Long Beach Diary:|
Things Are Getting Curiouser and Curiouser Around Here
Long Beach, CA, April 7 — All race weekends have a certain unique sensibility. Some are about hard
charging racing. Others are about battling the elements, whether it’s extreme heat or cold. And
then there’s this weekend. I didn't quite have a handle on it last night.
Tonight, I've put the pieces together and the picture they form is, well, strange.
There’s no other way to say it—this is an Alice in Wonderland kind of race weekend.
Consider the following evidence of this, if you will:
- Bobby Rahal announces that he’s signed 2000 Atlantics Champion Buddy Rice to
an "option" for 2002. Okay, fine so far. But wait! Rice is going to be hanging
around Team Rahal for the rest of 2001. Huh? Oh, boy, I'll bet Max Papis and
Kenny Brack are going to love that! Which one will be dumped to make room for
- The slow group came within minutes of out qualifying the fast group in
CART's single day, dual session exercise. I
don't know guys, I'm from the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of
management, so I'm not quite sure what you had in mind here. No one seems to
understand it, no one seems to like it—so it appears you just created a whole new
set of problems that didn't need to exist in the first place. (And, sincere
condolences to Michel Jourdain, Jr. for almost making pole. Tough break, dude.)
- Instead of the wanton indifference towards fans exhibited last year by the
denizens of Dover Downs, they've decided to mix it up a little this year to keep us
on our toes. Once again, we were warmly greeted upon entering the course, only
to be treated like poor relations once we reached our Grandstand 34. Go figure!
The drunken shuttle drivers of 2000 (so inebriated was our driver last year, that I
actually called 911 on the guy) have given way in 2001 to drivers who just abandon their
vehicles while still running. (One savvy shuttle driver informed us that
they wouldn't get paid after a certain time, even if transporting race fans. Maybe
that's why the guy last year got drunk.)
- We attended a Trans-Am press conference during which it was announced that the
series had hired a marketing company to target the "urban youth" market as a
means of expanding TA’s popularity. No explanation was given as to why this
market was being targeted, and one reporter's question as to what this "market"
had that would fit with Trans-Am remained largely unanswered, except by a
bunch of slick buzzwords that basically told us—zilch! Definitely "Emperor’s
new clothes" time, except the management guys aren't listening, at least for the
- Today’s weather was miserable all day. Raining on and off, then icy cold winds
the next moment. The weather really was "the pits." This made the Lifestyle
Expo in the Convention Center very popular. And then, to top off the
day, as soon as the Trans-Am guys were done with their qualifying session, about
6:00 P.M., it became a beautiful, warm, sunshiny day!
I could go on, but I believe I've made my case for this day and this weekend being a very
strange one indeed. Nonetheless, there were some terrific moments today, and
I'd like to share those with you, too.
Your DeepThrottle.com coverage
team was very grateful to the GPALB's Chris Esslinger for finally coming
through with our second credential. It permitted us to finally get some photos that
can show you what today was like—thanks again, Chris!
We visited the CART garage area and met some terrific race fans, including a recently
retired couple, Dale and Hannahlore. Dale in particular was pleased to learn that
CART has started autograph sessions in the garage on Friday. Good find, Dale,
and I'll pass it along! We met countless other fans having a good time, and in
particular enjoyed meeting other hard core fans.
For those of you who don't know, the hard core fans are the people who stay for every
race and every qualifying session, come rain or shine. I would guess
Grandstand 34 was about 5% occupied today. Tomorrow, it will be full for sure.
All those folks—aside from our small group today—are not hard core fans. It was
absolutely freezing by the time of the Atlantics race, but there was still a nice
sized crowd (overall) to cheer David Rutledge in his win.
The Indy Lights drivers had little to do today. No one got a chance to better yesterday’s
qualifying times due to the rain and their practice wasn't much better. The
Pro/Celebrity race was going fine with everyone following Pruett when the heavens
opened. Race over! Then, off to the Expo with most of the crowd.
We had the good fortune to meet the father of former CART driver Richie Hearn as we were
leaving the track tonight. Yes, Jeff and I finally found a sober driver who did not
abandon his vehicle or post. On that trip to our cars in the fortunate shuttle, we
met Mr. Hearn. He reported to us that Richie is in Homestead this weekend
hoping to get an Indy 500 ride. We're keeping our fingers crossed for you, Richie.
Perhaps this meeting was the strangest of all the day's events.
After all, Richie is a talented young driver, yet, he doesn't have a good ride. Scott Pruett,
another talented American driver—again, no ride. Two of the remaining US drivers—Herta
and Vasser—have rides, but don't have sponsors. Has the time come
when fans are going to have to protest this short shifting of American drivers with
their checkbooks and credit cards? I hope not, but things are sure, well, weird.
Alice In Wonderland weird!
Copyright © 2001 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.