Tracy mixes it up again in Denver

DENVER -- The Champ Car World Series seems to have found the magic formula for cracking the mainstream media.


The second entertaining Champ Car race in a row got plenty of attention, but most of it focused on what happened off the track. At Sunday's Grand Prix of Denver, Paul Tracy's opponent for a post-race shoving and shouting match was two-time defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais, whom Tracy crashed out of second place at the last corner of the final lap.

Bourdais' demotion to seventh place cost him 12 points of his championship lead over A.J. Allmendinger, who easily won his fourth race of the season. But the latest triumph by Allmendinger, the emerging American star, won't make the headlines or the highlight reels.

The Champ Car race broadcast kicked off with bonus footage (repeated ad nauseam) of the wrestling match between Tracy and a helmeted Alex Tagliani from two weeks ago at the Grand Prix of San Jose. And if the video from Denver -- which superbly captured the circumstances that led to the crash between Tracy and Bourdais as well as their physical altercation -- wasn't as graphic as that from San Jose, the quotes were certainly more colorful.

In-car and external shots show that Bourdais used his Power-to-Pass turbo boost to cleanly pass Tracy on the unusual outside line in the run to the final corner despite Tracy's efforts to block.

Tracy lunged down the inside toward the apex of the left-hander but locked up his rear wheels, and his Forsythe Lola slewed into Bourdais' car, spinning both out with damaged suspensions.

Sebastien then sprinted across the track -- while cars were still racing past -- to confront his rival. Shoves and heated words through helmets were exchanged, followed by more verbal barbs to the media.

"PT was obviously in trouble because he was running out of fuel, but that's no excuse to crash the competitor of your teammate," said Bourdais, whose complaints seem to be justified this week. "I hope it is clear enough that he tried to crash me at Turn 3 the lap before and he tried to crash me on the back straight when he blocked me to the inside.

"He is already on probation so I hope the race officials do what is necessary," he added.

"If he's that desperate for two points [the difference between finishing second and third], that's the risk you take with a guy like me," responded Tracy, who was classified sixth ahead of Bourdais. "He took me out of five races last year, so I guess paybacks are a bitch."

Asked why he quickly walked away after the initial confrontation, Bourdais said: "He was asking for it, but I didn't go any further because it's not worth it."

Meanwhile, Tracy sounded like he was ready for more. "I'd like to see him come with his helmet off and then we can have a real match," Tracy said. "The French guys like to keep their helmets on."

The last-corner antics marred what had been a superb comeback drive to second place for Tracy, who ironically was tapped into a harmless spin at Turn 1 on the opening lap by Tagliani, the Canadian ace.

Tagliani charged from 15th to fifth before pit stops started. He then passed Justin Wilson and Bruno Junqueira at the hairpin and moved by Bourdais when the Frenchman struggled during his middle stint on the red-sidewall Bridgestone alternate tires.

On standard black tires for the final stint, Bourdais rebounded with a series of fastest laps to close a 10-second deficit on his teammate, Junqueira, whom he barged by for third with three laps remaining.

Over the final two laps, he made repeated attempts to pass Tracy for second before briefly succeeding in the run up to the final corner. Champ Car chief steward Tony Cotman no doubt spent Sunday evening watching video and mulling over potential sanctions.

Junqueira emerged from the last lap madness to finish second, a distant 20 seconds behind Allmendinger, while rookies Dan Clarke and Will Power posted career bests of third and fourth.

Yet Allmendinger drove the best race of all. Everyone struggled on the red tires, but A.J. gained an advantage by starting the race on them -- and swapping them for blacks at the earliest opportunity.

"Within about two laps the red tires went to junk," he said. "It was just a great call by my engineer Michael Cannon to pull me in right away [on Lap 18 of 97] instead of trying to pit with everyone else. If we would have done that, we never would have had a chance in the second stint."

Instead, the standard tires brought Allmendinger's car back to life, and he made a superb pass of Bourdais for the lead on the 48th lap. Once in front, the blue car simply motored into the distance.

"I could see that Sebastien just really struggling hard on the reds and it was just a matter of trying to time the pass right," Allmendinger said.

Having entered the Denver weekend third in the Champ Car standings, Allmendinger vaulted past Wilson to within 32 points of Bourdais with four races remaining.

"It's going to be tough because we're going to four good tracks for Newman/Haas," Allmendinger observed. "It's going to take a little bit of luck and maybe a bad race for Sebastien so I can get in there and put some pressure on him. Winning races like this certainly helps."

John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.