CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Round four preview

INDIANAPOLIS (June 13, 2005) -- The Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford is already three races into its 2005 season, but the price to stay at the big boys table is about to go up dramatically as this weekend's trip to...

INDIANAPOLIS (June 13, 2005) -- The Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford is already three races into its 2005 season, but the price to stay at the big boys table is about to go up dramatically as this weekend's trip to Portland starts a stretch that will go a long way toward determining who hoists the Vanderbilt Cup in November.

A mettle-testing stretch of four races in five weeks kicks off with the June 17-19 G.I. Joe's Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland as drivers and teams fight the summer heat and some of the series' toughest tracks in their quest for the Champ Car title. To this point in the season, predictions have meant little as some of the series stalwarts and former champions have had their hands full battling each other as well as the litany of young talent making their way up the ladder.

The first three races have seen three different winners, three different polesitters and seven different drivers occupying the nine available podium spots. The point standings echo that diversity as defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) leads surprising Justin Wilson (#9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) by just seven points and Milwaukee winner Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) by eight.

Bourdais, who scored a win in the Long Beach season opener, could be perfectly positioned to make his move on the field as the series heads to Portland, much like he did on his way to last year's title. His dominant win in the 2004 Rose City event propelled him to consecutive wins in Cleveland and Toronto -- a three race victory skein that paid big dividends at the end of the year. Bourdais led 85 of 94 laps in last year's victory and has led in each of his two visits to Portland.

On the other side of the ledger is the veteran Tracy, who has won at nearly every Champ Car circuit on the planet except for Portland. The Canadian star has had some successes at Portland, winning the pole in 2003 and scoring four podium finishes in his 12 previous starts, but has had more than his share of trouble at the 1.969-mile Portland International Raceway course, finishing 17th or lower in half of his career trips to the Oregon city. Tracy however, does come into Portland with a fair share of momentum, having romped to his fourth Milwaukee win just two weeks ago in a performance that moved him to third place in the points.

Wilson, who has finished fourth in each of the previous three events this season, returns to a Portland track that saw him serve notice to the field last year that he would be a contender for many years to come. The RuSPORT pilot earned his first top-five finish a year ago in Portland after winning a stirring race-long battle with A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for the fifth spot. Ironically, the two are now teammates on the Colorado-based squad and while Wilson stands in second place despite not having made it to the podium this year, Allmendinger comes in with the momentum of the best performance of his burgeoning Champ Car career. The California matched a career-high by starting second in Milwaukee and set a new personal standard on Race Day when he finished second to Tracy. The performance vaulted him into fifth in the series standings and put him position where he could conceivably leave Portland with the championship lead for the first time in his career.

Portland will signal the opening of a new chapter in the racing career of Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) as the six-year veteran takes over officially as the replacement driver for the injured Bruno Junqueira on the successful Newman/Haas Racing squad. Servia filled in for Junqueira in Milwaukee and took the car to a third-place finish, and last week was named as the full-time replacement for the popular Brazilian. Servia will drive while Junqueira recovers from a violent crash suffered when he was cut off while passing a lapped car during the running of the Indianapolis 500. Servia has run well in Portland in the past, finishing no lower than 11th in his previous four starts with a high-water result of fifth in 2003. His third-place run in Milwaukee boosted him into a tie for sixth in the series points chase.

PKV Racing's Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) celebrated his 200th consecutive start in style in Milwaukee, scoring the ninth pole of his career and turning his qualifying success into a top-five Race Day finish. Vasser has made 13 previous starts in Portland and has a long legacy of qualifying success, having started tenth or better in 10 of his last 11 trips to PIR.

His teammate at the Indianapolis-based squad returns to Portland having taken victory in his last visit, albeit three years ago. Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led 55 laps enroute to a win in 2002 and comes back to a revamped racetrack after two years of racing in Formula 1. Da Matta has three top-10 runs in his four starts and has qualified in the front row in each of his last two visits. He qualified a season-best fourth in Milwaukee two weeks ago, but was unable to parlay that into success on Race Day and is currently 10th in the standings.

Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has turned heads with solid performances since joining his new Forsythe Championship Racing team, but will need to break a string of bad Portland luck if he is to maintain his place in the title chase. Dominguez scored 10th-place finishes in his first two trips to Rip City but was swallowed up last season in a Lap 4 crash not of his making that left him 17th after a promising qualifying effort had him starting sixth. Dominguez is currently tied for sixth in the points with Servia and a strong performance in Portland could easily thrust him right back into the thick of the race.

