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Linda Ballinger-Wendt

Two Weekends In Cali

Wow, what a great month April was for a So Cal race fan.

Two weeks ago I had the great pleasure of attending the Long Beach Grand Prix. The CART boys are awesome. I took in the Friday practice and sights and sounds. Got to congratulate Bobby Rahal and his driver Max Papis on the win. Nabbed some posters and the craziest thing was the booth selling Hawaiian Super Prix shirts and hats. What the h---, they got to try to re-coup some of the money.

Sunday, race day. Got my scanner all charged up and programmed. We had great seats. Sat in the big looping left hander right before the tight hairpin just before the front stretch. My fav, Adrian went out early, oh well. I kept wondering when Paul Tracy was going to blow it, alas he kept his 'kool' and took the checkers. Best conversation heard was Montoya after he ran off course. He was stuck... had no reverse. "Chip, Chip, is somebody gonna come and get me?"

Everyone thought Kurosawa was easy pickings but he got cheered each lap he led. I think the best thing I saw was after the race. Crowd control was pushing back the crowds so that safety team guys could bring the Max Papis car back to the paddock on the hook. Carl Haas was also trying to get through on his scooter. The youngster in the yellow vest had no idea who he was and tried to stop him too. "Get outa my way.... THAT IS MY CAR!!" We all knew it wasn't but the crowd sent up a cheer for the feisty cigar chompin' Haas.

On to this weekend and it was three days at the Penske Palace. The taxi-cabs, the NASCAR boys and their stock cars were in town. Lots of sun and lots of action. Fridays I know better then to wear my Earnhardt colors. I'm always embarrassed in qualifying. Big E was like 35 or something. He hated his car almost as much as Bobby Labonte in the 18 car. Saturday morning practice and the Interstate Batteries team was nothing but junk. When crew chief Jimmy Makar asked Bobby if he wanted to try second round qualifying, "What have we got to loose. We're here, we got the tires and we don't have to pay for it. We'll call it a test." It still did him no good, started 36th.

Before the Busch race I tuned into ESPN's directors feed and it was kinda cool listening in to the rehearsal. Dr. Jerry Punch did his intro three times and the pit guys and their camera crews ran thru the paces a couple of times. Benny fed a leading question to Ray Everham and the third time through Benny switched the question and got Ray all messed up. Once they went live everything went off with out a hitch.

I thought Sundays race was a good one. While the leader was way out front the cars battling for 2nd thru 8th or so were putting on a great battle. Switching from drivers frequencies to ESPN on the scanner let me know what was happening and I loved it. I hope it was as good on TV as it was in person.

Now I get to rest up for the CART return in October. Two major events in one month are plenty. It was awesome to watch the two premier racing series in the US right in my own back yard.


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