CHARDON, OHIO (April 10, 2000) - When Dede Rogers first proposed fielding a team in the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, many of her closest friends questioned the wisdom of such a bold move into one of professional racing's most...
CHARDON, OHIO (April 10, 2000) - When Dede Rogers first proposed fielding a team in the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, many of her closest friends questioned the wisdom of such a bold move into one of professional racing's most competitive series. Now, with a pole position, a victory and the lead in the series championship after the season-opening, double-header at Homestead-Miami Speedway just two weeks ago, her DSTP Atlantic team has established itself as a leading contender for the 2000 season.
Armed with the resources of leading Atlantic driver Buddy Rice, championship-winning engineer Jim Griffith, and a team of racing's finest crew members, DSTP Atlantic is seeking a race-winning repeat performance in this Saturday's CART Toyota Atlantic race, part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach CART FedEx Championship weekend.
"Taking the pole our first time out and winning our second race was much more than we ever anticipated," said Rogers, owner of DSTP Atlantic. "We felt a tremendous amount of pressure to do well at Homestead, but now there's a completely different type of pressure that comes with winning. The Atlantic series is so competitive that you can never let your guard down, especially at a track as challenging as Long Beach."
For Rice, now in his third year of Atlantic competition, Long Beach presents an Atlantic homecoming, of sorts. It was there in 1998 that he had his first-ever Atlantic race, with the famed Lynx Racing team, and responded by capturing pole position and, subsequently, becoming the first driver in Atlantic history to qualify on pole in his very first race. While he finished the rain-soaked race seventh, he moved through the field several times in a race marred by poor visibility, spinning cars and caution flags. Last year, again driving for Lynx, Rice qualified fifth and moved-up to finish fourth.
"Long Beach is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the circuit," said Rice, now driving for DSTP Atlantic and leading the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship points standings over PPI Motorsports' Dan Wheldon. "We reach some pretty high speeds on the straights, and the walls can be a little intimidating if you're not familiar with street circuits. There really isn't much of a margin for error and it's critical to stay out of trouble throughout the weekend. Once again, the layout has changed from the previous year. While most of the track is the same, it's just different enough that it will require a completely new setup. We'll just focus on our own game plan and not worry about what the other teams are doing. It's great to be coming off of our first win, but this is an all-new weekend, and an all-new race."
Rice, 24, of Phoenix, Arizona, rejoins DSTP after driving for the team in the 1997 U.S. F2000 National Championship. He moved on to the Lynx Racing Atlantic team for 1998 and 1999, finishing seventh and fifth, respectively, in the series championships. Rice's Atlantic record includes two wins (Nazareth (1998), Homestead (2000)), 16 top fives, ten podiums, four poles and four fastest race laps. He currently leads Wheldon by a two-point margin in the 2000 Toyota Atlantic season championship (39 - 37), by virtue of leading the most laps in each of Homestead's two Atlantic races. Rice's 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 International Raceway, 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 also fills the role of DSTP's vice president of operations, was voted CART's Toyota Atlantic 1999 Engineer-of-the-Year and 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.
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 a portion of last year's CART FedEx Championship for the Walker Racing and Payton-Coyne Champ Car teams. Another former DSTP F2000 driver, Alex Barron (DSTP - 1996), captured the 1997 Atlantic title in his rookie season with Lynx Racing, then rose to the CART Champ Car ranks, driving in 1998 with Dan Gurney's All American Racers and in selected events last year for Marlboro Team Penske. DSTP's most recent F2000 driver, Bobby Oergel, finished the 1999 US F2000 National Championship series sixth overall, with three podiums and one pole position. With a focus on the Atlantic championship, DSTP no longer fields a team in the US F2000 series.
Round three of the 12-race CART Toyota Atlantic series at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begins this Friday, April 14, with practice and qualifying, followed by the race on Saturday, April 15 at 3:15 Pacific Daylight Time. The race will be televised on espn2 on Sunday, April 23, at 4:30 pm Eastern, with an encore presentation scheduled for Thursday, April 27, at 5:00 am Eastern. Round four takes place at the Milwaukee Mile on Saturday, June 3, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.