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Spring Training Diary:
Day One
This Is Why I’m Not Hot

Seaside, Calif., March 9 — It’s been way too long since I’ve been seen a Champ Car and that’s a good enough reason for us to leave LA on Thursday afternoon to begin our way up the California coast to cover Spring Training at Laguna Seca. The drive up the coast, by the way, is a wonderful trip for any car person. We stay in Paso Robles, which is close to Hearst Castle, that night before making our way to Seaside on Monterey Bay Friday morning. Fortunately, this town lives up to its name as it is actually located by the side of an actual sea. Would that everything this weekend could live up to its billing.

But, back to our topic, hotness, or the lack thereof. My brother Dave does a comedy routine about his sister (guess who?) who is the whitest person on the planet, and certainly not hot. It seems that Champ Car is suffering from the same problem. The series continues to attract European drivers with sponsorship money, thus reducing the North American driving contingent considerably. What are we becoming, Formula One Lite?

Champ Car is certainly not hot at the moment for a variety of reasons and here they are. What’s hot and what’s not at Spring Training:

Hot: The weather at Laguna Seca, warm and sunny.

Not Hot: The overall relations between Champ Car and its ever dwindling press corps, partially due to the recent firing of Robin Miller. There aren’t many of the media here to begin with, and the photographers outnumber writers, big time.

Hot: Paul Tracy, who posted the fastest time on Friday, and posed with fans in the paddock with good humor. Keep that up Paul, and you could lose your bad boy rep.

Not Hot: PKV, who hired a driver no one, including co-owner Jimmy Vasser had ever heard of. This left veteran drivers such as his friend, Oriel Servia high and dry. The team wouldn’t let a photographer take photos of the new car’s parts, cementing their rep as the least press friendly of all Champ Car teams.

Hot: Team Australia’s cool new paint job on the new cars. Now we just need a better way to tell the 5 from the 15 car. Will and Simon explained to Jeff at breakfast that the roll hoops on their cars are different colors. Stay tuned.

Not Hot: Team Australia’s wine being named the Official Wine of Champ Car. Who gets to be the Official Cheese of Champ Car? Velveeta?

Hot: Promoting Jon Beekhis to the broadcast booth for this year, someone who actually knows his way around a race car. Keeping Rick Benjamin and Cameron Steele. Hiring Mazda to pay for the broadcasts … err … become “The Official Vehicle of Champ Car.”

Not Hot: Replacing the Ford emblems on the grills of the Ford Safety trucks with the Champ Car World Series emblem.

Hot: The new car, the DP01, which looks wicked fast on the track.

Not Hot: The lack of any paint at all on most of the cars, making it really tough to figure out which black car just blew that practice standing start.

Hot: Champ Cars at Laguna Seca again, still one of the best road courses ever.

Not Hot: No race at Laguna Seca on the schedule this year.

Hot: Opening the season at Las Vegas, a town that loves risk takers.

Not Hot: Expecting anyone to take seriously any Asian races on the schedule. Give it a rest. They’re not going to happen. At least not now.

Hot: Bronte Tagliani, who will still be hot when she’s a grandmother.

Not Hot: Returning her husband, Alex, to Rocketsports, where he was never a happy camper.

Hot: Graham Rahal’s debut at Newman Haas Lanigan Racing. We all want to be Graham Rahal, even me, although my husband objects.

Not Hot: Making veteran drivers such as Mario Dominguez, Oriol Servia, and Nelson Philippe look for rides after they have already proven their worth and won races. A series that doesn’t treat its talent well is destined to not keep it, says me.

Hot: Atlantics. Under the radar, this series continues to attract talented young racers from throughout the world and delivers great contests. Their cars have actual paint jobs, and it sure looks like fun out there.

Not Hot: Thursday’s alleged media blitz which was on the radar and did not deliver. No major sponsors, few driver announcements – nothing that was so exciting that it needed to be “held” for this event. And why in the world could they not have announced Graham and Katherine, the two drivers likely to generate the most press? You gotta wonder.

We’re off to dinner as the sun sets over the Pacific. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it…

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

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