CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee: Round three preview

New Champ Car World Series Points Leader Sebastien Bourdais Leads 18-Car Charge To Nighttime Event At Milwaukee Mile INDIANAPOLIS (May 28, 2004) -- Just 20 races in to his young Champ Car career, Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

New Champ Car World Series Points Leader Sebastien Bourdais Leads 18-Car Charge To Nighttime Event At Milwaukee Mile

INDIANAPOLIS (May 28, 2004) -- Just 20 races in to his young Champ Car career, Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has already accomplished what most drivers in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford can't get done in three times as many starts.

With a victory two weeks ago in the Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey, Bourdais ascended to the top of the Champ Car point standings, holding the lofty perch for the first time since joining the series. But as a number of current and former racers can tell you, getting to the top is one thing, staying there is an altogether different proposition.

Bourdais will look to build on his new-found lead while 17 others hope to cast him aside at this weekend's Time Warner Cable Road Runner 250 Presented by U.S. Bank held at the Milwaukee Mile. The 1.032-mile oval on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fair Park, has played host to the 750hp turbocharged Champ Cars 29 times in the modern era and began hosting championship open-wheel racing in 1933 when the fabled Wilbur Shaw took the checkers. For the second consecutive season, the event at the venerable track will take place under the glow of Musco lighting, making the event not only the lone oval race on the Champ Car calendar, but also the only night race on the 2004 schedule.

The Newman/Haas Racing driver, who will compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans later this summer, leads the series by five points over his teammate Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) but neither driver brings a particularly strong Mile history to this weekend's event. Bourdais finished 13th in his Milwaukee debut a year ago and suffered a hard crash there during May testing while Junqueira crashed on the fourth lap of last year's event. Junqueira had finished in the top 10 of each of his two other Mile starts, scoring a fourth-place run in his rookie season of 2001.

By way of contrast, the driver most closely chasing the Newman/Haas duo in the point standings has a sparkling Milwaukee resume as Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has shown an alarming propensity to find the fast way around the Wisconsin oval. Tracy is a three-time Milwaukee winner and has led at least 22 laps in seven of his 11 prior starts on the four-cornered circuit. Tracy has wins in 1995, '99 and 2002, with the '02 victory coming in a dominating performance that saw him pace 184 laps.

Last year's trip to the Mile saw a new driver ascend to the rank of Champ Car race winner, doing it in record-setting fashion. RuSPORT's Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scored the first win of his series career last season in dominant fashion, pacing a single-event Champ Car record 234 laps in taking the victory. Jourdain has experience in his corner at Milwaukee as he prepares for his ninth start at the Mile, having finished in the top five in each of the last two years.

Experience would also seem to favor another veteran driver who is looking for his first Milwaukee win. Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) set a track record that still stands at the Mile with a polewinning lap of 20.028 seconds (185.500 mph) in 1998, and has finished on the podium in two of the last four Milwaukee events. He came home in third place last season and comes to Round Three of the 2004 season in fourth place after a pair of fourth-place runs in the year's first two events. The Forsythe Championship Racing pilot also carded the fastest time in Champ Car open testing in May.

PKV Racing's Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) also has a Milwaukee win on his racing resume, but has found good results hard to come by in recent seasons. The 1998 race winner, Vasser scored three straight top-four runs from 1997-99 has placed no higher than ninth since. The 1996 series champion tested well there in May however and comes to Milwaukee after qualifying seventh in Monterrey.

Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rides a wave of momentum into Milwaukee after scoring a podium finish in front of over 94,000 of his countrymen , and stands fifth in the series after his Monterrey run. His Herdez stablemate Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has a Milwaukee pole to his credit during his Toyota Atlantic career, but has yet to score a top-15 race-day finish.

Last year saw another driver earn the title of Milwaukee polewinner as Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took the top spot by virtue of practice times after rains cancelled the final qualifying session. Tagliani's Milwaukee experience belies his four years in the Champ Car World Series as the Montreal native made four Atlantic starts at the Mile before ascending to the Champ Car ranks.

The surprise story of the early season may well spring from the Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing stable as Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has taken a commanding lead in the Rookie-of-the-Year standings after two races. The ex-Formula 1 pilot has placed sixth in each of the last two events and gave the second-year team its best-ever qualifying result when he gridded third at Monterrey. He is one of five drivers that will make their first Champ Car visit to Milwaukee, joining Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Alex Sperafico (#14 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone), Nelson Philippe (#17 LeasePlan Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Red Bull/BG Products Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) as Milwaukee first-timers, although Allmendinger started and finished third there a year ago while in the Atlantic series.

Another pleasant surprise coming from the Monterrey event sprang from the Dale Coyne Racing squad as the duo of Oriol Servia (#11 Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Tarso Marques (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) qualified in the top 10 in Mexico, a first for a two-car Dale Coyne Champ Car effort. Servia had a strong run at Milwaukee a year ago, finishing a scant .468 seconds behind Jourdain in equaling a career-best second-place finish.

The Time Warner Cable Road Runner 250 Presented by U.S. Bank weekend gets underway Thursday afternoon with practice for both the Champ Cars and the Toyota Atlantics. Qualifying takes place on Friday night for the Champ Cars with the 250-lap race beginning at 8 p.m. local time Saturday evening. The race can be seen live on HDNet and also Sunday at 4 p.m. on Spike TV. Fans can also follow the happenings using the Race Director feature on the series' official website


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Tarso Marques , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Roberto Gonzalez , Alex Sperafico , Nelson Philippe , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain
Teams Conquest Racing