tampabay.com

Bourdais not IRL track fan

By BRANT JAMES
Published July 27, 2004


Sebastien Bourdais does not like oval-track racing. His 18th-place finish this season at Champ Car's only such track - the Milwaukee Mile - is not the reason. That's why Champ Car, with its schedule full of street/road courses, suits the 25-year-old Tampa resident so well.

Though the Indy Racing League is considered the dominant open-wheel series in North America, Bourdais said he wants no part of it in its all-oval format.

"I would not want to compete in the IRL because it is very dangerous on the ovals," said Bourdais, who finished fifth in the Molson Indy Vancouver on Sunday and leads the standings by 27 over teammate Bruno Junqueira. "I am not really keen to do that.

"I think it is very interesting and very technically challenging and good for the series, but I think there is a balance you have to find."

If Roger Penske's push to reunite the major open-wheel series germinates - though owners of both have resisted, the former CART board member and IRL team owner often gets his way - then Bourdais may have some adjustments to make. Whatever venues that would be kept if the two schedules merged would certainly include some oval tracks besides Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"(Champ Car) is shy on the ovals, but the IRL is just wrong," Bourdais said. "The whole thing with trying to repeat NASCAR with open-wheel racing is just wrong. It is way too dangerous.

"I can accept doing five or six races on ovals, but a whole season is too much."

QUICK CHANGE: Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew pulled off a driver change that some endurance-racing teams could learn from when it swapped out the regular driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet and inserted Martin Truex Jr. during a Lap 60 caution at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Earnhardt knew he could not finish the race because of second-degree burns he suffered July 18 while moonlighting in an American Le Mans series race at Sonoma, Calif., but had to start to earn points in the Nextel Cup driver standings. He began Sunday second in points, and remained there although Truex was spun out of contention and hit the wall, finishing 31st.

After the caution flew, Earnhardt radioed in, "All right guys, let's go. I'm done."

Responded car chief Tony Eury Jr.: "Okay, let's change four tires and a driver."

That Earnhardt and Truex are the same build helped, meaning little adjustments were needed on the seat and restraint harnesses. Gasman Jeff Clark hauled Earnhardt out as the rest of the crew did normal pit service, and Truex hopped in and sped off in less than 38 seconds to remain on the lead lap.

"The driver change was a lot faster than I expected," Truex said.

"They lifted Junior out, and all of a sudden I'm buckled in and on my way."

FIRST BITE: International Speedway Corp., owner of 12 tracks,including Daytona International Speedway, has entered a joint venture to buy 676 acres on Staten Island and build an 80,000-seat, three-quarter-mile track by 2009, according to Bloomberg News. Cost was not disclosed.

Adjacent tracts near the Goethals Bridge, which connects the New York City borough to New Jersey, would be the site for the track and a 50-acre mall.

WORTH IT?: So was pain and the possibility of aggravating his injuries justified? Truex's second bump of the day with Ken Schrader's No. 49 Dodge and subsequent spinout made the effort worth just 70 points. Earnhardt fell further (165 points) behind leader Jimmie Johnson, and third-place Jeff Gordon pulled within 37 after finishing second on Sunday, but Earnhardt maintained his slot in the Chase for the Championship seeding. Earnhardt would have slipped to third in the standings had he sat out and earned no points. One spot translates into a loss of five points when the top 10 drivers in points are slotted in the final 10 races of the season.

SPARK PLUGS: At 238 points behind Ryan Newman for the 10th playoff spot, Michael Waltrip is likely not a Chase contender, but he's racing like one. With a sixth-place finish on Sunday, the 41-year-old has seven top 10s in his past nine races. Waltrip, however, is 16th after wrecking out of three of the first five races of the season. ... Gordon has five top fives, two wins and four poles in his past six races. ... Dario Franchitti's win at Milwaukee was the first of an IRL career that nearly ended last year when a motorcycle accident tossed him through a hedge in his native Scotland. The 29-year-old missed all but three races after back surgery. His win was the sixth in nine races this season for Andretti Green Racing.