CHAMPCAR/CART: Las Vegas: Newman/Haas Racing preview

McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS AND PACIFICARE DRIVER SERVIA AIM TO RETAIN 1-2 STANDING AFTER THIS SATURDAY'S CHAMP CAR HURRICANE RELIEF 400 IN LAS VEGAS LAS VEGAS (September 21, 2005) --- In three open-wheel races held in Las Vegas, Newman/Haas...

McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS AND PACIFICARE DRIVER SERVIA AIM TO RETAIN 1-2 STANDING AFTER THIS SATURDAY'S CHAMP CAR HURRICANE RELIEF 400 IN LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS (September 21, 2005) --- In three open-wheel races held in Las Vegas, Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) has won two with their hardest fight taking place last season on the 1.5 superspeedway at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The team's toughest competition came from within as McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais and PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira ran wheel to wheel for the final 20 laps at speeds of 200 mph with a margin no larger than 0.1-seconds between them. Bourdais took the checkered flag a mere .066-seconds ahead of Junqueira in what was one of the fiercest battles in recent Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford history. Prior to their long awaited return to Las Vegas in 2004, the series raced on a temporary track around Caesar's Palace in 1983 and 1984 and NHR driver Mario Andretti finished first and second respectively in those events. Champ Car's most recent winner, Oriol Servia, is looking forward to the 166-lap Champ Car Hurricane Relief 400 for many reasons.

"I think just going to Las Vegas in general is always good," said Servia who earned his first series victory at the previous race in Montreal. "It's good for the series, good for the fans, good for the drivers. It's just a very different race in a very cool city. The event, it's always good fun. I know it's an important race for PacifiCare also. Last year they put a great show, Sebastien and Bruno. I hope this year we can do the same. Maybe we could reverse the order which would be welcome for all of us."

Servia's win in Montreal moved him ahead of previous second place ranked Paul Tracy in the season standings but he only has a four point advantage (215-211) over the Canadian with four races remaining in 2005. Although he struggled with his previous team in Las Vegas last year, his six podium finishes in the past eight races for NHR have him optimistic of a strong run although he realizes hard work is mandatory to keep the results coming.

"In Las Vegas last year my previous team had a little issue in qualifying," said Servia who started 18th in the 2004 event and finished 12th. "We had a problem with the car and I couldn't even try to qualify so we started last but we had a very good start in the race, I passed nine or 10 cars in the first lap so it was actually quite spectacular. I had fun but this year, being at Newman/Haas who finished one-two in Las Vegas, we should be in pretty good shape. Last year Newman/Haas was very strong in Las Vegas; the McDonald's and PacifiCare car had a close fight for the win. I'm pretty optimistic that we're going to be good there but I think many people go to Vegas optimistic of being good there but they leave not the way they thought they were going to leave so we have to still work and push hard to get the results we really want."

In addition to attempting to win their first back-to-back titles in their 23rd season, NHR is also trying to win back-to-back 1-2 finishes in the season ending standings after Bourdais and Junqueira brought the team its first 1-2 finish ever. Servia currently trails Bourdais by 61 points (276-215), and is four ahead of third place Paul Tracy (215-211), 11 ahead of fourth place Justin Wilson (215-204) and 51 ahead of fifth place A.J. Allmendinger (215-164) with races in Las Vegas (superspeedway), Korea (street course), Australia (street course) and Mexico City (road course) to go in 2005. After being the "most recent Champ Car winner" for the past month, Servia is glad to get back to work this weekend.

"Since the last race there was a pretty big break so we went testing and I went back to Spain a couple of times," said the Spaniard who was busy with media obligations in his native Barcelona. "I was very surprised how much coverage my win in Montreal created in Spain. It was a nice break but I'm looking forward to getting back to racing in Las Vegas and bring another good result for the PacifiCare team."

If history is any indication, NHR hopes to again been competitive on the only Superspeedway event of the season and earn their third consecutive on this type of course. McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais drove to victory on the superspeedway in Lausitz, Germany in 2003 and in Las Vegas last year. Consistency has been the key to his championship bid this season as he has won four of the 10 races, finished in the top-five in nine as well as completed all but one of the 1,017 laps run this season (pit speed penalty in Milwaukee put him one lap down to the leaders). He is quick to acknowledge the hard work of his crew in his competitiveness.

"The result last year in Las Vegas was definitely a big team effort," said Bourdais, who will attempt to increase his 61-point advantage over second place this Saturday night. "The engineering office definitely spent a lot of time thinking about what was going to be the best option especially for the race setup because it was pretty easy flat and everybody was able to make it easy around the place. It was about having the proper amount of downforce and being able to go through traffic with your foot on the floor and that's what we achieved and we had a really spectacular 1-2 with very exciting finish of the race. But I'm not too excited to try and do that again it's just really nerve racking. We'll see what happens but it was quite a race and hopefully it's going to be easier this year but I'm not quite sure about that really."

Dicing with a competitor at speeds around 200 mph is not for everyone and Bourdais was thankful he was fighting for the win with his teammate for the last 20-odd laps.

"I don't know if I'd want to do it (race wheel-to-wheel) with just anyone," added Bourdais, who led 100 of the 166 laps last year. "I think I'd be nervous to do it with anyone other than Bruno -- or Oriol now. It was really close, I was on the apron and Bruno was a few inches away from my wheel, sometimes even less so it's quite nerve racking. You know how difficult and dangerous it can get out there so you don't really want to be side-by-side for 20-something laps. It was tough; I had serious thoughts about backing off at some point especially with the championship situation but once you're in the car you just can't do that so you just have to keep going."

At this weekend's race it will mark the first time that Champ Car's Power-to-Pass will be used on the oval at Las Vegas. The mechanics of the Power-to-Pass will be slightly different this weekend with drivers getting their standard 60 seconds of additional horsepower, but that power will come in 10-second bursts. Therefore, in essence each driver will have six 10-second 'shots' of extra power to use during the event. Both Bourdais and Servia believe this could be a factor in the late stages of the 166-lap event.

"I think you're going to have to be smart and use it at the right time because everybody is going to go by you," said Bourdais. "It's going to be a matter of when to use it and how to use it.JThe car is really stuck on the track with the aerodynamic package we run there. There is a bit too much downforce to slow the cars down."

"I thought it made sense last year not to use Push to Pass because usually you have Push to Pass until you go off throttle (to deactivate it) and in Vegas your on the throttle the whole race so it should be an interesting transition," added Servia. "I think it's a little strange but if everybody has it, I'm sure it will be fun. Everybody will probably wait to use at the end of the race because you don't want to use it too early then not have it for the last lap which is when it counts but who knows, maybe that will be too late. It's a new factor and the good thing is that I'm in the best team and they'll tell me what to do I don't have to think, just drive."Proceeds from this weekend's Champ Car Hurricane Relief 400 will go to the Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund. Champ Car presenting sponsors Bridgestone and Ford are contributing to the relief effort in a number of ways over the race weekend, with Bridgestone also donating monies that include a portion of the event's Bridgestone Pole Award to the fund. Champ Car will be conducting online auctions of one-of-a-kind items on its official website, www.champcar.ws, with proceeds from the sale going to the Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund.

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. Coverage of the race will be shown on SPEED Channel on a tape-delayed basis, Sunday, September 25. The broadcast will open with a 30-minute qualifying recap beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, with race coverage immediately following.

-NHR-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Andretti , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger