CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Round two preview

CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Round two preview

YOUNG GUYS LEAD THE WAY AS CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES ROLLS INTO LONG BEACH INDIANAPOLIS (April 11, 2007) - The wakeup call came a little later in the day than most, but last week's Vegas Grand Prix most definitely sent out the alarm among the...

YOUNG GUYS LEAD THE WAY AS CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES ROLLS INTO LONG BEACH

INDIANAPOLIS (April 11, 2007) - The wakeup call came a little later in the day than most, but last week's Vegas Grand Prix most definitely sent out the alarm among the Champ Car World Series elite as the young talent staked their claim on the 2007 championship.

Second-year Team Australia prodigy Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) dominated the weekend to score his first Champ Car win, rolling from the pole and setting the fastest lap of the race on his way to Victory Lane. Power's second series pole and first victory has given him the early lead in the chase for the Vanderbilt Cup as he carries a six-point cushion into Long Beach, where the series will celebrate its 24th trip to one of its most celebrated events, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The marquee event among street courses in the United States, the 1.968-mile street course has been a springboard for a number of championship runs, from Paul Tracy in 2003 to Sebastien Bourdais' third straight title a year ago. The event history reads like a roster of Hall-of-Fame brochure, with Mario Andretti, Danny Sullivan, Al Unser Jr., Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser having taken the top trophy home from the Southern California street party.

Four of those trophies belong to Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who showed last week that he was nowhere near ready to let the young guys have all the fun. The 38-year-old Canadian superstar led Friday qualifying in Vegas and came home in third, leading more laps in the season-opening event than he did throughout all of 2006. Tracy has two poles and four wins in Long Beach and has finished seventh or better in six of the last seven Long Beach events.

Tracy is third behind leading rookie Robert Doornbos (#14 Muermans/Jumbo Supermarkten/Mediamall Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who announced his presence with authority over the past weekend. The former Formula 1 driver showed that he was ready for Champ Cars by qualifying third and finishing second in his series debut, making him the first driver in 14 years to podium in his Champ Car debut. Doornbos is just six points behind Power heading into this weekend, but will be a bit behind on the learning curve as he has yet to race on the Long Beach layout.

The fourth-placed driver in the standings does have his share of Long Beach experience however and Alex Tagliani (#LXN2 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) used that experience a season ago to score his first SoCal podium finish. Tagliani's third-place result a year ago was the best in his previous seven Long Beach starts, although he has shown well in qualifying, having started seventh or better in each of his last four visits. He both started and finished fourth last week in Las Vegas and is just 10 points out of the lead after one start.

Three-time and defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) had the worst weekend of his Champ Car career last weekend, but heads to a Long Beach track this weekend where he has won in each of the last two seasons. Bourdais qualified a career-low 16th in Las Vegas and finished 13th, immediately dropping him 25 points behind in his quest for an historic fourth consecutive championship. Bourdais won Long Beach from pole last year, dominating the field by leading 70 of the day's 74 laps after setting a new track record in taking the pole.

Eight rookies will take to the tricky Long Beach layout, but thanks to the Champ Car Atlantic Championship, only three of them come into the weekend with no experience on the track. Alex Figge (#29 Capital Imperial Bank Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pacific Coast Motorsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), Simon Pagenaud (#15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), Graham Rahal (#2 MEDI|ZONE Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) and Matt Halliday (#42 42 Below Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) have all competed at Long Beach during their Atlantic days, with Dalziel having taken a win from pole in 2004.

Former Long Beach Atlantic winner Katherine Legge (#11 Dale Coyne Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) comes off one of her best Champ Car performances, as she set a new mark for female drivers when she finished sixth at Las Vegas. Her finish, which was earned as she made up seven spots from her grid position, was the best in series history for a female driver on a road or street course. Legge had her breakout event at Long Beach in 2005 when she won in her series debut.

Bruno Junqueira (#19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) had a successful debut with Dale Coyne Racing, starting sixth and finishing right behind his teammate Katherine Legge in seventh. Junqueira heads to a Long Beach track where he has always run well, having scored podium finishes in 2003, '04 and '05. The polesitter for the 2004 race, Junqueira has started outside of the front two rows just once in his six previous Long Beach starts.

PKV Racing rookie Tristan Gommendy (#22 Pay By Touch Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) may have been the biggest surprise of the opening weekend as the Frenchman qualified 11th and finished in fifth in his series debut. A former winner of the prestigious Macau Grand Prix, Gommendy was one of just six cars to finish on the lead lap in Las Vegas, but heads to Long Beach this weekend for the first time. His teammate Neel Jani (#21 Red Bull/Gulfstream Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) did not fare as well in the opener, starting ninth and finishing 10th.

Veteran Mario Dominguez (#7 Telmex/Cabi Developers Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) has likely had this weekend circled on his calendar for a while as he has been strong at Long Beach in each of the last four seasons. Dominguez has finished in the top five in each of his last four SoCal starts, including a career-best fourth here a year ago. Dominguez, who scored a top-10 run in the season opener, has also started in the top five in each of the last three seasons.

2007 series runner-up Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) will be looking to bounce back from a tough opening weekend with a trip to Long Beach. Wilson never got ontrack in the opener, qualifying eighth and finishing 14th. He started off the year at Long Beach last year in remarkable different fashion, both starting and finishing second. Wilson has yet to finish worse than sixth in any of his three previous Southern California appearances.

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will get underway with the first round of qualifying on Friday at 2:00 p.m. local time. The final grid will be set with Saturday qualifying at 2:00 p.m. local time with the race set to take the green flag at 12:30 p.m. local time on Sunday afternoon. Fans can watch all the racing action live on NBC beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time.

-credit: ccws/atl

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Series INDYCAR