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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Counter-thoughts
12/04/04

Athens, NY—At the risk of being Deep Throttled—or worse yet, Deep Sixed—by the mysterious head honcho and namesake of this cyber scribe mill, I beg to differ with some of the boss’ recently presented observations about the 2004 Champ Car World Series in Postseason Thoughts

D.T. says about the Championship:
Sebastien Bourdais was clearly the class of the field and deserved to take the Vanderbilt Cup. McDonald’s on the Seine? We can see it now.

E.D. says about the Championship:
Sea-Bass was indeed the class of the field and proved himself an excellent driver by anyone’s standards. There is no doubt that he deserved to win the V-Cup by virtue of his Schumacher-esque dominance.

BUT…while the competition was as fierce as ever, it certainly cannot be compared with the level of the talent against which the likes of former champions Jacques Villeneuve, Alex Zanardi, and Cristiano da Matta competed. Furthermore, the series’ two former champions have shown, despite occasional flashes of brilliance, that their best days are behind them.

As for McDonald’s, that company’s longstanding largesse and charitable PR efforts are paralleled by those of Paul Newman, Bourdais’ co-team owner. PLN was single-handedly responsible for persuading the fast food giant to re-join the Champ Car World Series. Newman’s next flick: The French Fries Connection

D.T. says about the Tracks:
Still exciting after all these years—Champ Car races featured the best and most diverse racing venues in the world.

E.D. says about the Tracks:
Champ Car’s venue diversity is arguably the best in the world. But does that make it what it desperately needs to be—the raciest series in the world—in order for it to capture the minds of the world’s motor sports enthusiasts? Notably missing: additional oval tracks, natural road courses, and events in Brazil and the US Northeast.

D.T. says about Bourdais:
While his team, Newman-Haas, is arguably the best Champ Car has to offer, this young Frenchman fits right in with former N-H champions Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, and Cristiano da Matta. Can’t wait to see what Sea-Bass does next year. Is it time for Long Beach yet?

E.D. says about Bourdais:
Aside from my own thoughts in the Championship section above, I’d like to coin a slogan for the bespectacled Frenchman: “Nerd is the Word”

D.T. says about Junqueira:
Three years and three second place finishes. Does anyone see a pattern here?

E.D. says about Junqueira:
Another famous whiner had a Champ Car career similar to Bruno’s in the sense that he was almost always a runner-up for the Championship. However, he did win the PPG Cup—once. So don’t blink…because you might miss Junky as he aggressively yanks the 2005 Championship Trophy away from his teammate(s).

D.T. says about Carpentier:
Say what you want about Patrick leaving, but the fact is considering he set all kinds of records in Atlantics, he never really panned out in Champ Car. However, he always looked out for the women of Deep Throttle. There’ll never be anyone quite as nice, and we hope he doesn’t end up as IRL carnage.

E.D. says about Carpentier:
The first time I ever saw Patreek was in 1996 when he came over to work a crowd of chain link fence-huggers after an Atlantics victory before his homeys at the venerable Trois Rivieres circuit. Despite not understanding a word of what Pat was saying to the Quebecois, watching his comical grimaces and listening to his wild sound effects had me rolling in the dirt with everyone else.

But despite his years as CART’s clown prince—replete with Chevy Chase-like pratfalls that occasionally sidelined him with broken bones and such—it was seeing Pat decisively overcome the road-racing skills of talent-rich fields at Cleveland and Mid-Ohio in 2002 that prompts me to disagree strongly with D.T.’s assessment of Pat’s Champ Car career. Of course, Patreek was always a contender on the ovals.

I don’t like where Patreek is going but I wish him the best.

D.T. says about Tracy:
As terrific as 2003 was for PT, nothing stands still in auto racing, and that includes Paul’s dominance—it just couldn’t last. His biggest achievement was the way Paul stayed with Champ Car in the face of defections of some of his friends.

E.D. says about Tracy:
Amen.

D.T. says about Dominguez:
Huge improvements for a guy we often maligned. Best of all, he is really becoming fun to watch. But F1? Mario, achieve some greatness in Champ Car first, not just impressive improvement.

E.D. says about Dominguez:
He’s not so “stu-peed” after all. Mario is an aggressive racer, a good sport, he exudes friendliness and he communicates well in at least two languages, which makes him a great ambassador for any international sponsor—especially in ForMoola One where personality and sportsmanship are rare commodities.

Can Mario be successful in F1? I’d bet the ranch that he’ll do better than Tarso Marques did.

D.T. says about Allmendinger:
How can you not like Dinger…a deserving winner of the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year race and maybe a future champion?

E.D. says about Allmendinger:
Amen.

