With all of the Motorsports world in a lather of euphoria over Dan-Dan-Danica… Wait? Did I hear Helio Castroneves correctly? Saying he was told to PULL OVER for Danica…
But, wait a second we’ve got the second half of our tape delayed Double Header to run in the Sunshine state, where there will be MORE racing cars on the grid for a Champ Car race since 2002…
And while the IRL gang was busy trying to keep dry, Justin “Buckshot” Wilson was busy securing Friday’s provisional pole ahead of Oriel Servia, with Alex Tagliani third fastest, followed by Dominguez and St. Pete winner Graham Rahal. Paul Tracy was eighth quickest while Jimmy Vasser was mired in 15th.
Saturday’s final Qualifying session saw Justin Wilson retain Pole position, as the lanky Brit would be the only driver to run a lap under 67 seconds and eclipsed fellow Mic-Dougal’s driver Sea Bass’s qualifying lap of last year by 0.6 seconds. Meanwhile, the little team that could continued its heady performance as re-united Canadian ace Alex Tagliani finished just 0.182 seconds adrift of Wilson’s time to line-up second for Derrick Walker.
Row two saw Conquest’s Franck Perera edge out ex-Walker driver Will Power, with Mr. Chrome Horn moving up to the inside of row Three with his teammate for the weekend, Franck Montagny alongside.. Rolling off in P7 was Nelson Philippe, the highest placed member of the HVM Minardi triumbrant with Enrique Bernoldi alongside. Starting ninth was Wilson’s teammate Graham Rahal with Mario Boom Boom Dominguez rounding out the top ten in his Pacific Coast Motorsports ride.
And while obviously Dan-Dan-Danica was the headline story, all of the announcers, including Marty Reid did mention that the Stork had indeed stopped by the Wilson household during the opening segment of Sunday’s broadcast, but once again the IRL regulars got first billing.
And dare I say it? I believe there were more lead changes in the Long Beach finale then some Roundy-round race over in Japan? As it was quite entertaining to me listening to Mr. Reid and Scott Goodyear having to explain the Champ Car format of qualifying and racing, with Marty even saying how he liked the idea of having “Turbo-boost…”
And making IRL regulars squirm even further? Long Beach saw the final standing start of a Champ Car race a la Formula 1… With Wilson having apparently chosen the wrong side of the grid to start upon as Power “Willed” his way past the leader into turn one, with Wilson tucked in behind in formation as the cars roared around the tight street circuit. Paul Tracy demonstrated what happens if you’re off by just a few inches when he kissed the wall with a rear tire, which would ultimately lead to his demise as the team would struggle to repair a damaged CV grease boot clip!
And I liked hearing that if TAG’s car looked similar to the leaders… It was because Will Power and Aussie Vineyards had bolted to KV Racing Technology when Craig Gore left Walker holding the bag so to speak… While Newman Haas Lanigan continued the theme with a retro look on the number 06 entry and suddenly Wilson was coasting down the escape road after harassing Power for the lead, apparently victim of an engine failure? Which saw TAG now trying to chase down Power, while Graham Rahal would spend the afternoon demonstrating the laws of physics while trying to force his way past fellow competitors and ultimately end up finishing in the tire barriers on the final lap.
Yet, Power was not to be denied as he led the majority of the race, while Tagliani’s gamble to run the red “Option” tires on his final stint saw him fade, with ex-F1 pilot Montagny the only driver able to somewhat close the gap in the final stages of the race, finishing second. (5.9 seconds behind) Meanwhile some 17 seconds adrift was eventual third place finisher Dominguez, with Bernoldi fourth and Oriel Servia rounding out the top five.
Tagliani wound up falling back to seventh place while Jimmy Vasser finished behind both of his hired guns in 10th and thus Servia will most likely sigh a breath of relief over not having to hear his boss chide him over the radios next week in Kansas, while fellow Nevadan Tracy soldiered home in 11th…