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Long Beach Diary:
Day One
The Last Hurrah

Long Beach, Calif., April 18 — In Edwin O’Connor’s great American novel,The Last Hurrah, the hero dies soon after realizing the world no longer has a place for him.

This weekend in Long Beach witnesses the 25th and final appearance of the Champ Car World Series, and we also realize that the racing world no longer has a place for it. So, the next three days will be the Last Hurrah of Champ Car, a racing formula that was much beloved by fans and sportswriters alike, but ultimately not loved enough by the three men who purchased CART’s assets after its 2003 bankruptcy to keep pouring their millions into keeping it running long term.

Yes, there’s plenty of gloom and doom here at the Beach, but there is also the joy of seeing friends again, and the promise of some awesome racing. Many of the problems plaguing this event are also mercifully gone. Let’s talk about car count for a moment, shall we? During most of this decade, counts for the Champ Car race have been embarrassingly slim. But, in 2008, 20 cars are expected to start, and there is a unique situation with a race in Japan being run on the same weekend with points to be counted from both races towards the same championship. (Honda caused this situation by refusing to change its race date. With this weekend’s qualifying cancelled and the scheduled start of the race being delayed due to weather, we have concluded that God hates Honda.)

Large crowds are returning, and the addition of the ALMS as the primary Saturday race has made the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach more successful than ever. Yet, in spite of this, there are still a lot of sad faces in the paddock and in the Media Center.

In this Last Hurrah, there are three primary groups: those who look like fricking geniuses, those who are staying alive, and unification roadkill. Unfortunately, Jeff Davidson and I are in the last group. In spite of providing many years of coverage through this website, this will be the last race we cover for Deep Throttle. Our publisher (and the site’s owner) has decided to not credential us or anyone else for IndyCar events.

As Paul Tracy said today referring to his team owner Gerald Forsythe’s decision to not run in the unified series, “it’s his right to choose not to participate.” Well, at least we are in good company, us, PT, and many others. Here’s how I would break those groups down (and please feel free to play your own home edition of our game):

Team Owners:

Fricking Geniuses: Penske, Michael Andretti, and NHL.
Staying Alive: Dale Coyne, Jimmy Vasser, and Keith Wiggins.
Unification Roadkill: Derrick Walker and all the little guys in IndyCar.

Drivers:

Geniuses: Rahal, Kanaan, and Wilson.
Alive: Power, Junqueira, and Servia.
Roadkill: Tracy, Tagliani, and Danica Patrick.

Purchases by Kalkhoven and Forsythe:

Geniuses: Long Beach Grand Prix.
Staying Alive: Cosworth and Atlantic.
Roadkill: Trans-Am and Champ Car

Racing Series:

Geniuses: American LeMans Series.
Staying Alive: IndyCar Series.
Unification Roadkill: Champ Car and maybe NASCAR (look what Toyota did for CART).

Prophets:

Genius: Michael Andretti, who predicted that the OWRS acquisition of CART would simply delay unification.
Alive: Mark Cipolloni, who said CART would rise from the ashes of bankruptcy.
Roadkill: All of us who thought the OWRS guys were in it for the long haul.

Employees:

Geniuses: Tony Cotman and Erick Mauk, both who defected from the CCWS prior to the implosion.
Alive: Everyone working for teams that are “transitioning.”
Roadkill: Too many to mention, including the CCWS Safety Team, Billy Kamphausen, and many others who were reportedly assured by Kalkhoven in November 2007 that all was well with Champ Car.

Organizations:

Geniuses: CARA Charities, who never bought into the split.
Alive: Racing venues such as the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach.
Roadkill: The Champ Car Inner Circle and Crapwagons style racing forums.

We’re looking forward to a great Saturday – it’s going to be a very long day, and now I think I’m getting a cold. As my mother always says, there’s no rest for the wicked.

Copyright © 2008 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

 
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