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Portland Diary:
Days One and Two
Greetings from the Land Of Comfort

Portland, OR, June 18 — Think minivan. Think families who attend races together with their kids who dream of becoming racers. Think macaroni and cheese—or a comfort food of your choice. Think elastic waist pants. That’s Portland, the cleanest and arguably the most comfortable city in the United States.

The Champ Car World Series is not really about comfort, but it definitely wants to appeal to those families who bring their children along with their dreams to the track. So this race weekend it’s a curious blend, kind of like Starbucks meets Dairy Queen. Country music meets heavy metal, if you catch my drift.

Speaking of drifting, I must confess I neither understand nor want to understand what drifting is all about. Their fans don’t look like racers to me. Since we are a sub species, I recognize my kind virtually on sight, no matter the age or gender. I trust that Champ Car knows what it’s doing with having cars on their tracks that look like the 405 on acid with fans who seem to have stepped out of a catalog.

This weekend’s race schedule also includes two Atlantic races—the series’ version of a do over. I’ll bet there’s more than one Champ Car driver who wishes he could have a do over on race day. One Atlantics race is Saturday, and one on Sunday. It should be interesting. Turns out, the two races have totally different qualifying sessions, which might make this whole thing slightly schizophrenic.

It will be interesting to see how the fabulously talented but not overhyped (as with another woman racer who shall remain nameless), Katherine Legge, does in both races. There’s also a Trans Am race on Saturday.

I have to mention that Portland is a spectacularly beautiful city and seems to be full of very polite people. This is a bit of an adjustment for us as we make our way from the airport to the track. They drive very slowly here, but if you want to change lanes ahead of someone, they actually let you in—all you have to do is signal. It’s a system that seems to work. I wonder if we could try it in LA? At any rate, because of flying in, we miss the morning practices but are here in time to catch qualifying on Friday afternoon.

Atlantics’ Katherine Legge qualifies about where she did in Long Beach, which is not in front and not in the back—7th for Saturday’s race. On pole is Andreas Wirth. “Just Al” Unser is 9th is his return to Atlantics from the Dark Side. Also impressive is Kyle Kelly, who qualifies third. On the Trans Am side, rookie Klaus Graf took the pole for the Rose City 100, this race weekend being part of Portland’s Rose Festival, while veteran Greg Pickett will start second.

Jeff and I have a very exciting entrance into the PIR facility. So thrilling, in fact, courtesy of race workers, that I dare not report it here. Suffice to say we think the changes in the Festival curves will make for very exciting racing. I am thinking that with the uncertain weather, the UK’s Justin Wilson will be at a distinct advantage over other drivers, such as his teammate, A.J. Allmendinger.

Champ Car qualifying bears my prediction out, as Wilson takes the provisional pole, and guaranteeing himself a front row starting position on Sunday. Also quick on Friday is Wilson’s teammate, Allmendinger, in second. The third place qualifier is something of a mystery, as Sebastien Bourdais is docked his quickest lap for apparently blocking a quick lap by Wilson while coming out of the pits. The third place qualifier turns out to be Paul Tracy, who arrives late, naturally, due to not knowing he needed to be at the top three press conference.

Friday night, it’s dinner with our cousin, historian Grant Menzies, who has made his home here for the past decade, and knows absolutely nothing about Champ Car. He takes us to a fun restaurant called The Corner Table and clues us in that the weather can change here by the moment.

Of course, we are early at the track on Saturday for a full day of racing and qualifying. Tonis Kasemets takes the pole for the Sunday race and wins the Saturday Atlantics race. Katherine doesn’t do well, and finishes 9th. Our friend Justin Sofio again wins the C2 class as he did in Long Beach. Klaus Graf wins the Trans Am race.

And, the only thing really exciting about the Champ Car qualifying session Saturday is that the power goes out all over the track right in the middle of it. When the dust clears and the lights come back on, Justin Wilson has retained the pole for Sunday’s race.

At dinner at Salty’s on the Columbia River, we note a party for AMR and Team Australia’s Derrick Walker is three tables away as we all dine on Portland’s terrific seafood.

After that, it’s off to bed, because, as you may know, Sunday is a really early day for us.

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

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