Monday, April 23, 2007

Lone Star (“J.R.”) Race weekend

And then there were 16… Champ Car entrants that is. Pacific Coast Motorsports Alex Figge decided to withdraw from this weekend’s Houston Champ Car race due to lingering back pains resulting from his crash in Long Beach.

And once again the “Hamburglar” (Sebastian Bourdais) stole the show on Friday by capturing the provisional pole ahead of his main rival opposition. Team Australia’s Will Power, who was just .05+ second adrift of “Sea Bass.”

Third fastest was Bourdais’s rookie teammate Graham Rahal ahead of the two RSPORTS teammates, with Justin Wilson finally regaining his rightful spot as team leader ahead of “TAG.” (Alex Tagliani)

On Saturday Will Power was awarded the pole 3 hours after qualifying, as Bourdais was deemed to have been blocking an opponent. Yet “Sea Bass” sounded like a CRY-BABY when learning about his penalty. Guess all of that time with “Whiney Bags” rubbed off on the Frenchman…

And I’m happy to report that Justin Wilson is finally getting up to pace. I was unaware that he had a brand new engineer this season, along with all of the other changes that have occurred. Wilson wound up in P3 in final qualifying.

And lost in all of the whimpering was the fact that 48 year old Roberto Moreno came out of retirement after 4 years to once again race in Champ Car, substituting for the injured Alex Figge. Unfortunately Moreno’s exuberance to be back racing caused him to loose his fastest lap after staying out on track one too many laps!

I was unaware that the counter clockwise race was run on a parking lot next door to Reliant Stadium. Although diamond grinding was done prior to the event, with up to ¾ inch of concrete being removed in places. The track surface was still quite rough with portions of the bumpy course still being overly “lumpy.”

Sunday’s “Good Timing” award went to Jon Beekhuis. As they went onboard Matt Halliday’s “42 Below” (Gotta get those sponsor names in, right Rick?) Beekhuis said “Oh, he’s got a problem…” And then wall-lah, SMACK into the retaining wall! And Rick Benjamin said, “Now he’s got an even bigger problem!” As it turned out Halliday had been “punted” by Moreno as neither driver wished to lift for the corner…

Yes, that’s right, we’re back to our primary announce crew of Rick “Insert $ponsor names Here” Benjamin alongside perennial Champ Car reporter Jon Beekhuis, who’s a much admired replacement for Derr-Wreck” Daily…

And Mr. Benjamin seemed a tiny bit subdued as he didn’t have the #27 WALLMART du Canada/Tide entry of Andrew Ranger to call out 79 times during the broadcast.

Yet Benjamin had NO trouble picking out and announcing each racer’s sponsor as they briefly passed thru the frame.

And after another aborted start, “Sea Bass” straight-lined the chicane, jumping ahead of pole sitter Will Power. Then Wilson got around Power as Power’s team boss Derrick Walker claimed that he’d been brake checked… by the McDougal’s car. Then Champ Car told bourdais to give up one spot handing the lead over to Wilson…

Interestingly it was pointed out during the race that Robert Doornbos had gone running in the desert in his nomex fire suit 10 miles in order to try preparing for the heat of Houston. Does anybody still not believe that race car drivers are atheletes?

And not that it was a total “snoozer,” as it appeared that several of the competitors were trying out there best “Cole Trickle” impersonations… But it was mentioned several times that 18yr old rookie Graham Rahal was skipping his High School Senior Prom in order to go racing…

And was that embarrassing or what when “Speedy-Dry” Dan Clarke walloped into the rear of Katherine Legge’s stricken chassis during a yellow flag period! This was after Legge had taken out her boss’s primary driver, rookie Neil Jani. And then Kevin Kalkhoven’s mug appeared on the screen saying he was gonna go kill somebody… Yet Jon Beekhuis pointed out how Kalkhoven’s funding Legge’s ride, so he doubts anything’s going to happen.

Unfortunately the Ham burglar’s penalty in final qualifying served only as incentive for the Frenchman to once again wax the entire field, leading his teammate across the finish line for a N/H/L Racing 1-2 with who’s car was that Rick? Oh yeah it’s the Oz Jet Minardi Team USA of Robert Doornbos coming in third.

Race Report

DAMM! Will I be glad when Bourdais departs for Formula 1 next season…