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Portland Diary:
Day Two
Stupid Is as Stupid Does (Part One)

Portland, Oregon, June 17 — The flyer at the artist’s stand said, “Your Race Track Is Under Attack”. Was it Al Qaeda? I had no idea that the terrorists had any particular grudge against auto racing. No, as it turns out, Portland International Raceway is under attack both here in Portland and from without as Champ Car may or may not race at PIR in 2007.

It’s a sad state of affairs as both race and racers find themselves under pressure as Saturday’s racing comes to a close. There’s the usual pressure for the drivers to perform, the equipment to endure as they drive, and all of this is in evidence as we walk through the paddock. There’s the pressure of “unification” talks which we are told will be the saving of open wheel racing.

And then there is the pressure on racing itself, the true savior of open wheel, the advent of “stupid money” in NASCAR. Yes, race fans, all Forsythe and Kalkhoven need to do, in addition to building their own series, is to wait until the stupid money wrecks the havoc in Nascup that it did at the turn of the millennium in CART. Yes, stupid is as stupid does.

Saturday was bright and sunny in the Rose City during qualifications for both Atlantics and Champ Car. First day fast Atlantics qualifier Simon Pagenaud was second today, and he reported balance problems with his car as did the other top qualifiers. At the post qualifying press conference, polesitter Graham Rahal explained that he has raced against both Matos and Sciuto in Star Mazda and karting, respectively.

Rahal showed remarkable poise and he set a new track lap record for the series today. Matos let us know that even though he lacked balance and rear grip that he will not be able to be conservative during Sunday’s race. Sunday’s race should prove to be exciting, as have been all the series’ contests this year. Of course, the press corps seems to be most interested in the young Rahal and how a Sunday win would be a terrific Father’s Day present for Bobby.

While the Atlantic racers are all under pressure to perform in order to move up into Champ Cars, the Champ Car drivers must all be wondering how secure their jobs are after last week’s game of musical chairs. The most exciting racing thus far for the weekend happens on the last lap of qualifying as Bruno Junqueira takes the pole from local favorite A.J. Allmendinger.

Bruno tells the assembled press that he used Bourdais’ set up to get that extra edge for his pole run. Junqueira is so well liked by everyone that the atmosphere at his press conference is light hearted, even jubilant. Bourdais, when asked how it was out there, replies that he was “.15 slow”, but he is happy for his teammate. Newly engaged, fired and hired second place qualifier A.J. is happy to be here and is quite the favorite for the Sunday race. The drivers are quite diplomatic as someone brings up the unusual Saturday afternoon warm up session, courtesy of Portland’s NIMBYs.

It is the NIMBYs (not in my backyard) instead of the terrorists from Al who are threatening Portland’s race from within. Well, at least the NIMBYs won’t cut off anyone’s head—at least I hope not. But, they do want PIR to move, which I think would be a bad move. Portland makes a great destination race. It’s easy to fly into and hotels close to the track are only 10 minutes from their international airport. There are plenty of good restaurants—as we found last night when dining at Shenanigan’s, and noticed the gentleman two tables over was none other than one P. L. Newman.

Portland has many opportunities for day trips, including excursions to Mt. St. Helens and the Columbia River Gorge. All in all, we think that having this road race on Champ Car’s schedule is a good thing for everyone—and we hope local organizers are able to stand up to the pressure of local NIMBYs and at the same time attract enough of a race day gate to keep Champ Car happy and coming back.

And now, it’s off to the races for Sunday!

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

 
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