At first, it is overwhelming. The sound is nearly deafening. But after a moment or two, you catch your breath and get caught up in the excitement of it. The noise. The crowds. The tension. The drama. The Denver Grand Prix!

As the Champ Cars drivers maneuvered their 750-horsepower racing machines through harrowing twists and turns, running 97-laps around the 1.65 mile downtown Denver street circuit that circles the Pepsi Center, exuberant race fans had more reason than ever to cheer - their hometown boy came up with a hometown win!

On August 13, A.J. Allmendinger, 24, of Thornton, Colorado, won his first ever Denver Grand Prix with a time of 1:44:59. He finished 20.588 seconds ahead of his closest competitor, giving him the largest margin of victory in the Champ Car circuit since 1997. The win was Allmendinger’s fourth straight, making him the first U.S.-born driver to win four Champ Car races in a season since 1996 when Jimmy Vasser accomplished the feat. Additionally, he now finds himself in second place for the 2006 season, just behind Sebastian Bourdais, with 4 races remaining. At press time, with the next race scheduled for August 27 in Montreal, Bourdais had 275 points while Allmendinger had 243.

After struggling during the first laps of the race, a quick pit stop sealed Allmendinger’s fate. His red alternate tires began to wear off, so his Forsythe team decided to bring him in for a stop and change his tires to black sticker tires. After the tire change he was able to catch up with, and eventually pass, Bourdais.

“As usual,” Allmendinger said, “I have the best pit crew in the game.”

Allmendinger, the only American participant in the event, keeps adding more and more achievements to his young career. In addition to winning four straight races this year, he was also named 2004 Champ Car Rookie of the Year. How did it feel to win again, especially on home turf?

“I’m really happy to win my home race, and to see so many fans cheering for me up in the stands is an amazing feeling,” Allmendinger said.

Bruno Junqueria of Brazil, who won the Denver event in 2002 and 2003, finished second with a time of 1:45:20 while rookie Dan Clarke of England finished third at 1:45:49. The only other driver to ever win in Denver, Bourdais, who was a favorite going into the race, finished a disappointing seventh after having a last-minute collision with sixth place finisher Paul Tracy. The two racers nearly came to blows in the final seconds of the race, but managed to somehow pull things together before the situation got out of control. Tracy was in second place until the last lap when he suddenly made contact with Bourdais; both drivers were unable to finish the race. Tracy was eventually fined $25,000 and docked three championship points for taking out Bourdais.

Rounding out the top 5 was rookie Will Power of Australia, who finished fourth while Nelson Philippe of France finished in fifth place. Katherine Legge, the only female driver in the Champ Car circuit, finished ninth out of a 16-car field.

The fifth annual race was part of a three-day party in Denver that features street music, freestyle motorcross, muscle cars, autograph sessions, and other events.

Another delight for race fans was getting a glance of movie star Paul Newman, owner of Newman/Hass Racing, as he made his way to Victory Circle to see one of his team’s drivers, Junqueria, collect his second place trophy.

Along with Montreal, Mexico City, and Australia’s Gold Coast, Denver is one of only 15 host cities in the Champ Car World Series. Hailed as one of the best events on the circuit, the Grand Prix of Denver brings the city international acclaim, as well as world-renowned racers and some of today’s most sophisticated race cars.

Although the day was eventful and full of excitement for the racers and their fans, hearts were heavy at the same time. Cristiano da Matta, a driver who was supposed to be racing in the Grand Prix, was instead in a Wisconsin hospital recovering from a serious head injury he suffered after an August 3 collision with a deer. A “shout out” for da Matta was held at approximately 1:40 PM, right before the race began, with fans yelling, “Get well, Cristiano.” The cheer was included in a video/audio get-well tape that was to be delivered to da Matta.

The weather was near-perfect on race day – not too hot and not too cool; temperatures were in the mid-80s and mostly cloudy skies provided a much-needed cooling for thousands of race fans. Crowd numbers were not released this year because they didn’t compare with past years, but Grand Prix spokeswoman Jana Watt estimated that tens of thousands of people attended the three days’ worth of events.

Several bands took part in the weekend celebration, including G Love and Special Sauce, P-Nuckle, and The Samples. Two Champ Car autograph sessions were held on Friday and Saturday, allowing fans the opportunity to get up close and personal with their favorite drivers. Numerous other events, including performances by the Red Bull TNT Freestyle Motorcross Team, the Miss Grand Prix contest, and a volleyball tournament rounded out the action-packed weekend.

New to this year’s race was all-grandstand seating and a VIP Pit Row section. The additions provided fans with the option of remaining in one place or moving around the circuit to enjoy on-track action. In addition, more track-side viewing than ever before was offered.

The Indianapolis-based Champ Car World Series is an international, world-class professional sport that delivers tremendous value to global sponsors. With a focus on successful urban market delivery, Champ Car takes racing to the people – through the downtown streets of places like Denver, Long Beach, Toronto, and Australia, to name a few. The Champ Car Series consists of three types of race track venues: ovals, temporary street circuits, and permanent road courses, making it the most the most versatile and demanding schedule of any racing series.
The Series, which was born on March 11, 1979 and was then known as CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams), is the rival of the Indy Racing League (IRL). CART was dominated by North American drivers until the 1990s. Past champions of the Series include Rick Mears, Al Unser, Mario Andretti, and Al Unser Jr., just to name a few.

After Emerson Fittipaldi won the series title in 1989, however, things began to change; South American and European drivers began to dominate. In 1993, Tony George, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, formed a new racing series, the IRL, and the two series have been in competition with each other ever since. For many years Champ Cars were called Indy Cars, named after the Indianapolis 500. However, they have not run at the Indianapolis 500 since 1996 because that race is associated with the IRL which has different specifications for its cars. Though some are hopeful that a merger between Champ Car and the IRL will someday happen, most are not holding their breath.

As of 2003, Champ Car became the official name of the Series considered by many to be the most physically challenging and technologically diverse in motor sports. Its primary audience is young, affluent, and culturally diverse and nearly three million strong.

Champ Car drivers race in a single seater (commonly called open-wheel) racing car, powered by a turbocharged, eight-cylinder Ford-Cosworth XFE engine. The cars are capable of producing more than 750 horsepower and travel at speeds of up to 230 miles per hour. For the fifth straight year, every Champ Car is equipped with Bridgestone tires. For much of their history Champ Cars have been similar to Formula One cars, although there are several key differences between the two. For one, Champ Cars tend to be heavier and have longer wheelbases than F1 cars. Another key difference is the type of engines used; Champ Cars use turbocharged engines while they were banned for F1 cars in 1989. Another major difference is that F1 cars are much more expensive cars than Champ Cars.

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