CHARDON, OHIO (December 14, 1999) - Dede Rogers, owner of DSTP Atlantic, today announced that Buddy Rice will drive the team's one-car entry in the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship series.
"We've assembled a highly talented group of professionals for our first season in the Toyota Atlantic series," said Rogers. "Bringing Buddy on board fills in the remaining piece of the puzzle. We wanted a driver that would serve as the focal point for the team, as well as someone with enough inner strength to be a championship winner. Buddy's a proven talent, and by providing him with the best resources and support available, we're counting on him to take us to the front."
Rice, 23, most recently drove for Lynx Racing during the 1998 and 1999 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic seasons, qualifying on pole in his first-ever Atlantic appearance (Long Beach, 1998), then following up to win his next race, again starting from pole position (Nazareth, 1998).
"Returning to DSTP is really like a homecoming for me," said Rice, who previously drove for DSTP in a Lynx Racing supported entry for the 1997 US F2000 National Championship season. "When Dede formally asked me to drive for her again, I jumped at the chance. Continuing with Jim (Griffith, who engineered Rice at Lynx Racing and DSTP for the previous three years) was also a big factor in my decision. We've developed a terrific working relationship over the years and feel like we have some unfinished business to take care of in Atlantic. I've never seen a team so determined to put together a winning package, and I'm honored that they selected me to be a part of it."
Rice's Atlantic record includes one win, 14 top fives, eight podiums, three poles and four fastest race laps, resulting in seventh and fifth, respectively, in the 1998 and 1999 series championships. He is the only driver in Atlantic's 26-year history to qualify on pole in his very first race, and since has started beyond the fourth row only twice in his Atlantic career.
His racing roots began in karts at age eleven, where he won multiple championships including two IKF Grand National and seven regional titles. He made his professional racing debut in 1996's US F2000 National Championship race at Phoenix, where he qualified on the front row as an independent in a six-year-old car. Brought to the attention of Jim Griffith by Formula Ford engine builder Jay Ivey, Griffith recommended that Lynx Racing consider supporting Rice at DSTP for the 1997 US F2000 season. He responded by taking one win, two poles and five podiums en route to seventh overall in the series championship, and received special recognition by being selected to represent the United States in Europe's prestigious Nation's Cup, as part of the 1997 Valvoline Team USA Scholarship team.
Griffith, who recently was voted KOOL/Toyota Atlantic's 1999 Engineer-of-the-Year, served as Lynx Racing's engineer for five seasons. His Atlantic record includes two championship titles (1996 and 1997), two Engineer-of-the-Year awards (1997 and 1999), and one Mechanic-of-the-Year award (1996). Griffith also has engineered DSTP's F2000 National Championship team since 1995.
While DSTP will no longer field a team in the US F2000 National Championship, several key figures remain as part of the Atlantic program including data engineer Bruce Potter, who also served as Lynx Racing's Atlantic data specialist, and Pam Griffith, who fulfills the role of the team's operations manager. Continuing with DSTP is Marc Armstrong, who is now DSTP Atlantic's crew chief, along with mechanic Richard Jones and fabricator Steve Littin. New team members include gearbox specialist Jeremy Fox and transport driver Charlie Cornish. Rice also will relocate from his Phoenix, Arizona, home to be near DSTP's Chardon, Ohio, base. DSTP was formed by Rogers in 1994 and first fielded a team in the Dodge Shelby Pro Series. The team's initial season resulted in several podium finishes and pole positions leading up to second in the rookie championship. The following year, DSTP made the jump to the US F2000 National Championship pro series as well as selected Hooter's Cup Formula 2000 events with driver Memo Gidley. Although leading the Hooter's Cup championship series, DSTP elected to focus on the US F2000 National series, where Gidley went on to capture three wins and three poles on his way to second in the 1995 F2000 series championship, as well as the Rookie-of-the-Year, Oval Crown Champion and Oval Rookie-of-the-Year titles.
Gidley recently campaigned this year's CART FedEx Championship for Walker Racing and the Payton-Coyne team. Another former DSTP F2000 driver, Alex Barron (DSTP - 1996), captured the 1997 Atlantic title with Lynx Racing in his rookie season, then rose to the CART Champ Car ranks, driving in 1998 with Dan Gurney's All American Racers and in selected events this year for Marlboro Team Penske. DSTP's most recent graduate, Bobby Oergel, finished the 1999 US F2000 National Championship series sixth overall, with three podiums and one pole position.
The 12-race 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship season begins with a double-header at Homestead Motorsports Complex near Miami, Florida, on March 25-26, part of the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami CART FedEx Championship weekend.