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Long Beach Diary:
Day Two
We Will Rock You!

Long Beach, CA, April 9 — Jeff and I listened to Queen as we drove down the 110 freeway to the Vincent Thomas Bridge and made our way to the race from the Harbor Area. I’ve always found it richly ironic that Queen’s most famous anthems – We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You – are songs written and performed by gay men and then used as sports anthems in front of rabidly straight crowds. Maybe it’s a red state/blue state deal, but the latter song did seem to be very applicable for this second day of the Long Beach Grand Prix.

This morning was rather a luxury for us, in that we did not have a very early mandatory photographers’ meeting to attend. I was able to take a good look at the practice speeds on both days and make some observations. As we predicted, Timo Glock appears to be the strongest of the rookies at the moment. Julie Andre and I did some handicapping of our own. I’ve seen Justin Wilson come on very strong into the fast group, while Julie thinks that Sebastien Bourdais is the driver to beat in Sunday’s race.

While we are leaving the pits after morning practice, we stop to talk to Vivian Tracy, the charming and outspoken mother of Paul. She tells me she’s busy when I tell her I have a question for her, but she is gracious enough to answer it with no delay. It’s easy to see where PT gets his take no prisoners attitude, and we hope to see her later.

Conversations about whether or not next year’s race will be an IRL one continue. We hear rumors that a Toyota team will be defecting over to Champ Car and that there have been no talks between Dover Downs and Champ Car about a contract extension. This seems strange, because the fans at Long Beach, whether they are casual fans or gearheads, are solidly behind Champ Car.

Julie and I are grabbing driver interviews wherever we can. Questions sent in by visitors to our website, plus a set of questions she will ask as many drivers as she can. In case you are wondering, Julie makes sure to ask the questions our readers send to her. It is much easier for us to do this at oval tracks, as the drivers are more "captive" after qualifying. At "The Beach" it’s a matter of spotting drivers in the pits, the paddock, or just walking around. But, it’s not 100%, in case anyone wonders why all the drivers are not quoted on the questions.

Lunch is the traditional Saturday pizza in the Media Center as we watch the Pro-Celebrity race. The fastest qualifier does not win the race, but it is entertaining enough to watch on the many monitors in the MC.

The Pro-Celebrity Race is somewhat interesting. Yesterday’s top qualifier, actor Ingo Rademacher, overcooks the corner at turn one and suddenly it’s anybody’s race. Drifting specialist Rhys Millen takes the win for the pros while Malcolm in the Middle’s Frankie Muniz, who we saw at last week’s Kid’s Choice Awards, was the top celebrity finisher. Then, it’s on to real racing.

We hear of a controversy with the Atlantic qualifying, and ultimately, the fastest qualifier is disqualified, while Katherine Legge does not qualify well due to an accident. When it comes to Champ Car qualifying, we are treated to an electrifying session, during which several drivers, including Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais, take the provisional pole for a time. Most spectacularly, Paul Tracy sets a new track record—one that had held up for 5 years—and of course the pole for tomorrow’s race.

At the top three press conference, we are fortunate to sit in front of Paul’s mom, and we have a wonderful time kidding around with her as we wait for the drivers and the rest of the press to arrive.

I notice that Paul’s girlfriend is there, sitting close to the back of the room, and recall that this is the same girlfriend as I saw last year. I figure, good for them. Then, Paul mentions at the conference that he got married last weekend to his girlfriend, Patty. And so I say, on behalf of, congratulations to the Tracys. We hope they have a long and happy life together. And a giant raspberry goes to the reporter who said to PT, you got married—again, as if that were a bad thing.

So much of today was about the fans. It became obvious while there is a great diversity among the fans at Long Beach, they are almost entirely behind Champ Car. This is true whether they are casual fans or major gearheads. It would be a shame if the fans’ preference is disregarded when it comes to keeping the race on the Champ Car schedule. Trouble is, most fans don’t have either the ego or the funds that Tony George does. Our preferences meant nothing when it came to preserving the Indy 500, so we can only hope for the sake of race fans, that this will not happen to the Long Beach Grand Prix.

Time to get some rest for tomorrow—race day is always a long day!

Copyright © 2005 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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