CHAMPCAR: Long Beach: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing preview

NEWMAN/HAAS/LANIGAN RACING BIDS FAREWELL TO THE CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES AT THIS WEEKEND'S TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH; HOPES TO EARN FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN HERE LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 17, 2008) --- Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing will take to the...

NEWMAN/HAAS/LANIGAN RACING BIDS FAREWELL TO THE CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES AT THIS WEEKEND'S TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH; HOPES TO EARN FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN HERE

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 17, 2008) --- Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing will take to the streets of Long Beach for this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for the 25th consecutive time in their 26th season of open wheel competition and the event will not only mark the end of an era but will also serve as the beginning of another. In addition to wanting to earn their fourth consecutive win on the streets of Long Beach, the team would also like to win the final race in the much-loved turbo-charged race cars and bid farewell to the Champ Car World Series in what is sure to be a nostalgic weekend.

Although the event is the series finale for Champ Car, which was formed in 2004 after operating as Championship Auto Racing Teams since 1979, IndyCar Series points will be awarded from the Long Beach results to the teams competing full season in that series and will apply to their season-ending IndyCar Series championship total. The event will be the final one in which two different North American based open wheel series operate simultaneously. While the Champ Cars are running in Long Beach the IndyCar Series will be competing in the Indy Japan 300 which will take place on April 19 at Twin Ring Motegi.

Since the series began competing in Long Beach in 1984, NHLR has earned six wins, 10 poles and 14 podium finishes with Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais, who won the past three races here in 2005-2007. McDonald's driver Justin Wilson and Hole in the Wall Camps driver Graham Rahal are hoping to add to that number this weekend.

Rahal made his first appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman" last night to celebrate becoming the youngest winner in major open-wheel racing in North America after winning in his IndyCar Series debut in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 6 at 19 years, 93 days old is hoping his success will continue this weekend. He started fifth in Long Beach last year but the pit strategy of others and slow fuel flow on one stop limited his finish to eighth place. With experience on this track and in the Champ Car racing equipment, he is hoping to maximize the opportunity to score some valuable points and attempt to make history again.

"I'm looking forward to going to Long Beach," said Rahal, who is ranked fourth in the IndyCar Series point standings despite missing the first event on the Homestead-Miami oval due to a lack of time and car parts after he crashed in testing. "It is a place where we feel we need to capitalize on our strengths, and of course it's a great circuit with a lot of history and I'm looking forward to being part of it. Champ Car is a great series with a great car. It will be sad to kiss it all goodbye but it looks to be a good field and a good race. Obviously since it's the last Champ Car race in history it would be great to not only win it but also be the youngest winner in Champ Car competition. Winning in St. Petersburg kind of covered that but it would be nice to do it in Champ Car specifically as well. I think it's good that we are finishing it there, because that has been one of the most successful races in all of auto racing. Obviously dad never won it so it would be great to win there from that perspective. But also just to say I've won a Champ Car race. Of course, with points in mind here, that's the maximum points, so it would be great for us."

Although it is tempting to make winning this event the complete focus due to the historic element, McDonald's driver Justin Wilson is also focused on the big picture of finishing as high as possible in the season ending standings. Wilson started and finished 15th in his IndyCar Series oval debut at Homestead-Miami speedway and led the St. Pete race before alternate pit strategy due to rain continually shuffled the running order and he finished ninth for an overall series rank of 15th. He knows that the team should be competitive in Long Beach after Bourdais won the last three here and he is excited about getting back behind the wheel of the Champ Car for the first time since the series held an open test for 2.5 days at Sebring International Raceway, February 2-4.

"I am looking forward to getting back in the Panoz DP01 for one more Champ Car race and my first in the McDonald's Champ Car," said Wilson who has competed here four times with a best start and finish of second place in 2006. "It's quite fitting for me that the last race for the Champ Car will be at Long Beach because that was where I ran my first ever race in the series back in 2004. It brings back a lot of good memories. It is a great circuit with a great atmosphere and I think it ought to be another good event. It would be great to go out with a win but at the same time we need to think about the points and the championship. I'm hoping to make the most out of this opportunity to get as many points as possible at a track and in equipment we are familiar with."

What They're Saying About...

JUSTIN WILSON, No. 02 McDonald's Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone: "I am looking forward to getting back in the Panoz DP01 for one more Champ Car race and my first in the McDonald's Champ Car. It's quite fitting for me that the last race for the Champ Car will be at Long Beach because that was where I ran my first ever race in the series back in 2004. It brings back a lot of good memories. It is a great circuit with a great atmosphere and I think it ought to be another good event. It would be great to go out with a win but at the same time we need to think about the points and the championship. I'm hoping to make the most out of this opportunity to get as many points as possible at a track and in equipment we are familiar with."

GRAHAM RAHAL, #06 Hole in the Wall Camps Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone: "I'm looking forward to going to Long Beach. It is a place where we feel we need to capitalize on our strengths, and of course it's a great circuit with a lot of history and I'm looking forward to being part of it. Champ Car is a great series with a great car. It will be sad to kiss it all goodbye but it looks to be a good field and a good race.

"Obviously since it's the last Champ Car race in history it would be great to not only win it but also be the youngest winner in Champ Car competition. Winning in St. Petersburg kind of covered that but it would be nice to do it in Champ Car specifically as well. I think it's good that we are finishing it there, because that has been one of the most successful races in all of auto racing. Of course you've got a huge fan support there and to win there would be so nice. Obviously dad never won it so it would be great to win there from that perspective. But also just to say I've won a Champ Car race. Of course, with points in mind here, that's the maximum points, so of course it would be great for us. It's important to get a good finish, and there are a lot of other people that are going to be out there and they are going for glory and that's about all. Not running at Homestead put us in a more challenging position and it would be good to make up some points on a track we have experience on. We are going for the points and we need to make sure we finish.

"Being that the team has had so much success there in the past, we ought to be the ones to beat again. The team is running on a bit of a high after the win in St. Petersburg and we don't want to be overconfident but we feel we like we have a good chance this weekend. We should put on a great show.

"I think going back to Long Beach, the car ought to be even better than it was last year, and I ought to be a lot better than I was last year. That was my first Champ Car race after going out of the race in Las Vegas on the first lap and we had some issues. We were running really well in the race; we were running fourth and then we had fueling issues because of the fact the cars were so new. So I think we ought to have a good shot this weekend. We're excited to go there and finish Champ Car off with a great event and hopefully we can do it in a winning way."

-credit: nhlr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Nigel Mansell , Graham Rahal , Sébastien Bourdais