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

Champ Car World Series Grand Prix of Houston Notebook Who's Hot * Sebastien Bourdais dominated the 2006 season opener, scoring all 35 championship points available to him in Long Beach. * At the Long Beach Grand Prix Sebastien ...

Champ Car World Series Grand Prix of Houston Notebook

Who's Hot

* Sebastien Bourdais dominated the 2006 season opener, scoring all 35 championship points available to him in Long Beach.

* At the Long Beach Grand Prix Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) started the defense of his 2004 and 2005 titles in perfect form. He was the fastest in both qualifying sessions, scoring his 19th career pole position and establishing a new track record. On race day the Flying Frenchman kept up his frenzied pace leading seventy laps, recoding the fastest lap of the race, and taking the checkered flag to record his 17th career win.

* Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) looked to begin 2006 with the same momentum which he had built during 2005, in which earned his first two Champ Car victories. In Long Beach, Wilson started his day on the outside pole and ran in the second spot for most of the day, before earning his fourth career podium finish.

* At the end of the Long Beach Grand Prix Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) celebrated the best finish in his Long Beach career. On race day the Canadian started the race in the seventh spot and drove a clean race moving up to third before the checkered flag flew, recording his fourteenth career podium finish.

* In his second season driving for Forsythe Championship Racing Mario Dominguez (#7 Pride of Mexico Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is looking to build on the strides he made during the 2005 season. The Mexican began his day in Long Beach in the fifth position, ran in the top-ten all day, and brought his car home in the four spot, a career-best finish on the streets of Long Beach.

* When Cristiano da Matta (#19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) joined Dale Coyne Racing for the 2006 season, there was a lot of curiosity as to how they would perform together. In their first outing at the Long Beach Grand Prix da Matta started in the tenth position before driving his car to a fifth place finish, marking the highest-ever Long Beach finish for long-time Champ Car competitor Dale Coyne Racing.

On The Right Track

* After a disappointing start in Long Beach, Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) looks to get his season back on track in Houston. Going into the new Grand Prix of Houston, Tracy is the only active Champ Car driver that has celebrated a victory in the "Space City."

* Jan Heylen (#11 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) began his rookie campaign in top form leading four laps on the day, the most by a rookie at Long Beach since the 2000 race. At the drop of the checkered flag he recorded the top rookie finish, finishing in the seventh position.

* Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) may have had a quiet weekend in Long Beach, but on race day he was ready to improve on his sixteenth place starting spot. During the race Ranger got around 10 cars to finish in the sixth spot capturing a point for picking up the most positions during the race and recording his seventh career top-ten finish.

* Champ Car did compete in Houston from 1998-2001 on a downtown street track. Of the current roster of drivers, Paul Tracy, Cristiano da Matta, Alex Tagliani, Bruno Junqueira and Oriol Servia raced on the old layout.

* A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Red Bull/RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was so named by his father in honor of six-time Champ Car World Series champion A.J. Foyt. This weekend will mark the first time that the young American star will race in his namesake's hometown as he continues to pursue that elusive first Champ Car victory.

Noteworthy

* Sebastien Bourdais became the third consecutive driver to defend his Champ Car title with a win in the following year's season opener. Bourdais stormed to a win in Long Beach to take the early lead in the 2006 title hunt. Rick Mears is the last driver (1982) to defend his title by winning the first two races of the following season.

* The 1.7-mile layout that will host the Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston is a new one to everyone in the series, with this being the inaugural event at Reliant Park. Noteworthy is the fact that Sebastien Bourdais has won each of the last four events that took place on tracks that were new to Champ Car. (Edmonton, San Jose in 2005, Vegas in '04 and Brands Hatch in '03)

* The Houston event will be the 100th in the career of Oriol Servia, making him only the fourth driver in the field to have as many as 100 series starts.

* Alex Tagliani is expected to make his 106th consecutive series start this weekend, tying him for 11th on the all-time list with Mario Andretti.

* As Sebastien Bourdais continues to chase Ted Horn as the only driver to win three consecutive Champ Car titles, it is interesting to note that Horn also won the opening race of his third championship year. He finished fourth in his second race.

* Katherine Legge set a new Champ Car high for best finish by a female driver with an eighth-place finish in Long Beach. No female driver has ever earned back-to-back top-10 finishes in Champ Car competition.

* Bruno Junqueira's win in Monterrey last season gave him victories in each of his first five seasons as a Champ Car driver. A win this season would make the Newman/Haas Racing pilot the first driver since Bobby Rahal (1982-87) to earn wins in each of his first six years in the series.

Did You Know?

Officially, Houston is nicknamed the "Space City" as it is home to NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, where Mission Control Center is located. Because of this, "Houston" was the first word spoken on the moon. The Reliant Astrodome (located between turns three and four on the race course) opened in 1965 as Harris County Domed Stadium, also known as just the Houston Astrodome, it is called the "Eighth Wonder of the World" by many as it is the first domed structure of its size created without a pillar supporting it in the center. The Astrodome was the home of the Houston Astros and Houston Oilers for many years. The Astrodome has also been the home of many other special events, including the Republican National Convention and the famous 'Battle of the Sexes' tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Completed in 2002, Reliant Stadium, which overlooks turn five has served as the state-of-the-art successor to the Astrodome, picking up where the Astrodome left off in terms of NFL games and other major events. Reliant Stadium was also the home of Super Bowl XXXVIII (held February 1, 2004), famous for the New England Patriots defeating the Carolina Panthers 32-29. Most recently the Reliant Park area made national headlines housing 25,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

FAST FACTS

WHAT: Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston

WHERE: Reliant Park, Houston, TX

WHEN: Friday-Sunday, May 11-13

SUPPORT EVENTS: Champ Car Atlantic, American Le Mans, and Star Mazda

CHAMP CAR SCHEDULE (All times local): THURSDAY, MAY 11 -- 2:30 -- 3:25 p.m., Atlantic practice; 3:45 --5:00 p.m., Champ Car practice; 7:30 -- 8:00 p.m., Atlantic qualifying; 8:15 -- 9:15 p.m. Champ Car qualifying. FRIDAY, MAY 12 -- 12:30 -- 1:30 p.m., Champ Car practice; 3:00 -- 3:45 p.m., Atlantic practice; 4:00 -- 5:00 p.m., Champ Car qualifying; 6:30 -- 7:00 p.m., Atlantic qualifying;. SATURDAY, MAY 13 -- 1:45 -- 2:00 p.m., Atlantic warmup; 4:00 -- 4:30 p.m., Champ Car warmup; 5:15 -- 6:15 p.m., Atlantic race; 8:00 p.m., START OF CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: SATURDAY, MAY 13-- Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston, SPEED TV, 9 p.m. EST (live).

TRACK LAYOUT: 1.615-mile temporary street course

RACE LENGTH: 115 laps, 185.725 miles

RACE ROUND: 2 of 15 in the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

2006 CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POINTS LEADERS: 1, Sebastien Bourdais, Newman/Haas Racing, 35; 2, Justin Wilson, RuSPORT, 27; 3, Alex Tagliani, Team Australia, 25; 4, Mario Dominguez, Forsythe Championship Racing, 23; 5, Cristiano da Matta, Dale Coyne Racing, 21.

-ccws-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Rick Mears , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Andrew Ranger , Jan Heylen , Dale Coyne , A.J. Foyt , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Dale Coyne Racing