A SOUTHWEST SHOWDOWN IS SET FOR THE VETERANS AND THE "YOUNG GUNS" AS THE CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES HEADS TO HOUSTON
INDIANAPOLIS (April 18, 2007) -- The young guns of the Champ Car World Series might have staked their claim on the 2007 Championship in the season-opener in Las Vegas two weeks ago but the veterans stepped up last week in Long Beach letting the young guys know that they were not going to give up that easily thus setting the table for what should be an interesting duel this weekend at the Grand Prix of Houston which, contrary to last season, will be disputed in the daylight like an old Western Showdown.
One of those veterans was Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) who was back to his old self in Long Beach, after one of the worst race weekends of his career in Las Vegas. Bourdais grabbed the pole position on Saturday and went on to win a third consecutive Long Beach Grand Prix jolting him to third in the standings, 19 points behind first place. This weekend Bourdais will be looking for the 25th win of his career on a track where he won the inaugural event at Reliant Park last season after starting fifth.
The Frenchman may have taken his first step in his quest to securing a record-breaking fourth consecutive Champ Car Championship last weekend but the driver sitting atop the standings and who promises to give Bourdais a run for his money is Team Australia's Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone). Power has been on a roll so far this season. After clinching a front row starting spot by winning the provisional pole on Friday, the 26-year-old driver made a daring move to get by Tagliani on the final lap of the race in Long Beach to score another podium finish after claiming his first win two weeks ago. Power heads to Houston with a 15 point margin over second in the standings.
Sitting quietly in that second position on the points chart is Canadian Alex Tagliani (#8 LXN2 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) who thanks to his two top-five finishes in the first two races of the season is four points up on Bourdais and 15 down to ex-teammate Power. Tagliani is one of only three drivers in the field who competed on the old Houston track. He will however try to make his second appearance at the new Houston circuit a more memorable one than his first visit to the Reliant Park track where his race ended deep in the Turn Three tire barrier after a mechanical problem.
Another veteran who made his mark in Long Beach was Oriol Servia (#3 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) who finished second with only one qualifying session and a 30-minute warmup under his belt. Servia was asked to fill in for the injured Paul Tracy after the Canadian was hurt in a crash in the Saturday morning practice. The Catalonian is slated to be behind the wheel of the Forsythe car and will try to continue moving up the points standings after jumping in to ninth place after just one race.
A couple of drivers that one should look out for at the Grand Prix of Houston are the Dale Coyne Racing duo of Bruno Junqueira (#19 Sonny's Bar B-Q Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) and Katherine Legge (#11 Dale Coyne Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone). Both drivers sit amongst the top-eight in the Championship and have put in strong runs aboard their respective DP01s. The Brazilian gridded eighth and stayed near the front of the field throughout the Long Beach race to come home in sixth, recording his second consecutive top-seven finish placing him fourth in the standings, only four points behind third place. Teammate Legge moved up from her last place in the starting line up to take the checkered flag in 10th, placing her eighth in the Championship.
Once again eight rookies will be part of the Champ Car field that will compete on the 1.69-mile temporary street course at JAGFlo Speedway. This time only two of them have competed there while six of them will have to get acquainted with the track. '06 Atlantic rivals Graham Rahal (#2 Medi|Zone Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) and Simon Pagenaud (#15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) raced on the streets of Houston last year in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship with Rahal scoring his first top-three start and Pagenaud his first podium finish of the season.
Robert Doornbos (#14 Muermans/Jumbo Supermarkten/Mediamall Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) is amongst the rookies that will have to learn a new track once again, but as he has proved in his first two races in the Champ Car World Series, he is adapting quickly to what is put in front of him. If it wouldn't have been for a lengthy pit stop in Long Beach, the Dutchman was on his way to what could have been another top-five finish and despite a somewhat disappointing finish at Long Beach, Doornbos heads to Houston as the class of the rookie field.
Dueling with Doornbos for the Rookie title is PKV Racing driver Tristan Gommendy (#22 Pay by Touch Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) who led his first laps of the season in Long Beach ahead of fellow countryman Bourdais. Gommendy paced the field for 13 laps but came up short on his pit strategy and had to pit for a splash of fuel which relegated him to 11th. However, Gommendy is in sixth place on the points chart. His teammate at PKV Racing, Neel Jani (#21 Red Bull/Gulfstream Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) also proved he had his place in a Champ Car. The Swiss gained four positions from his 11th spot on the grid to finish seventh and was the top finishing rookie.
Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) was looking to bounce back from a tough opening weekend in Las Vegas and that is exactly what he did. The Brit took the seventh place on the grid and battled it out on the last lap with RSPORTS teammate Tagliani for fourth place.
Mario Dominguez (#7 Telmex/Cabi Developers Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) will be looking to make up in Houston for an early crash in Long Beach which took him out of the race and set him back in the points standings. The Mexican seems to like the Houston track as he clinched the first pole position of his career there in 2006 while going on to claim his first of two podiums that season.
The Grand Prix of Houston will get underway with the first round of qualifying at 2:10 p.m. local time. The final grid will be set with Saturday qualifying at 1:30 p.m. local time with the race set to take the green flag at 2:00 p.m. local time on Sunday afternoon. Fans can watch all the action live on ESPN at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.