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Long Beach Diary:
Day Two
It's Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It)

Long Beach, Calif., April 17 — Kind of a mixed bag today…

There's Slow

There's slow and then there is Milka Duno slow. Watching this morning's practice sessions, the Venezuelan slow mover was a full 10 seconds slower than the rest of the field, and at times 10 seconds or more slower than P24 in a 25 car field. By anyone's standards, that is wicked slow. That is so slow that I'm ready to take back most of what I ever said about CART's Hiro Matsushita, who holds the dubious distinction of CART's most starts without a top five finish ever. Milka Duno is so freaking slow she makes Hiro Matsushita look like Speed Racer.

I have, by the way, nothing against women drivers as is often alleged when one criticizes the driving of any professional race car driver who happens to be female. Having been a woman my entire life, I also tend to give women drivers a touch more latitude, because it can be tough being a woman in a man's world. When it comes to Danica Patrick, for example, I think she's a competent mid packer who gets way too much attention for all the wrong things. Sarah Fisher is to be admired for being the first woman owner/driver in open wheel racing. I don't see her ever winning an open wheel driving championship, but she has earned her place on the grid. And in Simona de Silvestro, we may have the driver who can do just that and perhaps be that game changer who brings women drivers the respect they deserve.

But Duno, who had reasonable success as a sports car racer, inexplicably left Grand Am and ALMS competition for the IRL in 2006/7. Why? It only got worse when the CCWS drivers arrived in 2008, but in 2010, driving for Dale Coyne Racing, it is approaching disaster. Fortunately, during today's qualifying session, she did not compete, either out of embarrassment or because somebody benched her. We'll see if she can worm her way back on the grid. We hope not. This woman is dangerous and not in a good way.

Old Friends and Jimmy

Our favorite lunch time entertainment is always on Saturdays with the Pro Celebrity race. Unfortunately, this Saturday, few of the drivers were as fantastically bad as they have been in the past, so there were fewer laughs than usual. Jimmy Vasser continued the trend of winning overall in addition to winning the Pro Class started by Al Unser, Jr. in 2009. The celebrity winner, Brian Austin Green, was of little interest to our colleagues in the always raunchy Photographer/Internet press room until yours truly mentioned that his girlfriend is Megan Fox. This is a very good way to clear a public room as I found many of the photographers seemed as interested in taking Ms. Fox's picture as they are in shooting race cars. Who knew?

Jimmy was also present at his friend Paul Tracy’s press conference which was by far the most popular and well attended conference of the weekend. KVRT announced they are running PT at the Indy 500 this year as Paul contests for his second win at Indy and his first with a trophy. All of this was said, I might add, right in front of ICS press officials, including our old friend from CCWS, Steve Shunk. No one batted an eye over that statement. The conference lasted so long, in fact, that there was never an actual press conference for the top three qualifiers for Firestone Indy Lights.

This was kind of a shame, because American driver Charlie Kimball, a California native, qualified third for tomorrow’s FIL race.

Joining PT's conference was his old friend, Tommy Kendall, who is walking noticeably worse these days, presumably due to the injuries he sustained in that 2001 IMSA race that almost claimed his life. We also spotted Mario Dominguez in the HVM pit, Oriol Servia walking around talking to several teams, and a host of people I recognized from Atlantics.

ALMS and Simon Pagenaud Wins the Race!

It's inevitable that if you cover races for long enough that you will have your favorite racers, and I do. Jeff and I ran into Will Power and Simon Pagenaud in Monterey one year, and it was hard not to notice how incredibly down to earth and what good guys both drivers are. Especially when compared to other drivers, these two really demonstrate how you can smoke all the competition and not be even a little bit of an a**hole.

So it was incredibly satisfying but no surprise to see Power on the pole once again for Sunday’s feature race. But, in spite of a second place starting position, there was so much competition for P1 among the Le Mans Prototype drivers in Saturday's ALMS race besides our friend Mr. Pagenaud that his winning was no sure thing.

Simon's teammate, veteran David Brabham, did a great job of running up front in spite of a poor start and incurring a penalty for unnecessary contact. When the Frenchman took over from “Brabs” mid race, he had his work cut out for him running his HPD (used to be Acura) ARX-01c as fast or faster than his main competition, the 007 Aston Martin Lola driven by Adrian Fernandez, in spite of the heavier car's faster straight line speed. At times, Pagenaud had a significant (6+ seconds) lead over the Mexican.

This anomaly, by the way, was created by the combination of the LMP1 and LMP2 classes to a single class, LMP, in 2010. It's tough sometimes to keep up with all the changes in classes in the sports car world, but the folks who run the ALMS seem to be saying this (as I understand it). Among the prototype class, there is a Wal-Mart budget class – the LMPC – or Challenge – that is much cheaper to run in than the Bloomingdale's class – the LMP. And among the GTs, the Bloomie's class is the GT and the Wal-Mart crowd is the GTC. Hopefully, as the year progresses, the regulations will be adjusted so that the former LMP2's can get a more competitive straight line speed and the LMP1s can have more speed in the corners.

But, getting back to today's race – going into the final lap, Fernandez was in the lead in his James Bond inspired car and looked to cruise to a win when Pagenaud suddenly overtook him when Adrian slid wide. It was dramatic, it was awesome, and I was stoked, man.

Okay, as a journalist, I am supposed to be objective. As a journalist, I am also supposed to give my publisher what he wants. In the immortal words of Mick and Keith, It's Only Rock & Roll, but as I understand their profound words, let's have some perspective, please. I try to be objective, but I can't always be. Sorry. It's not brain surgery, it's racing. And my publisher does not want me to report about the ICS, its race, or anything about Indy Lights unless it involves the two or three American drivers and not their racing, and not when they are in their cars.

I can try, Russell. And I really do. But if I am at a race weekend, I am going to get excited and engaged in racing because I am a racer. I don't care where the drivers were born, I don't care what they are driving, and I don't care about the politics of the racing world. Sorry. It's Only Rock and Roll (and I like it).

Copyright © 2010 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

 
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