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Long Beach Diary:
Day Two
What Really Powers Auto Racing

Long Beach, CA, April 15 Saturday is usually my favorite day at the Grand Prix. The promoters always work out some of the more obvious kinks from Friday, and yet the mayhem of race day is held in abeyance, at least for the moment. So it was that Saturday was warmer than Friday, the entrance Nazis were less goose-stepping, and yes, Spring was in the air as the annual Lifestyle Expo was conducted in the Long Beach Convention Center.

Of course, anyone who has attended a major race knows what the Expo is about. It's a race, really, between the fans, out to get the coolest free stuff available, and the exhibitors, out to collect as many time share referrals as they can. Auto racing has become as much about selling as it is about competition, and these Expo's certainly punctuate this fact of life.

We are told the reason there are so few American racers in CART is that sponsorship monies in the US go more often than not to the stick and ball sports, even though they are less popular globally than motorsports, or soccer for that matter. American business executives don't believe our talented American CART drivers can build them the name recognition that a Joe Montana can. As a result, they are more likely to build, for example, a Qualcomm Stadium than they are an AT&T Racing team. That business decision has led to more than three times the amount of Brazilian race car drivers in CART (should we rename it BART?) than U.S. drivers. I have nothing at all against Brazilian drivers I just think it's a shame that our business community doesn't think US drivers sell. And naturally, I think they're mistaken about this.

And here are today's notes:

Brolin & Daly Win: I don't know if any other father/son combinations have won the same race before, but it was terrific watching James Brolin's son (and Barbra Streisand's stepson) repeat his dad's feat of winning the Pro/Celebrity Race. And Speedvision commentator Derek Daly appeared to be having a wonderful time winning the pro race and earning monies for local area children's hospitals.

Watching Mr. Rice: There was a gentleman standing at the front of grandstand 34 throughout the Atlantics race who could only be Buddy Rice's father. He was ecstatic throughout the race that Buddy won quite convincingly. Seeing this man burst into unabashed tears of pride as the younger Rice won is part of what makes motorsport still in spite of the push to sell so very special. Congratulations to both Rices.

Pole de Ferran: Let's face it, Long Beach has not been kind to Gil de Ferran in the way it has been kind to say, Alex Zanardi. De Ferran dominated the weekend in 1996, only to have his equipment defeat him very late in the race. As a consequence, the win went to 2000 fellow front row occupant Jimmy Vasser. A win this year would be a great pay back for that disappointment.

Winner, Winner, Who's Got the Winner?: Everyone wants to predict the winner of the CART race. The truth is, what makes CART races so watchable (not to mention interesting) is the fact that in any given race, at least half the field is totally capable of winning. Several cars looked stronger in practice than they did in qualifying, such as Bryan Herta, Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy, and Kenny Brack. The race should be a treat to watch.

Go Jonny Go: Indy Lights sophomore, Jonny Kane, won the pole, ahead of Scott Dixon and newcomer, Jason Bright. Sunday morning's race will be a fitting start to The Big Day.

Underdogs Rule?: As a long time Leighton Reese fan, I am hoping that tomorrow will be the Big Kazonka from Minnetonka's first Trans-Am win. Leighton says his successes are for underdogs everywhere. How can anyone resist that?

More tomorrow.

Copyright © 2000 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

 
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