2006 Postseason Thoughts
CHAMPIONSHIP: Sebastien Bourdais continues to be the class of the very thin fields Champ Car has run in the past three years. Let's put it this way: deciding the driver's championship was not the most exciting competition of 2006.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: In spite of the thin driver field, Rookie of the Year was the most exciting multi-race competition of the year, being decided only at the finale. A few more years with rookies like this one and Champ Car fields won't be looking so anorexic anymore.
STORY OF THE YEAR: The musical chairs after Milwaukee leading into Portland. Followed by Allmendinger getting engaged while jobless. Capped off by Dinger winning his maiden race with Forsythe to the deafening cheers of "U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A!"
TRACKS: We loved the return to Road America, and can only hope for the return to more road courses in the future. 2006 marked the first year of having only one oval on the schedule, while street courses continue to be the Champ Car business model. This is good news in venues like Denver, where we saw an exciting race, and not such good news in Houston, where the track was sub-par.
THE BIG PICTURE: This was the last of the transition years, and the season started out as if we would have to suffer through that. However, after Milwaukee it seemed like a whole new season, one worthy of any year, transition or not. Now, we head into an era that one day may be looked back upon as the beginning of the resurrection of American open wheel racing.
BOURDAIS: Regardless of the limited field, he is without a doubt a very talented driver who should have gotten a shot at Formula One. We just wish he could be more gracious in both victory and defeat (and learn to pronounce his loyal sponsor, McDonald's). So, he's both our champion and our problem.
WILSON: We are sure that Justin is championship material. Just not in 2006. He's a survivor, lasting through Russo selling the team, Allmendinger getting fired, and Cristiano almost dying.
ALLMENDINGER: A.J. was The Man for a few brief shining moments. We're just sorry Forsythe didn't offer Dinger that five year contract sooner. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.
PHILIPPE: We now officially love Nelson and want to watch him drive race cars. We still think he started in Champ Car too early, but this year, he came into his own.
JUNQUEIRA: His entire season was like most of his races -- an uninspiring fifth place, though there were some glimmers of Bruno Past.
POWER: Will had it this year, and deserves to be Rookie of the Year.
TRACY: Here's something to really rile up the Tracy fans -- Paul probably crashed more times this year than Shigeaki Hattori in his "prime." Sure, there's a difference in how and why they crashed, but still... Most drivers mature as they get older. Paul seemed to regress this year. But, he is the best showman in Champ Car.
TAGLIANI: We like Tags, but just when it appears he is on the verge of a breakout, his career seems mired in mediocrity.
DOMINGUEZ: It looks like after driving with a record three racing teams in one year that Mario has finally found the right stuff with Paul G. and his new sponsors.
RANGER: Andrew and Danica Patrick came out of the same Atlantic class with similar results, often going head to head, beating each other an equal amount. Outside of a second place finish in his second career race, Ranger's best career finish in Champ Car is fifth. The only difference is Danica has been able to milk her non-podium results to artificial stardom thanks to having matching chromosomes.
SERVIA: Oriol is a terrific driver, but he needs the right team and right equipment, and PKV ain't it.
CLARKE: Speedy Dan. Dangerous Dan. Flaky Dan. There's a Dan for everyone's taste.
ZWOLSMAN: We felt the Atlantic Class of 2005 would not do much in Champ Car. Charles didn't prove us wrong, and he got the most points of the lot.
HEYLEN: Jan was very consistent, which is why he did better in many areas than other drivers who figured to outpoint him.
DA MATTA: In one of those strange twists of fate that auto racing seems to see all too often, Cristiano's near fatal crash came less than a week after his first podium finish for RuSport. We hear he wants to race again. We're just glad he's still among the living.
LEGGE: We think she moved to Champ Car too soon, but we also thought this about Nelson. You can't help but like Katherine, but at this level, results ultimately count.
VASSER: Arrivaderci, Jimmy. You had a good run and made a smooth transition to team owner. You will be missed. See you in the pit stand.
ATLANTICS: The series delivered everything on all the promises going into the new reinvigorated season. We should see many more years of thrilling action in the best development road racing series in North America. Hopefully, it is a blueprint that Champ Car will follow.
INSPIRATION OF THE YEAR: Cristiano da Matta walking out of the hospital. Right behind that, Katherine Legge walking into the medical center at Road America waving to the crowd.
RULES: We like Tony Cotman. We are happy he survived a ham-handed move by Forsythe to replace him during the offseason. We hope he has a good enough contract to keep him in place the next time he ticks off a series owner, because with the job he has, he will.
TELEVISION: Competent. Though, we would have liked being on one consistent network, and we think SPEED is too NASCAR-centric. We miss Tommy Kendall.
BEST RACE OF THE SEASON: Road America. Another Dinger victory. A scary crash by Legge. A fabulous day of racing. Last year's pick was Montreal. This year's very close runner-up was Mexico City. Road races -- you simply cannot do better than a fabulous road race.
PASS OF THE SEASON: Sebastien Bourdais on Justin Wilson at Mexico City. What's that you say? Yes, because it was the most talked about pass all year.
EVENT OF THE SEASON: San Jose. It featured a wild and woolly Champ Car race, a terrific Atlantic race, an unscheduled boxing match between Tags and Tracy, and the unveiling of the 2007 Champ Car. What a turnaround from the previous year.
WORST RACE OF THE SEASON: Unfortunately, it's yet again a first year street race, and the loser is ... Houston. All due to the promoter not smoothing out the track days prior to the event as suggested by the reigning series champion.
WORST EVENT OF THE SEASON: Montreal. Not the racing, but the off track shenanigans. By the time the race was run on Monday due to a rain delay, nobody really cared to do anything but get out of town. Champ Car was given the bum's rush out of Montreal. All because of one Normand Legault.
WORD OF THE SEASON: Transition.
STAT OF THE SEASON: Probably zero -- the number of drivers Paul Tracy did not hit at least once during the season.
HISTORICAL STAT OF THE SEASON: We all know that Bourdais became only the second driver to win three consecutive Champ Car titles. Another commonality between him and Ted Horn -- they both did not win the Indy 500.
QUOTE OF THE SEASON: Kevin Kalkhoven during the unveiling of the new 2007 Panoz DP01, "This car achieves all objectives."
QUOTE OF THE SEASON RUNNERUP: What every driver said under his helmet when Paul Tracy got a wee-bit too close.
SCHEDULE: Say what you want, but no ovals is no good. However, we are willing to be patient and wait for the turnaround to be complete and the ultimate demise of the IRL before getting back to the perfect schedule. In the meantime, the 2007 schedule is the next best thing.
Copyright © 2006 by Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.
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