CHAMPCAR/CART: San Jose: Round nine preview

RUSPORT'S JUSTIN WILSON LOOKS TO START HIS OWN VICTORY STREAK AS CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES HEADS TO SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA INDIANAPOLIS (July 25, 2006) - For the first time this season a Champ Car World Series event ended with someone other than a ...

RUSPORT'S JUSTIN WILSON LOOKS TO START HIS OWN VICTORY STREAK AS CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES HEADS TO SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA

INDIANAPOLIS (July 25, 2006) - For the first time this season a Champ Car World Series event ended with someone other than a Bourdais or an Allmendinger in Victory Lane, as British star Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone saved his best for last to secure a win in Edmonton.

The win thrust Wilson right back into the meat of the title hunt as he leapfrogged A.J. Allmendinger (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to move into second place in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford standings, and moved to within 23 points of series leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). The 23 points is as close as Wilson has been to the front since the second race of the season, while Allmendinger's streak of four consecutive podium finishes has him sitting just five precious points behind Wilson in the third spot.

Now the chase heads to San Jose, California for this weekend's Grand Prix of San Jose Presented by Taylor Woodrow where a revised street circuit awaits the 750-horsepower scream machines of the Champ Car World Series. The race track has been reconfigured somewhat since last season's inaugural race, and features a better entrance to pit lane as well as a wider and faster approach to the front stretch. The 1.448-mile street course that winds around the San Jose Convention Center has also been smoothed out in many places, allowing the drivers to better plan their moves toward the front.

But in San Jose, as in many stops along the Champ Car schedule, any strategy that plots a move to the front, must contain a chapter on how to deal with two-time defending series champion and defending San Jose racewinner Bourdais. The Flying Frenchman won from pole in San jose last year, pacing 63 of 93 laps on his way to the victory. He navigated the tricky course with aplomb last year, losing the lead only when a pair of rookies experimented with some alternate pit strategies. He set the fastest lap of the race and holds the track record after setting the top time in Saturday's final qualifying. Bourdais returned to the sharp end of the grid in Edmonton, leading both qualifying sessions and setting another track record on his way to a second-place finish. The result allowed Bourdais to maintain his points lead, which was 23 over Allmendinger at the beginning of the weekend.

Both Wilson and Allmendinger have put together strong seasons in 2006, and can come to San Jose this year with some momentum after good runs on the California street course last season. Wilson, who has only finished out of the top five in one of the year's eight races, ran a strong fourth last season, making up five positions after starting ninth. It was in San Jose where the lanky Brit gave the series one of its most indelible video footage of the year, as his shock cover became dislodged by the jet dryer that was cleaning the track. Wilson used every inch of his 6'5" frame as he strained against his safety belts to re-fasten a shock cover while driving 60 mph behind the pace car. Having saved himself a costly pit stop with the reach, Wilson went on to a fourth-place finish, falling just one second shy of a trip to the podium.

Allmendinger was strong throughout the early part of the weekend, and gridded fourth on his new home track. The native of nearby Hollister, California didn't fare as well on Race Day however as he retired after 12 laps due to contact, ending his day in the 17th position. The only driver in the series to have qualified fourth or better for each of the year's eight races, Allmendinger has three consecutive front-row starting positions to his credit, the longest streak of his three-year career.

The points gap then widens a bit to fourth where 2003 series champion Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) lurks. A triumvirate of early-race incidents have blunted Tracy's title charge, but the Canadian hero rides a streak of back-to-back top-five finishes to San Jose, where he finished second to Bourdais a year ago. Tracy has climbed from 11th to fourth in the last two races, scored his first front-row start of the year last weekend in Edmonton but is 63 points behind Allmendinger as a result of the three DNFs.

Oriol Servia (#6 Bell Micro/Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has hit his stride as well as the third of the 2005 San Jose podium finishers vaults into the top 10. Servia has started each of the last three races in the top five, turning two of those into top-five results. The PKV Racing veteran is eighth in the standings with six races to go, but is just nine points away from a seat in the top five. Servia finished third in San Jose a year ago, scoring the podium step only after winning a heated battle with Wilson over the final laps.

Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) stretched his lead even further in this year's Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year battle with a sixth-place finish in Edmonton. The finish was a new personal best for the young Aussie and moved him to within three points of a top-10 spot in the season standings. The Team Australia driver has a season-best streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes and leads the rookie chase by nine points over Dan Clarke (#14 CTE Racing - HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) continues to cling to the top five in points despite not having a top-five finish through eight races. What the Canadian prodigy does have however is remarkable consistency as he continues to keep his nose clean and score points. The only driver to have finished every race this year, Ranger's seventh-place run last week in Edmonton was his seventh top-10 finish of the season. Ranger qualified 11th in San Jose last year but finished 16th after lap 13 contact.

Mario Dominguez (#19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will look to reprise his top-five run from last year's San Jose visit as the Dale Coyne Racing wheelman tries to knock Ranger from the fifth position in the points line. Dominguez is seven markers behind the young Canadian, and comes off an eighth-place finish last weekend, his second after his move to Coyne.

Cristiano da Matta (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) saw their hard-luck campaigns continue in Edmonton, putting both of them in jeopardy of losing their seats in the top 10. da Matta's race lasted just one turn in Edmonton when he slid into the tires to avoid a car ahead of him. Da Matta, who finished 10th in San Jose a year ago, is just two points ahead of Nelson Philippe (#4 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for the 10th position in the standings, and just three ahead of rookie-points leader Power. Like in Edmonton, Junqueira has no prior San Jose experience, having missed last year's race due to his injuries suffered at Indianapolis. He was third in first-round qualifying in Edmonton but troubles in qualifying and again in the race doomed him to a 15th-place finish. The Brazilian is ninth in the points queue but just one championship tally ahead of da Matta.

Katherine Legge (#20 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) leads a pack of three drivers that learned the San Jose layout from the seat of a Champ Car Atlantic machine in 2005. Legge scored the last of her record-setting three Atlantic wins in San Jose last season securing the win with ahead of race polesitter Charles Zwolsman (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Tonis Kasemets (#18 Flexovit Abrasives Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) started on the front row for that same event and beat Zwolsman to Turn One, taking the lead for the first nine laps. He retired soon after however as a victim of mechanical failure.

This weekend's San Jose Grand Prix Presented by Taylor Woodrow can be seen live Sunday, July 30 on NBC beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. As always, fans can follow the action from every on-track session via the Race Director feature on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws.

-ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Nelson Philippe , Andrew Ranger , Charles Zwolsman , Will Power , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta , Dan Clarke
Teams Dale Coyne Racing