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San Jose Diary:
Day One
Summer In The City

San Jose, Calif., July 28 — Californians have been baking in a possibly global warming induced oven for weeks now. Tempers are short, and in many stores, you can’t even buy a fan. There have been not a small number of heat related deaths. Relief arrives more quickly than expected as temperatures more abruptly cool. So, it’s a perfect time to stage that quintessential summer ritual – a 3 Day Champ Car racing festival. Here in downtown San Jose, which is a perfect street race city ala Long Beach, there’s plenty of sunscreen, women with massive breast implants, and restaurants positively crammed with revelers, some of whom may actually watch the racing. This is the second year of the San Jose Grand Prix and the word for the first day is "improvement."

Last year’s event was very successful in terms of draw, with some of the biggest crowds in motor racing attending the inaugural event. But, there were problems, specifically, not enough bridges and foot crossings and a surface bumpier than my neighbor’s teenager’s face. We have shots of airborne cars, and they weren’t pretty pictures. San Jose and the Grand Prix organizers promised it would be better this year, and it is. We had zero problems getting across the track on Friday. Moving the pits right next to the convention center made some crossings unnecessary for the media and improved the fan’s view of the track, for those who care to watch racing. We give those improvements at the track an A+.

Does anyone out there remember years ago when Paul Tracy called then CART Steward Chris Kniefel a "clown?" Obviously, I do, but on Friday at the top three press conference, PT praised Kniefel for spearheading the improvements on the track itself. He pronounced it "200% better" and indeed, every driver we talked to said the racetrack is as smooth as they could expect a street course to be. Good job to everyone at Champ Car and the San Jose Grand Prix.

The Atlantic series continues to be one of the best and most highly competitive series in the world under this first year with the new engine and chassis. On Friday, Americans dominated every practice and qualifying session. At the top of the time sheets was the ever so poised Graham Rahal, whose father Bobby came under fire from his lame duck driver, Danica Patrick, who has yet to win a race in oh so many years. It seems our Danica has her panties in a petulant bunch over Bobby’s deciding to support his son Graham’s racing as more important than going IRL racing with her.

We have never been shy about criticizing the elder Mr. Rahal, but we at Deep Throttle give a big thumbs up to Bobby and all the other parents who support their offspring’s racing aspirations by attending as many events as possible. We also noticed Paul Tracy’s mom and Katherine Legge’s father as we walked through the pits yesterday, and say to them, good job.

Joining Graham Rahal at the top three for Atlantics were local racing heroes Jonathan Bomarito and Alan Scuito. The latter continued to praise improvements at the tracks. It was certainly refreshing to see three American drivers at the conference, but it should also be noted that Alex Barron ran strong all day, too. Over on the Champ Car side, an American, A. J. Allmendinger, had the fastest lap but did not take the provisional pole because a spin of his brought out a red flag. Nonetheless, it was Tracy, Bourdais, and Dinger fielding questions at the Champ Car top three press conference.

The mature Tracy, who we speculate is actually a space alien because his genuine graciousness is such a departure from his former bad boy persona, is a true champion. He can handle his failures with as much if not more grace than his wins, unlike Sebastien Bourdais, who was very disappointed with himself for not taking the provisional pole from Tracy. We say good job to Bourdais for not whining and not blaming anyone other than himself. But, let’s have a reality check here. His time was thousandths of a second off from Dinger’s and Tracy’s times, not a second, tenths, or hundredths, but less time than it takes to brush the hair off your face different. I would think he could be at least a little happy with that. But nooo….

Our summer evening in the City of San Jose was spent at their spectacular City Hall for the unveiling of the 2007 Panoz DP-01. As parties go, this one had a lot going for it. Jeff made sure to take plenty of pictures of all the eye candy there for your viewing pleasure. There were beauty contestants, models, fire eaters, and a motorcycle driving opera singer – and ordinary women in their party wear. Dinger’s fiancée Lynn spent time with Justin Wilson’s girlfriend, both women looking lovely as their guys took part in the public part of the festivities. The crowd was large that observed the car’s unveiling, but in my estimation, maybe 10% of the crowd really grasped what the new car was all about.

As the masses headed for the exits, Alex Sperafico and I made our way closer to the revolving stage that held the new car. Alex, who was a bit ambivalent about me because this site has not been kind to him, told me that he hopes to return to Champ Car next year in the new car. A few of the press and most of the drivers present continued to ogle the Panoz and take turns getting into the seat. The webcast probably featured some of the sound glitches that marred the event ever so slightly, but I hope it showed how beautiful this new car truly is.

As Jeff and I spend the rest of the evening on his photos, as they have been promised to Russell immediately, we plan our coverage for the rest of the weekend. We’ll see how I do covering for Julie, whose family responsibilities caused her to have to cancel her attendance here. I must admit, I miss Jules and hope she’s with us in Denver. It is our friends, in the end, and our families, who make our summers so special. As I walked through this city’s streets last night, I recall talking with Champ Car’s Billy Kamphausen with a couple of civic leaders from this city. We encouraged them to get all their friends together and work for the betterment of this event. We think they’ll do a good job. Until then, I’m off to the races.

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

 
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