CHAMPCAR/CART: Las Vegas: Race report

WILL POWER BECOMES FIRST AUSTRALIAN DRIVER TO WIN CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES EVENT WITH VICTORY IN VEGAS GRAND PRIX LAS VEGAS (April 8, 2007) -- Entering the season opening Champ Car World Series weekend in Las Vegas this week, Will Power ( ...

WILL POWER BECOMES FIRST AUSTRALIAN DRIVER TO WIN CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES EVENT WITH VICTORY IN VEGAS GRAND PRIX

LAS VEGAS (April 8, 2007) -- Entering the season opening Champ Car World Series weekend in Las Vegas this week, Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) divulged his plan for the firs three races, laying out a plan where he would carry a 15-point lead in the standings to Round Four at Portland.

And now after today's Vegas Grand Prix lit the lamp on the 2007 Champ Car season, Power is halfway to his goal, having gotten the jump on the field with his first Champ Car victory. Power dominated Sunday's season opener, setting the fastest lap of the race on his way to a 16.787-second margin of victory for not only his first win, but the first Champ Car win ever for an Australian-born driver.

Power led 38 of the day's 68 laps, and benefited from a fuel problem that befell early-race leader Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) to roll to his first win. He ended up beating rookie Robert Doornbos (#14 Muermans/Jumbo Supermarkten/Mediamall Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) to the line, while Tracy rounded out the podium with a third-place finish.

Tracy took the lead in the first turn of green-flag racing, rolling around the outside of polesitter Power heading into the first turn and leading through the back half of the course. Tracy would stay in front through a pair of caution periods but Power fought back and reclaimed the point on Lap 11 while Alex Tagliani (#8 LXN2 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) held third.

The first part of the race saw four caution flags in the first 14 laps, but Dan Clarke's (#4 Ticketmaster Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) contact with the tires on Lap 14 would end up being the last misstep of the day as the remainder of the event turned into a straight-up street fight.

Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) was the first heavyweight to get knocked out, as his charge from his 16th-place qualifying spot was blunted after wall contact on Lap 24. Bourdais had come all the way to third in 23 laps, but a flat tire led to a pit stop that led to his retirement six laps later.

Power and Tracy made their first stops on Lap 27, handing the lead to Tagliani, but the stops were more important for what didn't happen on them -- rather than what did. Tracy's Forsythe Championship Racing crew struggled with the fueling mechanism and got just a few laps' worth of methanol in the car, forcing Tracy to pit again on Lap 33, leaving his hopes for a win riding on a caution flag that never came.

Doornbos capitalized and put himself in the second spot before starting the final cycle of stops on Lap 43, while Power made his final trip down Pit Lane just two laps later. The lead cycled to Tagliani and Bruno Junqueira (#19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) before Tracy took the point on Lap 49. But his die had been cast with his extra stop, meaning that he had to refuel with 14 minutes to run in the timed event, giving Power the advantage that he would carry to the finish.

Doornbos had a comfortable margin ahead of Tracy as his second-place finish gave the new Minardi Team USA a podium in its Champ Car debut, while Tracy outdistanced Tagliani for the final spot on the podium. Tagliani took fourth while former Macau GP winner Tristan Gommendy (#22 Pay By Touch Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) rounded out the top five in his debut.

Katherine Legge (#11 Dale Coyne Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) came home in sixth, matching her career-best finish and setting a new Champ Car record for the best finish by a female on a road or street course. Her DCR teammate Junqueira finished seventh while Pacific Coast Motorsports rookie Alex Figge (#29 Imperial Capital Bank Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) not only finished eighth, but the American-born driver also scored the championship point for making up the most positions in the event.

Mario Dominguez (#7 Telmex/Cabi Developers Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) was the last car running and finished ninth while rookie contender Neel Jani (#21 Red Bull/Gulfstream Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.

Bourdais started his pursuit on a record-breaking fourth consecutive title with a 13th-place finish, while last year's series runner-up Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) ended up 14th after a driveshaft problem. Rookie Graham Rahal (#2 MEDI|ZONE Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone ended up 17th after contact on the second lap.

The series will pack up and roll to Southern California for next week's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which will be the second of three races in three weeks.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS

Will Power: After that, I mean, I was pretty much alone. I caught Katherine Legge for a while, she held me up. But after that, it was a pretty cruisy race really. We had a good car. It handled well all day. The only issue I had was a really long brake pedal at the end of the race. But we had an 18-second lead, so we just brought it home and brought Derrick Walker his second win since '99. It's his birthday. So a pole and a win, I think that's a pretty good present for him.

Robert Doornbos: No, I really enjoyed it. A great start to the weekend. Already yesterday to have qualified in the top three, we couldn't have dreamed of a better start really. Was a bit worried this morning because it's a different routine that you have than in European racing with these rolling starts. I'm so pleased for everybody, especially for my sponsors here, they come all the way from Holland. It's been a long winter. Really a good decision to go racing in Champ Car.

Paul Tracy: It went really well. Obviously, to lead the beginning of the race, I made a good start, was able to get by Will on the start. We spent a lot of the first part of the race under yellow. We came in and did our first pit stop. The car didn't take any fuel for us. We spent 15 seconds and ended up getting like four laps of fuel. We came back out and chased, then had to come straight back in and take fuel again. That really took the fight out of the race I think for Will. I think we could have put a lot of pressure on him. It was a good day for the Forsythe team and Monster Energy.

NOTEWORTHY

* Will Power becomes the first Australian driver to win a Champ Car race. Geoff Brabham held the previous mark, having finished second on three occasions, the last of those being at Road America in 1987.

* Robert Doornbos is the first driver to score a podium finish in his Champ Car debut since Nigel Mansell won his debut in 1993.

* Both Roberto Doornbos and Tristan Gommendy made their Champ Car debuts with top-five finishes today, marking the first time that has happened since Jim Crawford (4th) and Emerson Fittipaldi (#5th) turned the trick at Long Beach in 1984.

-credit: ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Nigel Mansell , Graham Rahal , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Robert Doornbos , Katherine Legge , Emerson Fittipaldi , Alex Figge , Tristan Gommendy , Will Power , Geoff Brabham , Jim Crawford , Dale Coyne , Dan Clarke
Teams Dale Coyne Racing