D.T. says about Tagliani:
He finally did it! He won a race! But, is he the next Carpentier?

E.D. says about Tagliani:
Carpentier was somewhat under-rated. Until Tag wins again and/or puts together an impressive season he will continue to be somewhat over-rated.

D.T. says about Vasser:
Jimmy was never really a factor this year, and we bet he’s really tired of being an also ran. No wins, one podium at Montreal, and pretty much a mid packer for most of the season. The good part of this year? He became a team owner, and with someone who may just let him turn things around next year.

E.D. says about Vasser:
Everybody will always love Jeemy. Let’s just leave it at that.

D.T. says about Hunter-Reay:
One of our favorite American drivers, Ryan recorded his second Champ Car victory. He’s a complete package—talented, intelligent, and the women of Champ Car like him very much. Let’s hope he sticks around.

E.D. says about Hunter-Reay:
Sounds like Mrs. Dash ghost-wrote RH-R’s blurb for D-T.

D.T. says about Servia:
Put Dale Coyne in the top 10 in points and scored an unbelievable podium at Laguna Seca. Oriol did more with less money than just about anyone out there.

E.D. says about Servia:
Anyone who has ever watched a race with me since Oriol came aboard is sick and tired of hearing me repeat that the Catalonian is always racy…and that for my money he is the hardest-working, most aggressive pilot in the series. I’m happy to see that others are finally noticing.

D.T. says about Wilson:
The tallest driver we’ve seen in many a year in the series—we still wonder where they put his legs in the car. If Justin decides to hang around long enough, the former F1 driver could actually be a star driver in this series…

E.D. says about Wilson:
…or he could end up replacing TK in the announce booth.

D.T. says about Jourdain:
Michel did not deserve the betrayal of Bobby Rahal this year—none of us did. He did his best to land on his feet with a last minute ride at RuSport, but it was never a good fit for him.

E.D. says about Jourdain:
BR and his high-tech team had nothing better to do until the inheritor’s check and a bundle of Yen finally arrived, so they made the sponsored Mexican kid their pet project for a while. To his credit Jourdain took full advantage of a durable car and an excellent pit crew. He kept his nose clean—which is what he does best—and finished nearly every race; the key to achieving his modicum of success and that big chunk of championship points.

Unfortunately, Michel is not much of a scrapper and he never will be. Therefore, unless someone else makes him a pet project we will probably never again see the kind of performance Michel had with Team Rathole.

D.T. says about Haberfeld:
Had some fine runs there, but seemed to peter out near the end. Hopefully, a Lola next year will prove once and for all what Mario is made of.

E.D. says about Haberfeld:
In another place and time Haberfeld would certainly have been one of the Brazilionaires. But alas, until he gets that Lola, he’s just one more Mario.

D.T. says about Lavin:
Neil Micklewright said Lavin would surprise us this year, and he did. This Mexican had some very good drives in 2004. However, there are still much better drivers out there we would like to see in the series instead.

E.D. says about Lavin:
Sure there are others out there who could improve the star quality of the series but Lavin has earned his Champ Car seat by virtue of his better-than-expected performance…and, of course, the sponsorship he brings.

D.T. says about Gonzalez:
Just clearly out of his league. He can probably have a good career elsewhere, but Champ Car is a demanding series, and Gonzales just doesn’t have what it takes.

E.D. says about Gonzalez:
Agreed.

D.T. says about Philippe:
"I've earned my spot in the Champ Car World Series." It remains to be seen what will last longer—his daddy’s money or his ego.

E.D. says about Philippe:
Yeah, but he can always get work as a romance novel cover model.

D.T. says about the Wankers:
We really needed the rent-a-rides this year to make sure we had full fields. However, some of these guys really belong working at Jiffy Lube.

E.D. says about the Wankers:
In fairness, there aren’t any more wankers around today than there were in the good old days. Percentage-wise, however, the series is lousy with them and that’s because the freakin’ fields are so small!

D.T. says about Gidley:
Yeah, maybe it's getting old. But please, would someone give this guy another chance.

E.D. says about Gidley:
Yeah, it is getting old!
Good News Memo: 2004 was perhaps the safest season ever for Champ Car drivers.
Bad News Memo: Race Day SuperSub business was booming—at the snack bars.

D.T. says about Valiante:
And someone give this guy a first chance.

E.D. says about Valiante:
Aren’t we now waiting for him to get a second chance?

D.T. says about Newman:
Kudos for his incredible loyalty to the series and [to] Carl Haas for not taking the bazillion dollars offered him to defect to the IRL. Also to Gerald Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi, and Kevin Kalkhoven for buying the series and keeping it going under often difficult conditions. Last, but not least, to the Fans of Champ Car, without whom none of the foregoing would make any difference at all.

