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Las Vegas Diary:
Day One
Get Your Number

Las Vegas, Nevada, April 6 ó So, it turns out that 17 is the new 18. Who knew?

At the 2006 unveiling of the DP01 in San Jose, Bob Gelles placed the first order for the new Champ Car. I heard predictions there would be 24 cars on the grid in 2007 at that time. How the numbers can change in just a matter of months.

Bob Gelles is a no show as both an Atlantic and Champ Car owner Ė his Atlantic deals fell apart only days ago, and we havenít heard a peep about a Gelles Champ Car team since San Jose. Wonder what happened to that order he placed back in July?

Another Champ Car website claimed less than a week ago that there would be 18 or more cars on the grid in Sin City and that anyone who said otherwise was trying to undermine the sport.

Letís take a look at those numbers, shall we? Starting grids in the twenties have been the norm for much of the last few decades, with the number gradually shrinking to that magic number of 18 at the start of the 2003 season. Eighteen became the magic number because Champ Carís contract with then owner Dover Downs required the series to grid that many cars at Long Beach or face default. It was a nearly epic struggle for the new ownership to forestall the deliberate efforts of Honda to derail the series by luring drivers and equipment away to the IRL. So, four years ago, we accepted 18 as the new 25 or so. Fair enough.

And, by hook or by crook, the series managed to field between 16 to 18 cars in 2006. Some of these numbers make sense. For instance, RuSport chose not to run its 10 car after Cristiano DaMattaís life threatening crash last year. Also, the series was literally running out of equipment running its aging fleet of Lolas. The new car was supposed to change all that. And, it did: after Spring Training last month, there were only 10 cars announced.

Now that we have arrived at the opening race of the season, there are only 17 cars on the grid, so 17 has become the new 18. Are we now accepting 17 cars constitutes a full field? The jury is still out on that one, but it appears we are in an era of the ever shrinking car count.

In terms of percentages of cars who can win a race, the situation remains much the same. Back when there were 28 starters, perhaps half, or 14, were capable of winning with the equipment available. With our 17 car field, can we say 8 cars are capable of winning races? Well, Newman Haas (now NHL) fields two drivers who can win, Bourdais and Rahal. Thatís two. Over at Minardi Team USA, we can say that Dan Clarke has demonstrated the ability to win Champ Car races; thatís three. Both RSports (or RuSprockets, as Jeff likes to call them) drivers have won races, Tagliani and Wilson, so that makes five. Previous Champ Car race winners Paul Tracy and Mario Dominguez from Forsythe can win again Ė as could Bruno Junqueira, although a win for Dale Coyne Racing would be something of a stretch. But, those three drivers bring us to our magic number of 8 race car drivers. Somehow, this game of get your number now seems to be a strained. In all fairness, most of this small field is actually capable of winning, and that is a big improvement, no matter how you count it.

Another big number this weekend is 5. Thatís the number of Deep Throttle staff members present to cover the race. We generally are split into East Coast and West Coast contingents, but for this race and for next weekís Beach Party at Long Beach, all five of us are here. Many of us have never met in person before, so itís one of those cyber phenomenons Ė we all know each other but are unused to seeing each other in person. Russell and Angelo flew out from Rochester, N.Y. yesterday, while Jeff, Julie and I drove the very slow I-15 Thursday afternoon. This Friday, we are all a little bleary eyed

Copyright © 2007 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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