Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Portland Race Signals Change For The Good

Pole winner Bruno Junqueira with Bridgestone flag - Photo credit: Michael L. Levitt, USA LAT Photographic - Copyright © 2006 Champ Car World Series, LLC.

The ChampCars roll into Portland with a line up that is beginning to look a little like a mid-season roster of a baseball team.

What with the driver and team changes that happened during the last break between races, one can't tell who is racing for whom without a program.

The biggest benefit these changes brought about was a renewed spirit to the racing and qualifying at Portland. One would assume the series points leading Newman Haas driver would capture the pole ... but he (Sebastian Bourdais) ended up in the third slot, being bested by his teammate, Bruno Junqueira, winning his first pole in a couple of years, and team jumping (from RUSPORT to Forsythe) AJ Almendinger.

More excerpts about yesterday's qualifying at Portland from ChampCar News -

by Eric Mauk

PORTLAND (June 17, 2006) - Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has had more than his share of bad luck through the first four races of the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season, so the Brazilian decided to take luck out of the equation in today's final qualifying for the G.I. Joe's Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland.

Junqueira used his penultimate lap around the 1.964-mile road circuit to gain three spots and claim the Bridgestone Pole Position, winning a tight battle that saw the first three qualifiers covered by a microscopic .015 seconds. Junqueira's time of 57.631 seconds (122.684 mph) gave him his first pole of the year and his first since the 2004 season opener, besting A.J. Allmendinger (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) by .008 seconds, with points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) another .007 behind in third.

The majority of the teams then went to Pit Lane for final adjustments and to get a fresh set of Bridgestones, setting the stage for a furious final 10 minutes.

Defending race winner Cristiano da Matta (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the first to make a move, jumping into the third spot, only to see the former #10 driver drop him back as Allmendinger posted his best lap, taking the pole. The Californian then overshot the approach to the Festival Curves on his next lap, forcing him to go hard on the brakes and slide the tires, effectively ending any chance he had to post a better time. With his 57.639 in his pocket, Allmendinger retired to Pit Lane to sweat out the final few minutes knowing that Bourdais and Junqueira still had plenty of time to leapfrog him and take the pole.

Tomorrow's 105-lap race will get the green flag at 12:30 p.m. local time (3:30 Eastern) and can be seen live on CBS Sports. In addition, fans can follow live via the Race Director feature available on the series' official website,

Today's qualifying session saw the first three qualifiers separated by .015 seconds, the closest session since the 2002 event at Chicago Motor Speedway when Dario Franchitti, Alex Tagliani and Cristiano da Matta also qualified within .015 seconds of each other.

Bruno Junqueira became the 15th different driver in the last 15 seasons to win a pole at Portland International Raceway. Emerson Fittipaldi (1992-93) is the last driver to win more than one pole at Portland.

Bruno Junqueira starts from pole tomorrow and has two runner-up finishes in Portland but has never led a Champ Car lap in Portland.

Dan Clarke's sixth-place qualifying result is the best for a Champ Car rookie since Andrew Ranger started fourth at Cleveland last year.

The command of 'Drivers Start Your Engines' tomorrow will be given via satellite from Afghanistan as members of the Oregon National Guard's 'Task Force Phoenix V' will give the command.

Read All>>

Other Notes:

Cristiano da Matta improves his fortunes by taking over the seat left vacant when AJ Almendinger was picked-up by Forsythe.

The Forsythe seat became available when Mario Dominguez was let go by the team due to the many reckless starts and wrecks Mario has had in the first four races beginning this season.

Mario Dominguez took over the seat left vacant when Cristiano da Matta jumped up to RUSPORT from Dale Coyne.

Both Allmendinger and da Matta had their best qualifying efforts of the season (2 and 5 respectively) while Dominguez languished at 14 out of 18 cars racing.

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