Leaving Them Breathless
Cleveland, Ohio, June 23, 2006 — Most reporters will think about their storylines as events unfold during a day, developing the column in their head, but sometimes, just when they are ready to put those words down on paper, along comes a event that forces a reporter to throw out all his plans and notes, and start anew. Just such a story occurred at the end of the day in the most unlikeliest event on the first day of the Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by U.S. Bank.
Stealing The Show. The Miss Grand Prix of Cleveland contest, unlike last year, was held at the track on the pit road stage after the day's on track action. It was going along it's usual path. The contestants came out in their eveningwear followed by the swimsuit contest. Then, the current Miss Grand Prix of Cleveland, Sarah Marie Blanton came on stage to present the new winner with the trophy and sash.
Before the winners were announced, however, her boyfriend, Joe Dreslinski, came on stage to present her with flowers as a gift for her reign. Then, he shocked her by getting down on his knees, taking out a ring, and proposing to her.
"I started planning it at the Houston race," Joe said. "Last week, she wanted me to come out on stage. That was a perfect time to do it. The roses were a decoy, so the opportunity was there.
"She was surprised."
Oh, Sarah said yes.
There wasn't a dry eye in the crowd.
Changes Amongst A Steady Event. Cleveland is the longest continuously running temporary circuit for Champ Car. Some of you may have just shouted out, "What about Long Beach?"
Long Beach as a racing venue has been around longer, but not as a Champ Car event. This is the 25th running of the Grand Prix of Cleveland, while Champ Car has been at Long Beach for 23 years. During all those years, the track changed just once, an extreme rarity for temporary circuits, even one on an airport. The circuit started out in 1982 at 2.48-miles in length, then was reduced to the current 2.106-mile length in 1990.
Once in a while, they threw some cones up heading into the first turn, but that never worked in trying to avoid the customary first lap pileup. Though, that's not stopping them from trying it again this year, but this time the cones will be up all weekend, and not just on the first lap. Plus, they have braking markers on the inside now, and not just on driver's left.
This year, there is a significant change, the first since 1990, but this one affects the spectators a lot more than the drivers. The pit stalls have been swapped in pit lane, so they are now facing the grandstands. This will allow the fans to have an unobstructed view of the pit stops, an excellent idea. Plus, the stands are moved even closer to pit road, so close that the teams will easily hear the crowd's cheers, boos, and comments. The only problem is the grandstands are not high enough, so the first few rows will not be able to see the track very well as the pit stalls will block their view.
Sperafico Returns, The Sequel. Just when you thought it was safe to enter a Champ Car paddock, along comes a Sperafico. Alex Sperafico, to be exact. Now, before you run for the hills, he is not driving in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series powered by Ford. He is instead running in the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda. We kid you not.
Alex actually made his Atlantic debut last week in Portland where he started 22nd and finished 21st. This weekend, he will again start in the 22nd spot out of 24 entries. Gee, a Sperafico near the back of the pack. Some things never change no matter what the series.
As for the top of the grid, Andreas Wirth won the pole by sitting in his car. He had the best time of the qualifying session when a red flag caused everyone to come to the pits. Furious action ensued as each team prepared their cars for a final dash to the pole. However, cleanup efforts took longer than expected, and officials were forced to cancel the remaining time. Thus, Wirth won the pole by sitting in pitlane.
It just so happened that I was in the Wirth pit when this happened. It also just so happened that I was near the Sebastien Bourdais pit when the Frenchman grabbed the Champ Car provisional pole on the last lap of qualifying. For those who wish to have me in their pits for Saturday's qualifying efforts, I am open to any reasonable offer...
Copyright © 2006 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.