CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES FIELD LOOKS TO NARROW SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS' EVER-WIDENING POINTS LEAD AS CHAMPIONSHIP HEADS TO MILWAUKEE MILE INDIANAPOLIS (May 31, 2006) -- If the field that has watched Sebastien Bourdais ( ...
CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES FIELD LOOKS TO NARROW SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS' EVER-WIDENING POINTS LEAD AS CHAMPIONSHIP HEADS TO MILWAUKEE MILE
INDIANAPOLIS (May 31, 2006) -- If the field that has watched Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) storm to victory in the year's first three races has any desire to stop the Frenchman's onslaught, this weekend's Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225 at the Milwaukee Mile would appear to be the place to set up barricades.
Bourdais has built a 25-point lead on the field as after three races in the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford campaign, but even more daunting is the fact that he could skip this weekend's race entirely, and still only risk being overtaken by two drivers in the field. So complete has Bourdais' dominance been this season that with this weekend's race having 34 points available to any single driver, only Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mario Dominguez (#7 Orgullo de Mexico Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) could catch Bourdais this weekend even if he didn't score a single point.
But before you send the trophy plates to the engraver, bear in mind that this weekend's event takes place at the Milwaukee Mile, the tricky mile oval that has frustrated Bourdais like no other circuit in North America. Not only has Bourdais never won or scored a pole on the storied 1.032-mile oval on the grounds of Wisconsin State Fair Park, he has never as much as earned a top-five finish nor has he ever led a single race lap -- the only track that Champ Car runs on this year to hold that distinction.
The field seems poised to take advantage of that fact as the two-day event approaches, as a look through the Milwaukee accomplishments of this year's roster shows that many of them have already found the fast way around the venerable oval.
Any list of Milwaukee threats must begin with Forsythe Championship Racing and Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Tracy is the reigning king of the West Allis oval and comes to this year's event as the defending champion. The Canadian star has four Milwaukee victories to his credit, topped by last year's rout that saw him lead 192 of 221 laps en route to the win. Tracy has scored top-four finishes in each of the last two races to climb to within four points of the fourth spot in the season standings. His recent run has helped him overcome a tough start to the year, as he was collected in a first-lap, first-turn incident in Long Beach that left him unable to continue.
The aforementioned Wilson has used a pair of second-place finishes to keep touch with Bourdais, and at 25 points in arrears to the two-time champ, sits as his closest pursuer. Despite his road-racing pedigree, Wilson has been strong on the challenging oval, qualifying third and finishing fourth there a year ago. His RuSPORT teammate A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has had even better success in Milwaukee, taking his first Champ Car top-five finish in 2004 and backing that up with a strong second-place run last year. The Californian chased Tracy down in the last 30 laps of the 2005 event, carving an eight-second lead down to a few carlengths before Tracy secured the win. Allmendinger also is making his way back up the standings after being involved in the same Long Beach altercation that claimed Tracy, having scored his first podium of the year two weeks ago in Monterrey.
Dominguez has been consistent on the oval as of late, earning top-eight finishes in each of his last three visits, topped by a seventh-place run a year ago. Another of the quartet to have finished every lap this year, Dominguez is 33 points behind Bourdais and has finished in the top-10 in each of the season's first three starts.
An early-season run of bad luck has left a couple of series veterans on the outside of the top-10, but both come to Milwaukee with renewed hope, albeit for different reasons. Oriol Servia (#6 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) returns to the site of some of his greatest successes with this week's trip to the Mile, while Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) comes to the site where missed his first Champ Car race one year ago.
Servia made his first run for Newman/Haas Racing at Milwaukee a year ago, stepping into the car that became available when Junqueira was injured at Indianapolis the week before. Servia took that car to a podium finish last year, sparking a year-long run that would see him earn his first Champ Car win, his first pole and end the year a career-best second in the standings. No stranger to success at the Mile, Servia earned his first Champ Car runner-up spot there in 2003.
Junqueira has three to-10 finishes in his four Milwaukee starts including a fourth-place finish in his rookie year. The Brazilian will be making his first oval-track start since his fateful visit to Indianapolis last year, and will be trying to avoid the problems that have stilted his start in 2006. He was caught in the first-lap crash in Long Beach, ran out of fuel and finished 10th in Houston and then was black-flagged for blocking in Monterrey, knocking him back to 10th again. Those results belie Junqueira's qualifying prowess this year as the Newman/Haas driver has started fourth or better in each of the year's first three races.
Another driver on the cusp of the title hunt comes to Milwaukee looking to reprise old successes, as Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) fights to keep his top-five standing in the points. The polesitter at Milwaukee in 2003, which was the first-ever Champ Car night race, Tagliani comes into this weekend's fourth round of the championship just two points out of fourth and with two top-five results to his credit this year.
Tagliani's rookie teammate Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) continues to pace the talented Champ Car rookie class, and is the only first-year pilot to stand among the top-10 in the championship after three races. Power matched a career-high by qualifying ninth in Monterrey and has managed to build a nine-point lead in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings over Jan Heylen (#11 Sonny's Real Pit BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
Cristiano da Matta (#11 Sonny's Real Pit BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has used a trio of top-10 finishes to snare the seventh spot in the points after three races, but heads to a Milwaukee track where he yet to find much in the way of results. The Brazilian has started in the top-10 in four of his five starts, including a fourth-place grid spot last season, but has yet to finish in the top 10. He has saved his best for Race Day so far in 2006 however, making up an average of four positions per event.
The rookie battle is shaping up to be a fierce one as six drivers continue to battle for the Jim Trueman Trophy. As referenced above, Power leads Heylen by nine points, but three other drivers are less than seven points behind Heylen. Katherine Legge (#20 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is just 11 points out of the rookie lead and comes to the oval on the momentum of a successful test session there a month ago where the British newcomer ran more than 200 trouble-free laps.
Dan Clarke (#14 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Charles Zwolsman (#34 GoldenPalace.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) are knotted five points in back of Legge as they prepare for their first-ever series oval-track races. Zwolsman earned his first top-10 starting position of his young Champ Car career two weeks ago in Monterrey while Clarke led the first lap of his fledgling series career.