Canadians big part of Champ Car

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

TORONTO -- Canada Day has been celebrated. But it's scheduled again for next Sunday in Toronto and a week later in Edmonton anyway.

The portable city which is the infield and pit areas for the Toronto Molson Indy is beginning to form here, and anticipation for the inaugural Grand Prix of Edmonton a week later is beginning to build back home. For both events, and the Aug. 28 race in Montreal, the Canadian flags will be flying.

"The thing that makes Canada special in the series is the Canadian drivers and the way the fans celebrate them,'' says Speed Channel analyst Robin Miller.

"There's certainly plenty to celebrate as we come to Canada this year.''

Paul Tracy of Toronto leads the series by one point - 128 to 127 as a result of his win in the Grand Prix of Cleveland.

But there's more involved than that.

Rookie Andrew Ranger tops the rookie of the year race - up 69 points to 65 on Timo Glock of Germany. But you can't win the series title every season and you most certainly can't be rookie of the year every year.

But you can win the Nations Cup.

While Tracy and Ranger may lose their leads, Team Canada is well positioned to win the Nations Cup for a third straight season.

It's the Nations Cup standings which best illustrates the story of Canada and Champ Car.

CANADA ON TOP

In the 10th year as part of Champ Car (formerly CART) racing, the United States won the Nations Cup the first four years and Brazil the next four years. But Canada has won the last two. And as the series comes north, Canada has 145 points. France, led by Bourdais, has 122. Brazil, with Chrisiano da Matt follows with 111.

"It's a lot of fun,'' says Paul Tracy of Canadian drivers having bragging rights around the property as a group.

"All three drivers are good this year,'' he says of veteran Alex Tagliani and rookie Ranger, who come to Canada sitting ninth and 10th in the series.

"It's not something you concentrate on during race weekends. We all race for different teams. But at the end of the year when you pick up that trophy, it's a nice bonus. It's fun for the three of us.''

Actually, Tagliani is getting teased a tad about racing for Team Australia (not the country. The actual name of the Aussie Vineyards team which also runs a second car driven by actual Australian Marcus Marshall.)

Last year, Tracy, Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier all won races in the series as Canada won the title by 22 points.

In 2003, Tracy won his first overall drivers title, Carpentier was fifth and Tagliani 10th.

IN THE MIX EARLY

Ranger started the Cleveland race last weekend from a career-best fourth-place spot on the grid and emerged from a battle with country-mate Tagliani to run in the lead pack early in the race, moving up to be third at one point.

But a yellow flag flew for debris on the track, the pits were closed and the rookie had no choice but to pit due to the fact he was nearly out of fuel. As a result, he was moved to the back of the pack. He impressed more than a few people by working his way all the way back up to eighth.

Tagliani was leading the Cleveland race with eight laps to go when Tracy caught him.

Tracy with the win and the other two, with the way they raced in the Cleveland race, fuels the excitement as the trio turns the corner of the series to race in their home and native land.

HOME SWEET HOME

"I have always felt that racing in Canada was important, not only because I am Canadian but because fans seem to know so much more about racing,'' said Tagliani.

"I got my first podium in Toronto and have always had a big fan base there, so that makes it special.''

Montreal is obvious.

And Edmonton?

"Any race in Canada is going to feel home for me.''

This will be 18-year-old Ranger's first taste of racing in Canada as a big leaguer.

"I'm really looking forward to racing in Canada,'' said the native of Roxton Pond who, unlike Tracy and Tagliani, still lives in his hometown instead of Las Vegas.

"I always feel like Toronto is a home race and I hope Edmonton will feel that way, too.

"I have won support series races in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. It's a big deal for me. I'm just happy to have three Canadian races.''


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