The 2005 Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year battle is shaping up to be one of the best in many years as four drivers are currently within 12 points of each other after three events. Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is the point man in the rookie patrol with 43 points, and has been the most consistent of the first-year pilots to date. He has finished 11th or better in each of the three events of the year and is currently second overall in the Bridgestone Passion For Excellence standings, which is an award given on the basis of a driver's fastest lap times.

Andrew Ranger (#27 Mi-Jack/Tide Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is the only one of the rookies to ascend the podium this year, and in doing so, became the youngest driver ever to earn a Champ Car podium finish. But that finish has been bookended by races in which he has failed to finish, leaving him tied with Ronnie Bremer (#55 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for second in the rookie standings. Bremer is the only one of the rookies to have led laps in two separate races this year and would likely be higher in the standings were it not for a mechanical failure in the early laps of the Monterrey event. Ranger and Bremer are the only two rookies to have any prior experience on the PIR layout, both of them competing in last year's Toyota Atlantic Championship doubleheader. Ranger got the better results of the two in the 2004 events, finishing third and fourth in the two races.

Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who will lead the new Team Australia squad into its first Portland visit, carries a fair amount of Rose City success with him from his five prior trips. A Portland podium finisher in 2003, Tagliani has started seventh or better in each of his last three Portland starts. He showed in 2001 that he has found a few places to make up ground as well on the challenging circuit, climbing eighth spots from his starting position to finish 12th. His teammate Marcus Marshall (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) comes to Portland after posting the best finish of his young Champ Car career two weeks ago when he ended the Milwaukee event in the 13th spot.

The 22nd running of the G.I. Joe's Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland will get underway Friday, June 17 with practice and qualifying. Final qualifying will take place on Saturday with Sunday's 105-lap event getting underway at 12:45 p.m. Pacific Time. The race can be seen live on CBS Sports, with the broadcast beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Fans can also follow all of the action live via the Race Director feature on the official series' website, www.champcar.ws.

Fast Facts:

WHAT: G.I. Joe's Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland

WHERE: Portland International Raceway, Portland, Oregon

WHEN: Friday-Sunday, June 17-19

SUPPORT EVENTS: Toyota Atlantic Championship, Trans-Am Road Racing Series, Formula Drift

CHAMP CAR SCHEDULE (All times local):

FRIDAY, JUNE 17
8:45 -- 9:15 a.m., Trans-Am practice
9:30 -- 10:00 a.m., Atlantic practice
10:15 -- 11:30 a.m., Champ Car practice
12:30 -- 1:00 p.m., Trans-Am practice
1:15 -- 1:45 p.m., Atlantic qualifying
2:00 -- 3:00 p.m., Champ Car qualifying
4:00 -- 4:30 p.m., Trans-Am qualifying
5:00 -- 5:30 p.m., Drifting.

SATURDAY, JUNE 18
8:30 -- 9:00 a.m., Atlantic qualifying
9:15 -- 9:30 a.m., Trans-Am practice
9:45 -- 10:10 a.m., Drifting
10:30 -- 11:30 a.m., Champ Car practice
12:45 -- 1:45 p.m., Atlantic race
2:00 -- 3:00 p.m., Champ Car qualifying
4:00 -- 5:15 p.m., Trans-Am race
5:45 -- 6:15 p.m., Drifting.

SUNDAY, JUNE 19
9:00 -- 9:30 a.m., Champ Car warmup
10:00 -- 10:50 a.m., Atlantic race
11:05 -- 11:20 a.m., Drifting
12:45 p.m., START OF CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND
3:00 -- 3:30 p.m., Drifting.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: SUNDAY, JUNE 19 -- G.I. Joe's Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, CBS Sports, LIVE 3:30 p.m. Eastern

2004 CHAMPION: Sebastien Bourdais
2004 POLESITTER: Sebastien Bourdais

TRACK LAYOUT: 1.969-mile road course
RACE LENGTH: 105 laps, 206.220 miles

TRACK RECORDS:

Qualifying (one lap) -- 2000, Helio Castroneves, 122.768 mph (57.738 seconds).

Race -- 2000, Gil de Ferran, 109.564 mph (2:00:46.002) based on 112 laps (220.528 miles)

RACE ROUND: 4 of 14 in the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Ronnie Bremer , Marcus Marshall , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock
Teams HVM Racing