CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee: Round three preview

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES HEADS TO THE MILWAUKEE MILE INDIANAPOLIS (June 1, 2005) -- The Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford has witnessed many a change at the Milwaukee Mile ever since the checkered flag first flew...

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES HEADS TO THE MILWAUKEE MILE

INDIANAPOLIS (June 1, 2005) -- The Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford has witnessed many a change at the Milwaukee Mile ever since the checkered flag first flew there over Wilbur Shaw's victory in 1933.

Tires got wider, helmets got harder, tracks got faster and racing became safer. Eras came and went, with stories of dominant drivers, great races and teams that ran with Swiss-watch efficiency filling the annals of racing history. The Mile has had a front-row seat for many of the changes in Champ Car, witnessing history again last season when Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led a single-event record 250 laps in taking the win.

This year's visit by the Champ Car World Series to the oldest racetrack in the United States will be no different as change will see a new man atop the series point standings when the final lap is run in Saturday afternoon's Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225 Presented by U.S. Bank. For the first time since 1997, the man leading the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford point standing will miss a series event, meaning that a new name will top the list when the dust settles in Milwaukee.

Bruno Junqueira (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took the points lead with a win in Monterrey, but was injured in Sunday's Indianapolis 500, suffering a spinal injury in an accident not of his own making. Junqueira had spinal surgery at Indianapolis' Methodist Hospital and will remain there until the end of the week. At press time of this event guide, the Newman/Haas Racing team had yet to announce a replacement driver for this week's race.

The Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225 Presented by U.S. Bank will deal with some changes of its own this year as the race reverts back to a daytime affair after becoming a night race in 2003. The 225-lap dash around the 1.032-mile oval on the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds will take place on Saturday afternoon, with live coverage on CBS Sports.

Any time you talk about Champ Car racing at Milwaukee, the name Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) springs to mind as one of the most successful drivers ever to take to the West Allis oval. Tracy didn't take long to adjust to the Mile as he led 55 laps in his very first trip. He would go on to lead at least 22 times around the Mile in each of his first seven years, starting a career that now sees three wins on his Milwaukee resume with 531 laps led. Tracy enters the weekend in the fourth spot in the point standings and looks to rebound after contact in Monterrey left him with a 15th-place finish.

The man Tracy had contact with in Monterrey will head to Milwaukee with hopes of finally solving the Mile as Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) chases his first Wisconsin podium. The Frenchman is yet to have sort of luck on the West Allis oval, with finishes of 18th and ninth to his credit in his first two stops. Bourdais qualified on the outside of the front row in Milwaukee last season but crashed on Lap 50 and finished shotgun on the field.

Bourdais will need to come up with some sort of solution over the weekend if he is to hold the rampaging Justin Wilson (#9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) at bay and out of the series lead. Wilson has matched Champ Car career highs with fourth-place finishes in each of the first two stops on the 2005 schedule and is currently third in the points, just 11 markers behind Bourdais and 12 in back of Junqueira. Wilson made his oval-track debut in Milwaukee last year, starting 12th and finishing 11th.

The only other driver in this weekend's field with a Milwaukee victory on his resume will achieve another in a long list of major career milestones when the green flag flies on Saturday. Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who came from fifth on the grid in 1998 to earn a place in Victory Lane, will extend his Champ Car-record streak of consecutive starts to 200 in Milwaukee. The veteran took possession of the series record for consecutive starts last season eclipsing the old mark of 192 held by Al Unser Jr., and continues to push the mark to new heights.

Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) announced his presence with authority in Montreal as the 18-year-old Canadian earned a podium finish in just his second career Champ Car start. In doing so, Ranger became the youngest driver to ever ascend a Champ Car podium, but more importantly, he leapfrogged into fifth place in the series standings. He is the first driver in 12 seasons to score a podium finish in one of his first two starts, and comes to a Milwaukee track that saw him finish on the rostrum one year ago when he was competing in the Toyota Atlantic Championship.

The venerable Mile also holds special meaning to reigning Roshfrans Rookie of the Year A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), as the young Californian rolled to his first Champ Car top-five finish there one season ago. Duplicating or improving on that finish from 2004 would help the sophomore break out of a logjam of drivers in the midpack of the standings as Allmendinger is part of a group of 10 drivers that are separated by just 10 points ranging from fifth to 14th in the championship chase.

Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) comes off a pair of eighth-place finishes in his last two Milwaukee visits, and will look to duplicate his impressive Long Beach run as he fights for his first series championship. The Mexican driver earned a top-five finish in Long Beach in his first weekend with the Forsythe Championship Racing squad, and will be battling to break the tie for seventh in the standings that includes Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Timo Glock (#8 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Da Matta is also chasing his first bit of Milwaukee success after four previous starts have left him continuing the hung for his first top-10. He best qualifying effort came in 2001 when he gridded third, but a first-lap crash sent him home in 25th.

Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) enters the weekend in the sixth spot in the title hunt, one point ahead of the aforementioned seventh-place tug-of-war, and one point behind the rookie Ranger. The Canadian veteran has five Milwaukee starts under his belt, one of those coming from the pole in 2003. He has led in two of his five West Allis starts and has shown that he can pick his way through the field there, gaining 13 spots to finish 12th in 2001.

Oriol Servia (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) comes off a top-10 run in Monterrey and will hope to reprise his 2003 Milwaukee success when the emerald banner flies on Saturday. Servia earned his first-ever Champ Car runner-up finish in Milwaukee in the '03 event, climbing from seventh on the starting grid to finish in the second spot. He followed that up with another strong run in last year's event, marching from his 11th-place starting spot to finish seventh.

HVM Inc. teammates Bjorn Wirdheim (#4 HVM Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Ronnie Bremer (#55 HVM Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) come to Milwaukee on vastly different momentum swings, but each are expecting to build on the promise shown during the two days of Mile testing in May. Wirdheim comes off a Monterrey event where he led 18 laps and finished a career-best eighth while Bremer came back to Earth after a strong Long Beach start. Bremer, who finished second in last year's Atlantic race at Milwaukee, was the first man out in Monterrey as a mechanical issue felled his car after just 13 orbits.

The Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225 Presented by U.S. Bank is a two-day affair this season, with qualifying taking place on Friday to set the grid for Saturday's 225-lap race. The event will be shown live on CBS Sports beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern Time.

-ccws-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Bjorn Wirdheim , Ronnie Bremer , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta