Champ Car last visited Texas in '01
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 season.
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 race.
"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.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press