Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2017

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Columnist Brian Hilderbrand: ‘Slow’ Champ cars will make better racing

Brian Hilderbrand covers motor sports for the Las Vegas Sun. His motor sports notebook appears Friday. He can be reached at [email protected] or (702) 259-4089.

Some of the 15 Champ Car World Series drivers who tested Wednesday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway were in disagreement with the series' decision to slow down the cars for the Sept. 25 race.

But most were in agreement that the slower speeds -- the top testing speed Wednesday was 203 mph -- would lead to closer racing in the series' first and only superspeedway event of the season.

Even with an estimated pole speed of 205 mph for the 166-lap race, the 750-horsepower open-wheel cars will be running about 40 mph faster than the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks that will race prior to the Champ Car event. And they likely will be running three-wide around the 1.5-mile oval.

"It's a bit slower than what we were expecting," series points leader Sebastien Bourdais said of his fastest testing lap of 203.114 mph, which was second only to Newman/Haas Racing teammate Bruno Junqueira's 203.482, "but it's not a matter of fast you go during qualifying, it's a matter of how good your car is in traffic."

Bourdais, who has won five of the nine races this season and owns one career superspeedway victory, said he was looking forward to the series' inaugural race at LVMS.

"The banking (12 degrees in the corners) has a pretty dramatic effect on how things are going," Bourdais said. "It's definitely the biggest banking we've been racing on -- at least for me -- and it's very different. It's pretty neat; it gives you quite an amount of grip and that's going to put on a great show for the race, that's for sure, because you're going to see like three guys wide and it's going to be exciting, for sure."

Patrick Carpentier, a five-year Las Vegas resident, agreed with Bourdais. Like Bourdais, Carpentier turned his first laps around Las Vegas Motor Speedway during Wednesday's test.

"This was my first time ever on the track -- and I've been here since '99," Carpentier said. "I like it a lot -- it's a really nice track. It's really smooth and it's actually well designed and there are three (racing) lines. We'll be able to race three-wide here."

Carpentier said he would lobby Champ Car officials for more 'push-to-pass' time for the Las Vegas race. Currently, drivers are allowed 60 seconds of extra boost (an added 50 horsepower at the touch of a button) to use at their discretion. The feature was introduced this season in an effort to promote passing on street and road courses.

Jimmy Vasser, a Las Vegas resident and the 1996 series champion, said he liked the idea of adding more 'push-to-pass' time, but conceded that most drivers would save their entire allotment until the closing laps of the race.

While not giving specifics, John Lopes, Champ Car's executive vice president of operations, promised the series would stage a pre-race ceremony the likes of which open-wheel racing fans never have seen.

"I can tell you the fans are in for a special pre-race ceremony," Lopes said. "We don't want to let the cat out of the bag other than to tell you we're going to do something special and different like we've never done in the pre-race, for the fans."

Busch, in town during an off week for the Busch Series, was competing in the Legends Cars at The Bullring and had a confrontation with another Legends Car driver following a race. Track sources said that an early account by the other driver's team that Busch assaulted the driver was incorrect.

Busch was fined and placed on probation for "conduct and actions detrimental to the betterment of the sport," according to an LVMS release.

In addition to competing in Saturday's Busch series race at Michigan International Speedway, Busch will attempt to qualify for Sunday's Nextel Cup Series race at MIS in the No. 84 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

"Right now, I'm not prepared to talk about retirement," Wallace said this week. "Right now, my mind is 100 percent on racing."

Wallace, however, admitted he has been entertaining the idea of stepping out of the car but said he hasn't set a timetable for his retirement.

"This retirement thing from racing is going around in my head all the time," he said. "I guess the toughest thing I'll (miss) is the pure enjoyment of racing. I love racing and I still love racing. I feel like I'm at the top of my game right now. You wouldn't know it from the poor finishes we have because of mechanical problems, but the performance of the car has been good.

"My main goal right now is to make hay out of every single year I can, but I don't have all the answers about the retirement thing. I don't plan on quitting right now. I'll go for another couple of years, but I'm not guaranteeing anything after that."

"I'm really looking forward to this," Capps said. "Skip Barber Racing's CEO knows a couple of the U.S. Tobacco people and he off-handedly asked them if I would like to do one of their race weekends. When I heard about it, I took a look at my schedule and saw that I could fit Mid-Ohio in."

Capps drives the Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo for team owner Don Prudhomme and is 13th in NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series points.

Team owner and driver Forest Barber said Fittipaldi would co-drive with Borcheller in Bell Motorsports' Kodak EasyShare DORAN JE4 Pontiac. Fittipaldi was one of the team's four drivers when it won the 2004 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in February.

"I'm really excited -- especially because I have a chance to go back to the Daytona 24 Hour-winning car," Fittipaldi said. "Hopefully the team, Terry and myself can put four good finishes together so Bell Motorsports will be in a very good position for 2005."

Although still under contract with Petty Enterprises, Fittipaldi is scheduled to compete in four Busch Series races later this season for Innovative Motorsports.

Race officials announced that the first Class 1/2-1600 driver to beat MacCachren in the series' season finale in Henderson would receive a $1,500 bonus. MacCachren, the two-time defending class champion in the series, took the promotion in stride.

"I'm flattered to have a bounty placed on me -- it's a challenge," MacCachren said. "There's obviously a lot of people who are going to be out there trying to beat me and that's a good thing. At the same time, I want to win."

The Henderson's Terrible 300 will be held in the Eldorado Valley between Henderson and Boulder City and will feature separate courses for car and truck classes and motorcycle and ATV classes.