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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Noted in Passing
6/6/06

Athens, NY—Despite a no-glamour venue, yet another L1 fiasco that reduced a typical Champ Car mini field down to a mere baker’s dozen cars, a television curfew which robbed fans of nearly 30 racing laps, an all-too-predictable winning team, an embarrassingly under-informed TV announce duo, woefully unpopulated grandstands, and a handful of other ongoing technical and marketing deficiencies, the June 4th race at the venerable Milwaukee Mile easily proved itself to be the best, most exciting event thus far on the 2006 Champ Car World Series.

How could this be? Well, it’s really quite elementary.

Side-by-side racing, the result of which is overtaking for position, makes all the difference in the world. In simple English, passing is what makes a race exciting and worth the spectator’s ticket price. Passing or lack thereof dictates whether a TV surfer hangs in to the finish or decides to hang five with his or her remote.

Furthermore, the ability to pass is what inspires great driving efforts that are often performed by pilots who are relegated to the middle or back of the pack at the non-racy circuits. Those venues, of course, include most narrow, bumpy, concrete barrier-encased street courses with or without railroad crossings. During a street parade most under-experienced and/or under-funded participants can only pray for quick pit stops and the best possible attrition-assisted result.

Cases in point: Nelson Philippe, who notched his first series podium finish at Milwaukee after dicing with everyone he was able to get alongside and Katherine Legge who, under Jimmy Vasser’s famous tutelage, led a respectable 20 laps of her debut Champ Car oval race by paying perseverant attention to her brain trust.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Champ Car World Series festival-ites were gnashing their teeth in the so-called Fight of the Phoenix in which (take your pick) Phoenix International Raceway, the France family’s NASCAR, or the owners of local stick-and-ball teams are attempting, by court order, to thwart a proposed Champ Car street race in that Arizona city. Should this legal ploy succeed in Phoenix it is illogically feared that PIR’s lawsuit would provide the precedent for similar street race banning throughout the US.

One overstated issue introduced by the oval shills relates to the high-decibel scream of turbocharged Champ Cars as they traverse the echoing concrete canyons of a downtown area. This racing “noise” that we consider music to our ears is cited as a disturbance of the peace, if not an outright danger to the well being of the citizenry.

Of course, 43 stock cars on a closed circuit track or the non-mechanical roar of 50,000 fans at a ballgame or concert is way under the suggested 100-decibel limit and is barely audible more than a few blocks from the stadium [wink].

Just as illogical is the festival-ites’ knee jerk reaction which assumes that the Long Beach Grand Prix will be shut down if the Phoenix race gets nixed. Long Beach is a unique case in which the race is directly responsible, in large measure, for helping to rebuild a crumbling city. It makes the LBGP a sacred cow to city fathers and their children, so fret not about the possibility of Champ Car’s signature race getting the axe.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of these hypocritical and monopolistic legal maneuverings, it really wouldn’t bother this renegade scribe one bit if the CCWS were limited to staging street races exclusively at foreign venues. Management would then be forced to concentrate on the historic diversity of our beloved speed sport which could only help to cultivate better technology and better racing.

So-called Three-day Festivals of Speed that culminate in big Sunday parades are really nothing more than a passing fancy anyway—with very little fancy passing to show for themselves.

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

Copyright © 2006 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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