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Long Beach Diary:
Day Three
Last Tango with Champ Car

Long Beach, Calif., April 20 — Well, we’ve had a good run.

Champ Car came to Long Beach in 1984 in the wake of F1’s rising sanctioning fees. For less money and with name drivers who were known to its customers, Champ Car was an outstanding replacement for the tonier F1 set at Long Beach. If NASCAR is beer and F1 Moet et Chandon, then Champ Car or CART was an excellent California Chardonnay. In 25 years, they delivered an outstanding value to the Long Beach Grand Prix.

So, today marks the end of that era. The series itself has been in a process of implosion for over a decade. It’s too easy now to find individuals or organizations to blame for this, so we won’t. Suffice to say that greed, that most stellar character flaw, may have played a part. So it was refreshing to see such an absence of that trait in bringing the series to an emotional end.

What I saw today were men and women working together to put on this feature race. The IndyCar Series was nominally here, providing not only funding and other help, most visibly, television and radio coverage. As far as the race itself, there were precious few people to do the many behind the scenes jobs that need doing. So, those who were here did the job of many people. And, in spite of certain exhaustion, they pulled it off and did a fabulous job.

Writers, me included, have a tendency to focus on the “big people.” In fact, Kevin Kalkhoven met with the media after the last press conference, and he seemed to be very subdued and sad. Not enough has been written about the contributions of the rank and file individuals who lost their jobs in the Champ Car bankruptcy, the journalists who have been left wondering what comes next, and the people who work in jobs affiliated with Champ Car. From myself and my colleagues at Deep Throttle, I say, thank you so very much for giving us the opportunity to work with you; it has been a pleasure. To all of us, I say, there will be better days ahead. There better be!

The Sunday crowd was typically large, enthusiastic, and in some areas, drunk. In Long Beach, we are fortunate indeed to have so many people who love to “party hardy” and for whom the racing is almost beside the point. These are the people who open their wallets and whose spending makes enough profit for everyone that they pay for the racing. For those of us who are there for the cars, the racing itself was pretty awesome.

The Atlantic race came off without a hitch. When it looked like Bomarito was going to literally run away with the race, he had gear box problems that spoiled a near perfect weekend for his new team. But, in a near perfect storybook ending, second year driver Simona De Silvestro took the win. All she had to do was work hard enough to start second to score her first Atlantic victory the same weekend as Danica Patrick won her first race at Twin Ring Motegi.

The main excitement in the Champ Car race was Will Power going from fourth to first in Long Beach’s first standing start since the F1 days. Power held onto the lead for nearly every lap except for a couple of them for pit stops. The rest of the podium proved to be a surprise.

We were sorry that we won’t be seeing more this year from second place finishing Franck Montagny. Gerald Forsythe does not want to continue to subsidize a race team, so this may be his only open wheel appearance this year, but we hope not. Pacific Coast Motorsports, who enthusiastically jumped into the DP01 pool by buying 4 of the cars, scored a podium with Mario Dominguez. Our hats are off to our friend Tyler Tadevic, who reportedly bought the team from Tom Figge. Great job, man, and hope you can pull an IndyCar team together as we hear you’re trying to do.

As we were packing our gear and saying goodbye or see you later to our friends in the Media Center, Brandon Davis won the SpeedTV World Challenge race. Ticket buyers this year definitely got their money’s worth. The Grand Prix Association worked very hard to put on a great event, with the only sour note hit by music fans that chose to riot on Saturday night.

And, Jeff and I need to bid all of you, our friends and readers, a goodbye and see you again soon we hope. We were two kids who hung on to the fences as we watched the cars go by at every race we could get our parents to take us to. Jeff’s Dad, Jim, was a club racer who knows and raced with guys like Phil Hill. Lisa’s grandfather, George Lovejoy, was part of the world of Indy in the 1920s and 30s. As we grew up, we never lost our enthusiasm for the sport. We are, and will always be, racers.

We owe a huge thank you to our readers who have read my work and viewed Jeff’s photos. Thank you to our colleagues here at the website: Ed Donath, Roy Todd, Michele Saunders, Julie Andre, and Angelo Lisuzzo. It’s been a great run and we’re lucky to have you as friends. And to our Editor, Russell Jaslow, life will not be the same without you to argue with and solve the world’s problems with. If you decide to cover open wheel, give us a call. Thank you so much for the opportunity. [Editor's Note: we still plan on covering open wheel racing -- and sportscar racing, too -- just not the IRL.]

And so ends our last tango in Long Beach.

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

 
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