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Denver Diary:
Day Two
The Beat Goes On

Denver, Colo., August 12 — One of my philosophies of life is that so many problems can be remedied by checking into a four star hotel. In fact, I define a "real problem" as something that cannot be fixed by staying at one. Think about it. At any rate, Jeff and I are in the middle of such a resolution by virtue of staying at the oldest, and arguably the finest, hotel in Denver, the Brown Palace. So, Saturday, we woke up to a room service breakfast with china, linens, crystal, and silver. We slept in a comfortable bed with no large cats walking over us to remind us it’s time to feed them. Yes, this is the paradise part of race weekend. It comes abruptly to an end just like that commercial where Fabio turns right into a geezer in front of your eyes. It’s called the mandatory photo meeting.

All those terrific shots Jeff Davidson gets race after race are made possible in part by his attendance at crack of dawn photo meetings. Our arrival at Saturday’s 7:30 AM photo meeting was improved by running into LAT photographers Lee and Brad who offer us a ride in their golf cart from the press parking lot to Pepsi Center. We hold on for dear life, as yesterday, both Carl Haas and Greg Allmendinger were injured in golf cart accidents. A.J.’s father is still in the hospital as a result, while Carl didn’t even drop his cigar. The thing is, after so many years of attending these meetings, we can almost recite chapter and verse what they are going to say—by now it’s a familiar refrain.

On the track, it’s a case of grip improvement due to the practice and qualifying on Friday. This markedly increases speeds. For example, while Graham Rahal set a new track record Friday, the top 12 qualifiers in Atlantics beat that speed today as Rahal set yet another track record. He will start from the pole alongside Simon Pagenaud. The Frenchman continues to lead the championship, although most people talk as though Rahal has already won the title. In third place is Alan Scuito, who is my choice to win Sunday’s standing start race. The reason is, for all his speed, Rahal has had mixed results with standing starts. And, there’s the matter of getting through that treacherous first corner at Denver, although Pagenaud seems most vulnerable to being crashed out, providing he has a good start. Still, Rahal will have to win and Pagenaud have a horrible race for anything to change in a big way in the championship.

Over in Champ Car land, everyone is sporting "Kiki" decals, and there’s even one on my laptop computer. These are in support of Cristiano Da Matta, who will most likely be out for the rest of the season. While most everyone feels badly for "Kiki," racing is no different than the rest of the world which has to keep moving in spite of tragedy. And so, speculation is rampant about who will be racing in da Matta’s RuSPORT seat in Montreal. The Champ Car press corps clearly favors American Ryan Hunter-Reay, a sentiment sure to be echoed by my editor, if only to ensure the return of Becca Gordon to the paddock.

Since RHR is not a funded driver, the only thing likely to upset this possibility would be a reasonably talented funded driver or a free extremely talented driver. The wild card in all of this might be Dario Franchitti, who has been languishing in IRL land for several years and is not going to be treated like the star he is on a team that will next year include Michael’s son and Princess Danica. If RuSPORT hires a one off driver for Montreal, Franchitti would be an excellent choice to replace Cristiano, if Champ Car wants to bring back a popular veteran driver with a movie star wife. And, knowing Dario, he would probably donate a major organ if he could become a road racer again. If the replacement is announced soon, expect Hunter-Reay. If RuSport stays cagey, expect someone like a Franchitti. Stay tuned.

Saturday’s Champ Car qualifying lacked drama or suspense, but nonetheless found the Fred Astaire of Champ Car—because he always make it look effortless—Sebastien Bourdais, taking the pole from local favorite A.J Allmendinger. Dinger, however, remains a racy second place and will start from the front row in tomorrow’s race. Rounding out the top five will be Justin Wilson in third, Paul Tracy in fourth, and Alex Tagliani in fifth. On the way to dinner at the Brazilian steak house Rodizio, Jeff, our photographer friend, Kurt, and Julie and I all choose our favorites for the race.

All of us think we’ll see Andrew Ranger on the podium. All of us think if Bourdais can make it through the first corner and avoid contact with PT, he will surely win the race. Sebastien is in fantastic form this weekend and in excellent spirits. I think we’ll see another Dinger win if Bourdais cannot avoid trouble, while others in our party think Justin Wilson will take another win here in the mile high city. Our dark horse candidates are predictably diverse. Expect to see, if not a win, a very strong run by Alex Tagliani. Jeff thinks that Nelson Philippe will be much stronger in the race than he has shown in practice and qualifying.

We do notice that the rookies have not qualified well here, uniformly across the board. This tells us that at least in terms of qualifying, experience matters at this track as it did in Toronto. As we end our day here in Denver, and return to the comfort of the Brown Palace, Jeff is busy with sorting his photos and loving the difference his new lens makes. And, of course, we look forward to the racing tomorrow. And so it goes, the beat goes on.

Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

 
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