things about the Houston event and I am looking forward to it. We made great strides in progress last weekend and I think finishing ninth was a good run for us in just our second race. This weekend we are really going to focus on qualifying. We'll take everything we've learned the last two weeks and make it our goal to qualify the Ironclad car further up the grid. I am looking forward to a little bit of time for all of us to re-group. We are doing quite a bit of testing between now and Portland, but that is exactly what we need."

Alex Figge #29 Imperial Bank Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone -- "Most of my family is from Houston so this is an event I have been looking forward to. I am sore from my accident last weekend, but I've put it behind me and I am ready to get back in the Imperial Capital Bank car and work on a good result this weekend. The three in a row thing is tough, especially for a new team, we're tired, but that's the way it goes and were going to go out there and give it 100% this weekend in Houston."

Graham Rahal #2 Medi | Zone Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone -- After getting a full race behind us in Long Beach the Medi | Zone team is looking forward to Houston. I now have some Champ Car racing experience to build on and we can only keep improving in Houston. Last year in Houston I didn't finish the (Atlantic) race but we were very competitive. I was running second and got a little greedy and decided I was going to go for the win. I got inside Rafael Matos and I know he saw me because I was far enough beside him but he turned in and we made contact and that was the race for me. It was five laps from the end of the race but it was a good race for us last year because it was the first race where I could prove I was competitive. We went on to Monterrey, Mexico the next weekend and won the race. If I hadn't had such a good weekend in Houston, the Monterrey win may never have happened because we wouldn't have realized how capable we were of winning. I think the layout in Houston is awesome. Given that the circuit will be a little smoother can only make the racing better. I really, really enjoyed how the city was behind the race. We had a very good turnout last year and I hope it can be even better this year. I think Houston is one of the better tracks in terms of opportunities to pass. I think it will be quite exciting and given that the circuit will be smoother will make it easier on the bodies and it will be a lot of fun."

Mario Dominguez #7 Telmex/Banca Mifel Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone -- "It's great to be back in Houston! Not only is this one of my favorite cities, it is also one of my favorite tracks. Last year I got my first career Pole Position here and I finished third so obviously I'm very excited to go back and improve my finishing position by a couple of spots. There is a huge Hispanic following here and we are very close to Mexico so I know that there will be a lot of support for me and for Mexico up in the stands and around the paddock."

Simon Pagenaud #15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone - "I look very forward to coming back to Houston. Reliant Stadium is a great race circuit and an interesting and exciting atmosphere. Team Australia has given me a really fast car and now we just need to finish the race, get points and put everything together during the race. We've had a fast car, now we just have to put it together and I hope to bring the team a good result this weekend."

-credit: ccws

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