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Long Beach Diary:
Day Two
Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here

Long Beach, CA, April 12 — What a day we had today! A mistake cost Paul Tracy the pole position, which gave us surprises in today’s top two CART qualifiers, another track record was set by a second Atlantics rookie driver, and we are convinced that Paul Gentilozzi should stay clear of NASCAR forever. And that’s not all, folks. There was the annual Pro-Celebrity race, which we do not cover very much of, and a parade of Historic Formula One cars. Bernie Ecclestone was a no show at the Beach, and everyone is hoping it doesn’t rain tomorrow, at least not until the racing is over!

In spite of the song lyrics, it does rain in Southern California. The possibility of rain on Saturday and Sunday has colored the festivities all weekend. However, all we’ve had is two typical beach days—cool overcast mornings turn into sunny afternoons followed by cool evenings. Rain is now predicted for Sunday evening—we can only hope the predictions are wrong.

Deep Throttle’s Julie Andre had driver interviews sandwiched in between practice and qualifying sessions. One of our usually best interview subjects, Jimmy Vasser, was in a notably bad mood, likely because his car, and especially the Reynard chassis, is leaving him hopelessly mired in mid-pack. Our favorite person in CART has always been Patrick Carpentier, and his interview with Jules went its usual best. Pat hopes CART keeps its variety of racetracks and joins the other drivers in disliking the mandatory pit stops.

On the way to the track today, driver Larry Mason, with his friend Fred, joined Jeff and me in picking a favorite for the polesitter. Jeff chose Bruno Junqueira, Larry said it would be Tracy, and Fred selected Sebastien Bourdais. My choice was Alex Tagliani. Had he made it, I would have had gloating rights for at least an hour or two. And I could have told them a girl could pick out the fastest guy on the track—and they couldn’t. Except, of course for one thing: Bruno, Paul, Sebastien, and Tag—none of them were the fastest on the track today.

But, back to Paul. Because he was the number one Friday qualifier, he would not have had to go out on the track during qualifying at all if Michel Jourdain hadn’t gone faster than he had on Saturday. So, Paul goes out in the middle of the session, and promptly makes a mistake, brushing the wall which requires a replacement part that’s not available trackside. By the way, Paul’s toolboxes all carry little buttons that have a picture of Tony George with a crossout line across it that says “Crapwagons.” I want one. At any rate, the repair cannot be made until late in qualifying, giving the pole to Michel Jourdain, Jr.

If you recall Long Beach qualifying in 2001, Jourdain almost got the pole that year. Came within minutes of getting it, as a matter of fact. That was when there was a slow group and a fast group for qualifying. Jourdain, consigned to the slow group, defied his label and was the fastest of all qualifiers until Helio Castroneves snatched it away at the last moment. So, the way I reckon things, Michel was overdue for his first CART career pole. Plus, he’s a terrific guy. I’ve seen him when he’s bone tired, posing for another photo with a fan, smiling away and not acting at all inconvenienced. Michel, are you available to give some lessons to one Mario Haberfeld?

While strolling the paddock after CART practice, this reporter observed one very polite young fan ask “Mr. Haberfeld” for an autograph. The young man had something ready to sign, a working pen, and a polite demeanor. I guess it might have taken “Mr. Mario” all of 20 seconds to smile and sign the damn thing. As it is, he wasted 30 seconds of my time and the fans blowing the kid off. Bad move, dude. I even raised an eyebrow and made sure he saw my press credential in the hopes of not dashing the kid’s hopes. No dice. My conclusion is Mario Haberfeld, based on his behavior on and off the track, should go back to Europe where this kind of nonsense is more acceptable. It’s not cool here in the good old U. S. of A.

Speaking of which, you would never have known that Americans are mad at the French based on the way my fellow reporters swarmed around Sebastien Bourdais. He seems like a nice enough kid, and is much more fan friendly than Haberfeld. Come to think of it, everyone is more fan friendly than Haberfeld. At any rate, it seems Sebastien, polite though he is, does not like the track at Long Beach. Or, maybe he doesn’t like not being on pole. Whichever.

It’s on to the Atlantics. On Friday, RuSPORT's driver Aaron Justus (who is a hotie, by the way, for our female readers) set a record for this track configuration. Today, it was his teammate, A. J. Allmendinger (also cute, but who has a VGF, that’s a visable girlfriend) did the honors, taking the pole and setting yet another Atlantics track record. Danica Patrick is farther back in the field, and our new friend, Alex Figge, remains close to the front in 5th or 6th.

I didn’t get to see much of the historic F1 cars today, so make a point of planning some time for them tomorrow. The balance of the day is spent covering Trans-Am.

As to Mr. Gentilozzi, as you may know, he has purchased the marketing of the series so is in effect, the Trans-Am boss. If he were a NASCAR type of boss, one would expect he would never have to trouble himself with things like passing technical inspection. But, it seems he doesn’t run things that way. I know this because, even though he qualifies well, Paul has to start tomorrow’s race from the back of the pack. The reason being, his car fails technical inspection. So, I don’t think he’s NASCAR material, and in the words of Martha Stewart, that is a good thing.

The very tired Deep Throttle contingent leaves the track sans Larry Mason, who is working on his sponsorship for next year, and plans to meet for dinner. These plans also go awry, but that, as they say, is another story…Tomorrow, the race!

Copyright © 2003 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

 
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