E.D. says about Newman:
Ditto. And see my praiseful comments about Paul Newman above—despite his being on the losing side of American politics.

D.T. says about Rahal and Fernandez:
Your legacy will forever be remembered as those who took blood money to be induced to leave Champ Car right after the Sneak Preview.

E.D. says about Rahal and Fernandez:
Talk about Pearl Harbor.

D.T. says about Honda:
You make Enron look like the saints of business ethics. The only way to really show your displeasure on this one, race fans, is to stop buying Honda products. Encourage anyone who will listen to you to do the same. Repeat.

E.D. says about Honda:
Where was Jon Vannini when he should have brought suit against these guys for conspiring with competitors to manipulate the stock value of a publicly owned company?

D.T. says about Inspiration of the Year:
Cost of CART in Federal Bankruptcy Court: $3.5 million. Cost of Cosworth: $95 million. Cost of having the Champ Car saviors kick Tony George’s butt time and again: Priceless.

E.D. says about Inspiration of the Year:
OK, I agree that survival in the face of extinction is pretty inspiring. Otherwise (yawn) things need to get a lot more inspiring for this old speed freak to be satisfied.

D.T. says about Rules:
Loved push to pass. Still hate those damned timed races. What we like most about the whole subject of rules is that anything that isn’t working now can be changed.

E.D. says about Rules:
…and I repeat: “…if every Champ Car engine were not prepared “identically,” push-to-pass would be not only a cheap gimmick but a travesty as well. In either case, to say the least, P2P is expendable.”

D.T. says about Television:
By far the weakest link in the world of Champ Car is TV. Where do we start? Well, we knew we were in trouble when a Deep Throttle staff member had to explain open wheel racing to the film crew at Long Beach. We had the sinking feeling, never to be dispelled, that the lowest bidder was hired – and they got what they paid for. Please, please, next time hire someone who actually does [his/her] homework. Or, better yet, hire someone who actually knows more about televising races than we do. Here’s an idea – show the races live! It’ll catch on; trust us. Live, live, nothing but live. So, please drop Spike, they are not a good fit. What you’re wanting is a network TV deal with a few races on Speed. Need a review on this? The cameraman from Betelgeuse has our business card.

E.D. says about Television:
No argument. Here’s what I said earlier this year.

D.T. says about Best Race of the Season:
Denver. If you didn’t find this racing exciting, you probably don’t have a pulse. Call the morgue. The promoter did a fabulous job of pulling this event together, and Sebastien Bourdais’ come from behind victory is one of those career-making races that we will remember for years to come.

E.D. says about Best Race of the Season:
I vote for the Denver race as well. Major reasons for why it turned out so well.

D.T. says about Event of the Year:
Long Beach. It’s such a terrific event that even Tony George showed up.

E.D. says about Event of the Year:
Let’s just hope that Grandpa Chris hasn’t bequeathed the event to the inheritor in his will.

D.T. says about Worst-run Race of the Season:
Las Vegas. The new Sin City race was ruined by poor officiating, a too-late start, and a thrown together aero package that didn’t let the fastest car win. Let’s hope for better days in 2005.

E.D. says about Worst-run Race of the Season:
What are the odds that will happen?

D.T. says about Stat of the Season:
There was a season…

E.D. says about Stat of the Season:
…and that OWRS may actually have “made some money”.

D.T. says about Historical Stat of the Season:
There has only been one French World Driving champion—Alain Prost. Now, there is only one French Champ Car champion.

E.D. says about Historical Stat of the Season:
That factoid and a bottle of Beaujolais won’t even get you on the NYC Subway and furthermore… THERE’S NO OUI IN US!

{Editor's Note: We think Mr. Ed has lost the point of pointless stats…}

D.T. says about Quote of the Season:
Kevin Kalkhoven while holding up a hammer, "Tony, we stole your hammer."

E.D. says about Quote of the Season:
“I have no reason in the world to complain about anything.” – Alex Zanardi

D.T. says about Quote of the Season Runner-up:
Oriol Servia looking towards next year, "People are excited. It definitely fells better than the end of last year.”

E.D. says about Quote of the Season Runner-up:
“Sorry Tony. Your cash ain’t nuthin’ but trash.” – Judge Frank Otte

D.T. says about the Schedule:
There will be a 2005 schedule. And we know that long before 2005. What a change in one year!

E.D. says about the Schedule:
Happy New Year!

Road Rage! An op-ed feature by Ed Donath.

Copyright © 2004 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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