The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was a good race and a nice parade lap for the final event of the American open-wheel racing series known simply as ChampCar.
In this video taken from the press conference that featured the podium finishers of this final race featuring the rules, equipment, teams and drivers of the ChampCar World Series (CCWS), Australian Will Power, Swiss/Frenchman Franck Montagny, and Mexican born Mario Dominguez share their reflections and insights. The CCWS was an American rules sanctioning motorsports series which stressed racing in venues that optimized driver skill on temporary street courses, airport runways, closed road circuits, in North America and international localities.
The press conference was conducted by the Fred Nation, Executive Vice-President of Communications of the now ruling sanctioning organization, the Indy Racing League. The IRL will stage the Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2009 and beyond for at least the next ten years.
The conference opens with third place finisher, Mario Dominguez – Pacific Coast Motorsports. Mario discusses the car, the team and the fact that he had not been in an open-wheel racing machine in over six months.
Second place finisher, former Formula One driver Franck Montagny, in his first Champ Car start … and finish reflects on why he chose this series to compete in.
Race winner, Will Power, who started third in the 20-car field discussed the importance of his start.
This excerpted from the Press Telegram –
Will Power wins Grand Prix
By Mike Harris, AP Auto Racing Writer - Article Launched: 04/21/2008 06:58:30 AM PDT
Will Power led most of the way Sunday in the streets of Long Beach, winning the final race of the Champ Car World Series, the last remaining remnant of the 12-year rivalry between the newly unified American open-wheel series.
Danica Patrick reaches for a drink of water during press conference at the Long Beach Grand Prix venue.Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (The EDJE) 2008
Less than 24 hours after a historic IRL victory by Danica Patrick, the first woman to win an IndyCar race, the final race for the series that began as CART in 1979 was run before a large, appreciative crowd. That included Patrick, who arrived after a 12-hour plane ride looking refreshed and very happy midway through the event.
Power, who started third in the 20-car field, spoiled the show a bit, though, jumping into the lead with a great start and leading most of the 83-lap, 1-hour, 45-minute timed race.
"Yeah, it was a very nice day, really good start, good pit strategy and we were very quick," Power said. "I just want to thank (my team owners and team). I feel really happy for them and the team to win the last Champ Car race."
He added, "We had problems all weekend, just little problems. But we fixed everything for the race. My engineer did a great job, the car was nice and it all came together in the race. I was just cool in the car, relaxed. When it comes together, it just comes together nicely."
Post Race Timing & Scoring display in the press room at the Long Beach Grand Prix. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (The EDJE) 2008
Twelve of the drivers in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach do not currently have rides in the IRL, but two of them, former Formula One driver Franck Montagny, in his first Champ Car start, finished second, followed by longtime Champ Car star Mario Dominguez.
Rookie Enrique Bernoldi and Oriol Servia, both transitional drivers, finished fourth and fifth.
Graham Rahal, the 19-year-old son of longtime racing star Bobby Rahal, who became the youngest driver ever to win a major open-wheel race two weeks ago in the IRL event in St. Petersburg, Fla., spun twice and finished 13th on Sunday.
The youngster had moved back up to seventh when he spun trying to pass Franck Perera, another transitional driver, for position on the last lap.
Justin Wilson, the driver who replaced Sebastien Bourdais, who won the last three Long Beach races for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, started from the pole but lost the lead to Power moments after the green flag and wound up completing only 12 laps before going out with a mechanical problem.
Jimmy Vasser in the pits. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (The EDJE) 2008
Former CART champions Jimmy Vasser, who came out of a two-year retirement to drive here, and Paul Tracy, who didn't have a ride until earlier this week, finished on the lead lap in 10th and 11th.
The “Fine Nine” is what we, here at The EDJE, have dubbed the drivers who were able to secure seats with teams that were formed to compete in the now merged ChampCar World Series.
The current standings after three race weekends in the Indy Racing League are as follows:
Position. Fine Nine Driver / Team / Season Championship Points / Pts. Behind Leader
5. Will Power / KV Racing Technology / 87 / -25
7. Enrique Bernoldi / Conquest Racing / 74 / -38
8. Oriol Servia / KV Racing Technology / 74 / -38
10. Graham Rahal / Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing / 70 / -42
12. EJ Viso / HVM Racing / 67 / -45
16. Franck Perera / Conquest Racing / 56 / -56
19. Justin Wilson / Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing / 49 / -63
23. Bruno Junqueira / Dale Coyne Racing / 42 / -70
26. Mario Moraes / Dale Coyne Racing / 28 / -84
So the transition drivers account for four of the top ten positions in the chase for the series championship after only three races. Not bad for all of the sad predictions of how well ChampCar teams and drivers would fair in the new, bigger, unified Indy Racing Series.
This will be the first and only season where the term Merge and Transition will make any difference at all. T-Teams and Established Teams (or E-Teams) for this season are a statistical side-bar and a study in motivation dynamics for those who enjoy the “inside baseball” nature of motorsports.
Special message written on the back of pit crew uniform at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (The EDJE) 2008
The final ChampCar sanctioned Long Beach Grand Prix by any measure was a grand success ... from the large, enthusiastic crowds, competition for a podium position at the end of the race, an international podium, a surprise appearance by the first female to ever win a major professional open-wheel racing series race in Danica Patrick, plus positive wishes from the ChampCar drivers, teams, and fans for a great IndyCar Racing Series championship in the unified season ahead for 2008.
… notes from The EDJE