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Portland Diary:
Day One
If It’s Tuesday (Make That Friday), This Must Be Portland

Portland, Oregon, June 8 — Cost of flying to Portland: a couple hundred bucks each. Major hassles encountered while getting here: 3. How it is to be back on tour with Champ Car: very cool.

Yes, race fans, Jeff and I actually made it here to Portland in spite of yours truly being targeted by Homeland Security for an “additional security check.” And here I always thought that only my husband was allowed to do those. It seems our civil liberties are completely trashed at the moment. For us, we lost our privacy rights due to the Patriot Act and then had to wake up at 4:15 AM to make a 6:45 flight all in the name of waging the “War on Terror”.

I hope everyone slept better last night by having a middle aged businesswoman, wife, and mother of two strip searched – or the electronic equivalent thereof. But, the day improved. Our flight was pleasant as two hour trips go, our rental car is decent, and we were on our way to the track within 45 minutes of landing. Better still. Kind of like the little improvements I’ve noticed about Champ Car while walking around PIR – that’s Portland International Raceway.

It’s nothing big or dramatic or earthshaking, and I seriously doubt very many of our resident pundits have noticed it yet. It’s a bit like little blades of grass shooting up through the mud on a spring morning. Any number of things could kill off the new growth in moments, but hope, as always, springs eternal. So, here’s what I noticed as positive today about our favorite series:

  • Bourdais did not take provisional pole. He’s a terrific driver, but weekends where Sebastien completely dominates every session are Bo – ring!
  • Matos did not take Race One pole. He has won three consecutive races and of course is phenomenal. But, as with Bourdais weekends, a little variety at the front is a welcome thing in Atlantic, too.
  • Many more decals are appearing on the cars – even the Champ Cars. Yes, there are still “Grand Prix of ….” sponsorships, but it appears that associate sponsors are slowly reappearing in Champ Car.
  • The China race is still shown on all the transporters. If this means that race might still happens, that is...
  • A replacement for the departed Merrill Cain has been hired. A replacement for Steve Shunk has been hired, although we have our reservations as he appears to be a tennis guy rather than a car guy. And Sid Priddle, who was nowhere in evidence at Long Beach, is actually present here in Portland. So, at least there is a PR team in place for Champ Car.
  • The field for both Champ Car and Atlantic seems to have stabilized, with 17 cars in the “big league” series and 28 for the “ladder” series. Jan Heylen replaces Matt Halliday at Conquest Racing in the CCWS while Kevin Lacroix replaces Joe D’Agostino at Brooks Racing in the CCAC. And, in both cases, it appears that better drivers rather than just better money fueled these changes.
  • Pacific Coast Motorsports announced its junior team, reaching all the way down to a kid racing go karts. They are interested in growing open wheel racing for the younger drivers, which is a terrific commitment for a team in its first year in CCWS competition. PCM is aligning with US Racetronics and our friend Shane in their efforts to expand their program.

It is said that in Portland if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute, and it will change. Because air temperature has a big impact on lap times, more so than nearly any other course in the series, set ups should prove challenging for race teams this weekend. At the Atlantic’s top three press conference, Raphael Matos stresses his commitment to winning this year’s championship and its seven figure prize – he seems less focused on the two Atlantic races that will be run this weekend.

On the other hand, Justin Wilson seems to be concentrating on nothing but Portland as he speaks to the press at the Champ Car conference. Robert Doornbos, who qualified second, says he is glad to be back on a traditional race course, while Sebastien Bourdais is concerned about the planned standing start.

When I ask Justin Wilson how the long break in between races – it’s been almost 2 months since Houston – will impact the season for him. Wilson feels there will be very little impact, an opinion which is echoed by Bourdais (3rd place qualifier) and Doornbos (2nd). Justin is having challenges dealing with a new and scaled down team, while Sebastien is glad that Champ Car in not running anything in competition with the Indy 500.

At the end of the day, Jeff and I are off to dinner at Salty’s on the Columbia River with friends. The traveling circus that is Champ Car has come to town. And, because it’s Friday the 8th of June, it must be Portland!

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

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