CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES FIELD HEADS TO LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY WITH HOPES OF DERAILING SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS' CHAMPIONSHIP EXPRESS
INDIANAPOLIS (September 16, 2005) -- The 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season rounds the clubhouse turn and heads for home this weekend in Las Vegas, and the field is still chasing the same horse they were following when the season launched in Long Beach five months ago.
Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) leads the 18-car pack to this weekend's Champ Car Hurricane Relief 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, holding a Secretariat-like 61-point advantage with four races to run. The field isn't getting any help from the schedule makers either as this weekend's event takes place on the 1.5-mile LVMS superspeedway oval, a place where Bourdais scored victory last season in one of the tightest finishes in series history.
The Champ Car race is part of the Double Down in the Desert event taking place under the lights on Saturday evening at LVMS with the open-wheel rockets sharing the stage with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. But of equal importance this coming weekend is the relief effort put forth by the Champ Car community as everyone involved in the race helps to raise funds for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Champ Car is donating its share of the race proceeds to the Red Cross relief effort, and is also collecting funds via an extensive on-line auction of Champ Car-themed items and memorabilia from throughout the community. Teams, drivers, sponsors and commercial partners have all chipped in to help the hurricane victims throughout the Gulf Coast not only with financial donations but also with vital household and family items.
But none of this help would be possible without the race to attract awareness and the Champ Cars will do their best, running 166 laps through the Las Vegas night for the second consecutive season. Last year's race was the first on the Nevada superspeedway for the series and featured an exciting night of action capped when Bourdais nipped Newman/Haas Racing teammate Bruno Junqueira by 0.066 seconds to score the victory.
Bourdais has been equally impressive in building his points lead this year, scoring four wins and finishing all but one of the 1,017 laps run to this point of the season. He is riding a streak of seven consecutive top-five finishes and has started on the front row in each of his last three events. He will be making just the third superspeedway start of his career, but has won each of the other two in narrow fashion, taking the Vegas race last year and beating Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) by a car length in Lausitz, Germany in 2003.
The battle for the series lead won't change hands this weekend, but the fight for the runner-up spot is very tight as three drivers are within 11 points of each other for the second rung on the ladder. Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) carries the most momentum into the weekend, riding the tide of his first career Champ Car victory, earned three weeks ago in Montreal. Servia has six consecutive top-five runs of his own heading into the Vegas weekend, with five of those earning the Spaniard a trip to the podium.
Servia holds the second spot by just four points over 2003 series champ Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who is looking for a bit of redemption on the Vegas oval. Tracy saw his title hopes dashed a year ago under the LVMS lights when his car expired on the opening lap, condemning him to a last-place finish. Tracy already has one oval-track win to his credit this year, scoring victory at Milwaukee back in June.
Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is the third man in the hunt, seven points behind Tracy and 11 in arrears to Servia. The Brit returned to the podium for the first time since his Toronto win, finishing third in Montreal, but has climbed to the fourth spot in the points on the strength of seven top-four finishes this season. Wilson acquitted himself well in his maiden voyage to Las Vegas a year ago, climbing from 15th on the grid to finish eighth.
Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had the best day of his Champ Car career just three weeks ago in Montreal, leading 20 laps and nearly stealing a win before settling for the second spot. The result earned him his first trip to a Champ Car podium celebration, but more importantly, it gave him a 27-point advantage in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year chase.
Glock has used his ability to avoid trouble as a catalyst in building his rookie points lead as the young German stands second in the series in laps completed. He is the second rookie this season to score a podium finish, matching Andrew Ranger (#27 Mi-Jack/Tide Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who placed second in Monterrey.
The Canadian phenom has struggled in the second half of the season while Glock has built his rookie lead, as Ranger has earned just one top-10 finish in the last five events. Ranger is still in striking distance however, and is 38 points behind Glock. The man closest to the first-year leader is Ronnie Bremer (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who is 27 points back despite having nine starts to everyone else's 10. Like the rest of his neophyte counterparts, Bremer has never run on a superspeedway oval, although he showed well on his Champ Car oval debut, making up eight spots in Milwaukee to finish eighth.
The rookie battle is not the only sidebar fight worth watching as the chase for the 10th annual Nation's Cup is very much in doubt with four races to run. The French squad of Bourdais and Nelson Philippe (#34 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has a nine-point advantage over the Canadian trio of Tracy, Ranger and Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) although the Canadians have the most oval-track points in the standings.
Canada is the defending winner of the Nation's Cup, having captured it for the first time a year ago, while France will be looking for its first-ever award. Servia is the lone standard-bearer for Spain, but has carried his homeland to the third spot in the standings, 54 markers out of first. England is fourth while the U.S. squad of Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Intel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 Red Paw Systems Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) are fifth, just two points out of fourth.
Interesting battles are taking place throughout the point standings as drivers jockey for a spot in the top 10 with four races to go. The fight for those spots is significant Champ Car pays end-of-season bonus money to the top-10 drivers, starting with a $50,000 prize for the 10th-place man in the standings. Those drivers also receive crystal trophies presented at the series awards banquet.
As it stands now, Tagliani, Vasser and Glock hold down spots 7-8-9 respectively but are separated by just six points, while 2002 series champion Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) currently sits in 10th, but is just two points ahead of Dale Coyne Racing's Bremer, with Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing's rookie Ranger 11 markers behind Bremer. Da Matta climbed back into the top 10 with a sixth-place run in Montreal, ending a streak of five consecutive DNFs for the Brazilian, the longest streak of his Champ Car career.
HVM Racing's Rodolfo Lavin (#55 HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will be hoping to reprise last year's Las Vegas success as he attacks the 1.5-mile oval this season. Lavin, who has always run well on ovals in his career even dating back to his years in the Indy Lights and Champ Car Atlantic programs, finished fourth at LVMS last year while running with Forsythe Championship Racing. He will be making his fourth start of the year for HVM, but has already scored a top-five finish, coming from 13th on the starting grid to place fifth in Denver.
The Champ Car Hurricane Relief 400 will take place Saturday night, with the green flag coming upon the conclusion of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race, which gets the green flag at 6:15 p.m. Pacific Time. Qualifying and practice will all take place on Friday, with single-car qualifying set for 4:30 p.m. Coverage of the race will be shown on SPEED Channel on a tape-delayed basis, Sunday September 26. The broadcast will open with a 30-minute qualifying recap beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, with race coverage immediately following.