Chicago: Round six preview

Success on one of the Atlantic ovals on the 2002 schedule does not always mean you will have it on the other. Although they appear to be similar one-mile ovals, the difference between the Chicago Motor Speedway and the Milwaukee Mile are quite ...

Success on one of the Atlantic ovals on the 2002 schedule does not always mean you will have it on the other. Although they appear to be similar one-mile ovals, the difference between the Chicago Motor Speedway and the Milwaukee Mile are quite drastic.

Apparently, someone forgot to tell that to the Hylton Motorsports team as they go for their fourth straight oval win this weekend at the Chicago Motor Speedway. The 2001 Championship team started their winning streak last year at the Milwaukee Mile with Brazil's Hoover Orsi and followed it up with a win here at Chicago. The season changed, but the winning didn't as rookie, Roger Yasukawa (Hylton Motorsports/Autobacs U.S. Print Swift 014.a) put Hylton in victory lane again at Milwaukee earlier this month.

Yasukawa's teammate and fellow rookie, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Medlock Ames Winery Autobytel U.S. Print Swift 014.a) was leading the Milwaukee event and appeared to be on his way to his first victory of the season before succumbing to a mechanical failure late in the race. The pair were easily the best two cars in the field in Milwaukee and there is no reason to believe that they won't be as strong this weekend as well. The 2001 Chicago race saw Orsi nearly lap every car in the field. Only three cars were able to stay on the lead lap with the Brazilian driver.

Grant Ryley (Lynx Racing/Northwest Speedwerx Cupertino Electric Swift 014.a) won the pole in Milwaukee last year and went on to finish runner-up to eventual winner, Hoover Orsi. Later in the 2001 season, Ryley struggled at the Chicago Motor Speedway finishing the race eighth after starting eleventh, one lap down behind the race winner. Ryley compares the two circuits.

"Milwaukee and Chicago represent the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of oval tracks," said Ryley who finished fourth at Long Beach and stands 7th in the Championship with 16 points. "Milwaukee is very wide, with short straights and long corners. It has very little banking and you can run cars on several different lines. It's more 'passing-friendly,' and when the car is right, you can run each lap with the gas pedal flat on the floor. It's a track that I like a lot, and a format that I think makes for better racing. Chicago is the opposite. Long straights and short turns, lots of banking, one groove and even the best car has to lift going into the turns. You might even find yourself braking and downshifting. They offer different challenges, and both demand that you be fast right off the trailer, with a good idea of where you're going with the setup or you'll be playing catch-up all weekend."

As 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship enters the middle portion of the schedule, there has not been a driver able to break away in the points battle. With only seven races remaining, each race becomes critical for the Championship hopefuls. Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) comes into Chicago with a narrow two point lead over Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a), with a pack of hungry drivers behind him. Seven drivers are within range of Fogarty and can leave Chicago with the Championship lead. Also, the top-ten are separated by a mere 23 points.

Competing in their first season in Atlantic, Fogarty and Dorricott Racing struggled most of the weekend in Milwaukee, but salvaged a fifth place finish. Valiante was in the same boat coming home in seventh. The Hylton Motorsports tandem are both close enough to make huge gains in the Championship should either Fogarty or Valiante stumble this weekend. The Chicago Motor Speedway has not been one of the strongest tracks for Lynx Racing. The 2001 race landed Lynx Racing's David Rutledge in 12th spot, but if Valiante can turn in a good result this weekend, the advantage goes in their favor as the schedule moves to what have been traditionally strong tracks for the team. Yasukawa is just 10 behind Fogarty at 51 points. Hunter-Reay, who has won two poles and two WorldCom fastest lap awards this year, is 23 behind with 38 points.

