DENVER -- The Champ Cars are returning to Houston next year,
giving the series 15 races.
The 2006 season will include the 14 venues from this season and
will add a night race in Houston on May 13, marking the first time
the series has added a race since 1999.
The Houston race marks Champ Car's return to Texas for the first
time since 2001, when the city's four-year run with the series
ended. The only other change to the schedule is the second running
of the Grand Prix of Edmonton will more forward a week to July 23,
putting it the week before the San Jose Grand Prix, which also held
its first race this year.
"We feel that we have been able to create a strong schedule
that will provide one of the toughest tests in all of
motorsports," Champ Car president Dick Eidswick said. "We have
seen great new events like those in San Jose and Edmonton providing
great excitement while our longer-running venues have been able to
create new enthusiasm in their markets."
The Champ Car series features eight domestic races and seven
international events, covering five countries. Series officials are
looking at other venues and still could add more races for the 2006
Tale of two tracks
The temporary street course at the Grand
Prix of Denver is almost like racing on two different tracks.
The first part of the course, mostly follows the concrete
streets surrounding the Pepsi Center. The section coming after the
long straightaway crosses through areas of pavement that are
normally used as parking lots. The contrast forces drivers to shift
their thinking as they drive through each section.
"The [first part] is really bumpy and you have really to attack
the corners and get used to the car sliding around and not doing
exactly what you want it to because it's concrete and it's bumpy,"
said Paul Tracy, who'll start on the pole for Sunday's Champ Car
"The last section of the track is kind of all pavement and you
really want to carry as much speed as you can and not get too
aggressive with the car because it slides and you'll lose time.
Both ends of the track are completely different."
A.J. Allmendinger and his team made some
drastic changes to his car after the morning practice session.
It paid off.
Allmendinger, who lives in Denver, peeled off his best time of
the day on his last lap of qualifying, finishing fourth with a time
of 59.938 seconds. He'll start on the second row with Mario
Dominguez in Sunday's Grand Prix of Denver.
"Fourth is a great result for our situation," Allmendinger
said. "Today really goes to my crew because they worked so fast to
get those things done and get us back out there."
Robert Wickens took the lead with two laps left,
beating fellow rookie James Davison by .505 seconds in a Formula
BMW race. Alan Sciuto will start on the pole for Sunday's
Toyota Atlantic race after leading qualifying with a time of 1
minute, 8.692 seconds. Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified 12th, but
will start 17th in Sunday's Champ Car race after crashing and
causing a red flag during Saturday's qualifying.