EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 22, 2006) – Apparently the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford point standings had gotten close enough for two-time defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais.

After seeing his huge lead whittled to 23 after three straight A.J. Allmendinger wins, Bourdais started grabbing points early and often in Edmonton. He paced Friday qualifying for Sunday’s West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix Presented by The Brick, then followed it up by winning the Bridgestone Pole Position, breaking a track record on a sweltering Saturday at Edmonton’s JAGflo Speedway.

Bourdais looped the 1.973-mile airport circuit in 58.560 seconds (121.291 mph) to score the pole, besting Allmendinger’s track record from a year ago and giving him his fourth pole of the 2006 season. He also earned another championship point for the effort, giving him 193 on the year and pushing his lead over Allmendinger back to 25 points. Bourdais was joined on the front row by Canadian star Paul Tracy, who claimed his first front-row starting spot of the season with a time of 58.622 seconds (121.163 mph)

The session featured three red-flag stoppages and had to be extended slightly so that competitors could get their guaranteed 20 minutes of green-flag time. Interestingly, the session was started when Tracy led competitors out on track, marking the first time in three years of the current qualifying format that the 2003 series champion was the first car on track to begin a qualifying session.

Unfortunately, the strategy came undone fairly quickly for Tracy as an electronic failure caused him to spin into the Turn Seven wall, bringing out the red flag for the first time. The misstep would turn out to be a major factor later in the session as drivers are penalized for bringing out red flags with the loss of their fastest qualifying lap. His Forsythe Championship Racing team fixed the situation in short order, getting Tracy back on track when the green flag waved to restart the session, but Justin Wilson in the CDW car made the first big move, jumping from fourth to first on just his third lap.

The rest of the field would have to wait to catch him however as rookie Dan Clarke brought out the red flag by clouting the Turn 13 wall. Clarke, who was fifth in the afternoon practice, will start 17th in tomorrow’s 85-lap race by virtue of his first-round time.

It didn’t take long for the big guns to start firing after the Clarke incident as Tracy climbed to the top of the queue on his sixth lap only to see Allmendinger, and then Wilson, slip past him less than 30 seconds later. The flurry ended abruptly when Bruno Junqueira spun and stalled, bringing out the scarlet banner for the third time in the session. The red flag stopped the proceedings, but not before Bourdais sprinted across the line with his best time, moving him to the first spot in the order.

A quick cleanup gave the field eight minutes to post their best time when the green flag restarted the festivities and 14 of the cars sprinted off Pit Lane in search of those top times. Tracy made his first lap pay off big as he carded a lap that would have pushed him ahead of Bourdais, but the aforementioned penalty meant that he would have to do it again for it to stand up. His final lap was within a tenth of a second of the polesitter, and good enough for second on the day while Wilson came back to reclaim the third position with a lap of 58.665 seconds (121.074 mph).

Allmendinger had the last chance to upend Bourdais, but will make his quest for four consecutive wins from the fourth spot on the grid after posting a time of 58.893 seconds (120.805 mph). 2005 Edmonton podium finisher Oriol Servia rounded out the top five with a lap of 59.324 seconds (119.729 mph), marking the third consecutive top-five start for the Spaniard.

Will Power ended the session in the sixth position, but dropped back to seventh after being found in violation of the Champ Car rules concerning blocking. He lost his fastest lap as a result and dropped to seventh behind Nelson Philippe, who matches a career-high with his sixth-place grid position. 

Andrew Ranger scored his second straight top-10 qualifying result by taking the eighth spot while Junqueira ended up ninth by virtue of his first-round time. Dale Coyne Racing’s Mario Dominguez rounded out the top 10.