The biggest threats to Hylton's oval dominance could come from P-1 Racing and Michael Shank Racing. Both teams have been strong on ovals in recent years with P-1 Racing's Tony Ave, winning the final oval race before Hylton's streak. Ave and Stephan C. Roy (BBGP Racing/Betonusa.net Playstation 2 Swift 014.a), who drove for P-1 Racing in 2001, ran runner-up to Orsi here last year. The third place finish for Roy was his first career podium and he hopes to carry some of last year's results over to his new team, BBGP Racing. P-1 Racing's current lineup of Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Miller Genuine Draft Battlefield Equipment Rentals Swift 014.a) and David Cutler (P-1 Racing/AMD Dell Broadcom Microsoft Swift 014.a) should challenge for podium spots this weekend. Macri has been hot lately earning podium finishes in two of the past three races and enters this race tied with Hunter-Reay in points at 38.

Mexico's Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Modelo Swift 014.a) leads Shank's three-car effort. Lavin placed second earlier this season at Milwaukee and ran fourth last year here in Chicago. Both Lavin and teammate, Ryan Dalziel (Michael Shank Racing Swift 014.a) stand with 38 points in the Championship, 18 points behind Fogarty. The third Shank entry, Sepp Koster (Michael Shank Racing/Blue Bay Golf Resort/Uitert Respons Swift 014.a) will try again to make his first oval start. Koster missed the Milwaukee event after a practice incident damaged his car too severely to compete in the race.

Quietly hovering below the radar all season has been Rocky Moran Jr. (Sigma Autosport Swift 014.a). In this season's first five races, Moran Jr. has placed sixth or better in four of them. The results have put Moran Jr. tied for third in the Championship with Yasukawa, 10 points behind Fogarty. However, Chicago may be difficult for Moran Jr. unless the Sigma team can figure out the problems that caused him to drop to a 13th place finish at Milwaukee earlier this month.

Dorricott Racing used its years of knowledge of Portland International Raceway to take home a win and a pole two weeks ago. Dorricott Racing had won in previous years at the track while competing in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and last week's victory marked the fourth straight year the team had won there. Their drivers hold three of the top six spots in the Championship, but it may be tough to hang on to the positions at Chicago.

With his first career Atlantic win at Portland, Luis Diaz (Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a) vaulted up to fifth place in the Championship with 50 points, just 11 behind his teammate, Fogarty. Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a), who is still searching for his first career win, is just one point behind Diaz. Gurney turned in Dorricott Racing's best performance on the Milwaukee oval with a fourth place finish.

Buddy Rice (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a) will try to break out of the recent slump for the DSTP team this weekend. Rice is subbing for Joey Hand, who was injured in a testing accident in May at the Milwaukee Mile. Rice filled the seat starting at the Round 4 race at Laguna Seca; but has not found the groove that carried him to the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. A practice incident at Laguna Seca put the team behind all weekend, and the race at Portland International Raceway was the first visit to that track for the team. Although they did not fair well in Chicago last year with Hand finishing eighth, Rice has had some time to get reacquainted with the car. The upcoming schedule features some tracks where the DSTP team has been strong at the past two years which should work in their favor.

NOTES:

Michael Valiante and Rodolfo Lavin are the only drivers to complete every lap this season. (196)

Five races, five different winners. (Fogarty, Valiante, Yasukawa, Hunter-Reay, Diaz) Each driver's win was the first of his Atlantic career.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has led the most laps this season. (71) Alex Gurney is the only driver to have led laps without posting a win this season.

Luis Diaz and Ryan Hunter-Reay have both won two poles. Joey Hand won the other.

Every driver in the top-ten in Championship points have posted finishes of second or better at least one time this season. Joey Hand is only driver out of top-ten to post a podium finish.

Jon Fogarty and Michael Valiante are tied for the lead in road course points. (50)

-atlantic/cart-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Jon Fogarty , Tony Ave , Hoover Orsi , Michael Valiante , Grant Ryley , Joey Hand , Stephan C. Roy , Jonathan Macri , Rocky Moran Jr. , Luis Diaz , Ryan Hunter-Reay , David Cutler , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Rodolfo Lavin , Sepp Koster , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing