Champ Chat

Checking in from the road this week, getting set for a trip to Atlanta to call Hooters Cup action before heading to Texas and the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks on radio Friday night.

Just relaxing for a day after our first CBS telecast of Champ Car for 2005 from the Milwaukee Mile on Saturday. The racing on the historic Mile was typically excellent. Jimmy Vasser was superb all weekend, until the lap counter reached 15….when Paul Tracy showed the faithful why he’s still the “Thrill from West Hill”. PT ventured where few were willing to go, out into the grey in both turn one and turn three and drove around Vasser’s Gulfstream machine on the outside to take over. Tracy would lose the lead only briefly on pit stops afterward, and semi-cruised to his fourth career win in Beertown.

For a time in the final 75 miles it appeared that young gun AJ Allmendinger would come up and challenge Tracy, but on his final stop PT got the right tires and the correct adjustments and that was it. His Indeck 3 car had picked up quite a push before the final round of stops and had this been a 150-mile run it might well have cost him the victory.

But that was not to be and Allmendinger will have to wait awhile yet for his first career Champ Car win.

Behind the top two the run of Oriol Servia to third certainly is worthy of applause. Oriol had only two days to prepare for his first drive for Newman-Haas, no test time, and virtually no get-acquainted time with his new crew. But the Spaniard, veteran that he is, made the most of what could be a one-shot opportunity and raced his way from the fifth row on the grid to the podium, passing his much more heralded teammate Sebastien Bourdais in the process. Don’t know yet if Servia will remain in the 2 car until Bruno Junquiera heals from his Indy injuries, but I can’t imagine NH will find anyone more dedicated and capable to stand in. Here’s hoping Oriol gets the opportunity.

Great to get a chance to visit with the ARCA ReMax Series folks as well at the Mile. ARCA backing up Champ Car made for a great day for the fans, a great ticket value to be sure. And as always ARCA supplied many interesting stories. While the roster of Cup development-driver teams was down to only one for Kyle Krisiloff, the field was deep and strong. I was very impressed with young Joey Miller, as well as with polesitter David Ragan. The class of the ARCA garage remains Frank Kimmel, who may well be the best stock car racer few have heard of. Kimmel has very good equipment and a fine team, plus excellent financial support. But when the green drops Frank knows what to do with all his tools. Saturday he showed he hasn’t lost a thing as he passes into his 40’s, putting a whupping on the field.

A treat as well to catch up with Cathy and Billy Venturini, and their Chevy team. Dad Bill was my broadcast partner on SPEED for many years covering ARCA, and in fact we had done some ARCA broadcasts together live on TBS back in the 90’s.

Billy has been the team’s driver for several seasons, but is recovering from a broken neck suffered at Daytona in February. Jason Jarrett is wheeling the 25 cars for now, with Billy due to return to the seat in July at Kentucky. He looks fit and strong and was busy calling the shots for the team in the garage area Friday during practice. With Jarrett sitting third in ARCA points for the team, the Venturinis are searching for more backing so Jason can continue in the 25 car for the full year while Billy makes his return in a second car. Here’s hoping one of ARCA’s first families can find the opportunities they need to give both these deserving young drivers the chance to go racing the rest of the season.

I’ll see you on TV Saturday with Hooters Cup, and I’ll join you on MRN Friday night from Texas, before we go back on CBS next week from Portland with Champ Car. Hope you can join me.

Related Topics:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2005

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