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San Jose Diary:
Day Two
Wonderful World

San Jose, Calif., July 29 ó I didnít travel up to San Joseís Grand Prix weekend so I could buy $5 tubes of toothpaste or $2.71 packages of stale red licorice. But, it happens. You forget your toothpaste, and you get hungry staying up editing pictures in your hotel room. Or, you have to deal with a hormonally challenged micromanager at work. These are of course just petty irritations that happen in life and are not to be used to spoil oneís day. Or, at least thatís how I see it.

Saturday in San Jose was filled with new hope for the series, disappointments for some, while others were just trying to figure out this often crazy, but also wonderful world of open wheel racing. After weeks away from the immediacy of the series while Russell and Angelo handled things on the other side of the continent, Jeff Davidson and I have plunged right back into it, and itís got me to thinking.

When a driver does very well and then suddenly doesnít, it makes you wonder. Why, after many seasons of success, for example, is Bruno Junqueira suddenly not so fast? Heís had one pole so far, but heís really not been a contender for much of anything all year. Itís a shame, and we canít figure out why other than his 2005 accident at Indy. Will he even finish the season at Newman-Haas, or if so, will he be back next year?

Then thereís Justin Wilson. J. Wil won the race last week in Edmonton, but this week, he qualifies twelfth, while his teammate da Matta qualifies fourth? Is this Bizarro World? Or, could it be that Allmendingerís ouster from RuSport has rent the fabric of his former team? And, if there is a more joyless winner than Sebastien Bourdais, please show him to me.

During Fridayís qualifying, a toddler fan of his noted "ĎBastien is not happy." Maybe qualifying second on Friday made ĎBastien justifiably unhappy, but he didnít seem to be all that thrilled on Saturday after taking the pole, either. All in all, as Robin Miller stated recently, this series is "mired in mediocrity." Indeed, there are plenty of disappointments to go around. I, for example, am never ever going to volunteer to fill in for Julie again, because, while doing driver interviews isnít terribly hard, getting driver interviews is. I would sooner have root canals without anesthetic. Enough said?

Ah well, hope springs eternal. Champ Car has one beautiful new car for 2007 and hopes to add more teams. In this eleventh year of the open wheel racing split, both Champ Car and the IRL have low car counts in the high teens. If the new Panoz suddenly puts the CCWS count into the twenties, this will surely mean progress. But, will owners like Dale Coyne really be willing to spring for new cars at $300,000 a pop? The orders for the new car will tell a story to be sure. Most people now doubt an open wheel merger will happen any time soon. Tony George can continue to pump money into his Injury Racing League from his familyís many investments, so in spite of the fact that his series has no fans and mostly unsuccessful events Ė along with a non winning girl driver Ė he feels no need to eat crow and join with Champ Car. He has some sponsors, a television contract and an ever diminishing Indy 500.

On the other side of the ledger sits Champ Car under the direction of Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe (co-owner Paul Gentilozzi is rarely mentioned and presumably not in the middle of the picture) with a solid business plan of growing successful events, an emerging support series, and now the hope of more race teams with the brand new race car. Most emphatically, Champ Car has well heeled, passionately loyal fans. Yet, this series pays for its television time, has few sponsors, no manufacturer support, and could also benefit by a merger. But, I predict it wonít happen. Instead, if the Georges ever get tired of writing all those checks, perhaps they can revert back to USAC rules and allow anyone who can qualify to run at Indy. This will stop George from having to eat that nasty crow, while at the same time give Champ Car teams the chance to lure sponsors with something other than "we drive cars like they run at the Indy 500, except we donít run at the Indy 500." This would not be a merger or a reunification; instead, it would be a "reindyfication".

Yes, I fearlessly predict that it is more likely that Champ Car will "ReIndyfy" than it would merge with the IRL. So, keep watching for developments, such as Champ Car putting the Indianapolis 500 on its schedule.

In the meantime, Saturday qualifying continues to be nearly as exciting as race day itself. For Atlantics, Raphael Matos beats out Graham Rahal for the pole with local attraction Jonathan Bomarito close behind. Over in Champ Car, Bourdais runs the pole lap fairly early in the session, but of course we donít realize at the time. Paul Tracy will start second Sunday due to his Friday provisional pole, while teammate A. J. Allmendinger will start third. Dinger has not started outside the top 4 all season, and heís our favorite for the win on Sunday.

I think to myself, Champ Car is a wonderful world. Its politics can drive the most patient of men crazy. This season has had its share of high points and not a few disappointments. But, unlike those petty irritations that can make you want to scream, a good day in Champ Car can really make your day. Or even your week. Until next time, Iím off to the races Ė literally.

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

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