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Long Beach Diary:
Day Three
A Town Without Pity

Long Beach, CA, April 9 ó There are days in the racing world when everything goes your way, when all is well, when things "flow." Sunday was not one of those days.

It started out this morning when I couldnít find my lucky racing socks. Jeff found them, mostly because he couldnít be late for his 7:30 AM photographerís meeting, not that showing up on time did him much good. There was no sign of Julie as morning warm ups started, which was also not a good sign. I get a call from our Jules with the news that she is ill and will not be coming to the track today.

We did, however, have a nice breakfast at the Hyatt, where we run into Bronte Tagliani. Depressingly, she even looks great without makeup. Is there no God?

Long Beach on Sunday, April 9th, is truly a town without pity. If you need more evidence of this, consider the beginning of the Champ Car race. On the first corner of the first lap, four championship contenders are eliminated from race contention in one fell swoop. And, this serves to show us how utterly boring a race without Paul Tracy can be for Champ Car. We are talking snorefest. But, wait, it gets betteróor maybe itís worseódepending on how you see it.

The real problem with that pitiless first turn accident is that it laid bare the exceeding thinness of the field. It wasnít just that only 18 cars started the race, itís that only a handful of these stand any chance of winning a race. And, there were several top finishers who only barely have rides or who will likely have them a very short time. Now, this excludes the reigning champion who won and the second place finisher who won the 2005 finale. Both of these drivers, Bourdais and Wilson, are running sponsored cars for top rated teams.

But, running down the field, the third place finisher, Tagliani, was only announced this week and did not even make the race program. The fourth place finisher, Dominguez, is a ride buyer, although a very talented one at that. Cristiano da Matta may or may not be a ride buyer, but he was added one week ago by Dale Coyne and yet finished fifth. Sixth place finisher Ranger reportedly only has enough sponsorship to run the Canadian races after The Beach. In seventh, Heylan, a Belgian ride buyer, was announced on Thursday and ended up being the top finisher among the rookies.

Itís not a pretty picture and itís not going to get any more attractive soon. Under Champ Car as it is now organized, all of this is rather beside the point. Racing is reduced to being "The Show." The drivers and competition itself seem to be mere window dressing at these urban festivals that are more about selling products and rabid partying than racing cars. This is brave new Champ Car, and apparently, it works. At least, thatís what they tell us.

But, to me, Long Beach seems like itís still a town without pity, with apologies to the late Gene Pitney.

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

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