Madison, IL (September 16, 2000) - Buddy Rice and the DSTP Atlantic team today clinched the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship title by virtue of finishing 2nd in this afternoon's Atlantic race at Gateway International Raceway, just outside of...
Madison, IL (September 16, 2000) - Buddy Rice and the DSTP Atlantic team today clinched the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship title by virtue of finishing 2nd in this afternoon's Atlantic race at Gateway International Raceway, just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. Rice earned 16 points for his finish, giving him a 24 point margin over Dan Wheldon, who today finished 7th, to capture the title with one race remaining in the 12-race CART Toyota Atlantic series.
"This is definitely the highlight of my career so far," said Rice, who started today's race from third position and led for seven laps. "To clinch the championship with one race to go shows just how strong the DSTP team has been all year. We came here with every intention of winning the race, but it feels just as good to win the championship with a solid second place today. We had a small intermittent electrical problem that acted like a rev limiter every now and then. It eventually wasn't as bad as at the start, but by then it had allowed Case (Montgomery) to open up a lead and Rocky (Moran Jr.) and Martin (Basso) to catch up. I was concerned that we wouldn't be able to make it through the race. We had an awesome set up, though. The last eight laps I took completely flat out and got back by Rocky and Martin. This was one of the best races all year and it seemed like we were swapping positions every lap. Rocky, Martin and Case all ran clean and did a great job. It's been a terrific season. We've finished on the podium in every race we've completed and I think that was the key to the championship. Now, we can go to Houston with the championship behind us and focus on winning the season finale."
Rice captured the drivers' championship by virtue of five wins, three second-place finishes, one third, two pole positions and six fastest race laps with the suburban Cleveland, Ohio-based DSTP Atlantic team. He relinquished the championship lead only once since taking over at round two in Homestead, led more laps this season than any other driver (222 out of 379 completed), and finished on the podium in nine events (out of nine completed).
"This is the happiest day for me since I've been in racing," said Dede Rogers, team owner. "Every win has been special but to win the championship reflects on a full season of hard work and dedication. We never imagined that we could have won the championship in our very first year in the Atlantic series, but this is simply the best group of people on this team and Buddy came through with another stellar drive today. Now's the time for a quick celebration before we're off for the season finale in Houston."
Today's 50-lap race was won by Atlantic veteran Case Montgomery, who took the first Atlantic win for the World Speed Motorsports team, followed by Rice, Basso, Moran and Akihiro Asai. Rice jumped into the lead at the first turn and led the first five laps before he and Montgomery swapped positions for ten laps. Montgomery extended his lead and was never challenged again as Rice faltered with electrical problems and battled for second place with Basso and Moran. Rice took over third from Moran with ten laps remaining, then passed Basso for second on lap 48.
DSTP is the first team in the Atlantic modern era to win the championship in its rookie season. Instrumental to DSTP's success this season is Jim Griffith, who serves as the team's vice president of operations as well as Rice's chief engineer. Previously, Griffith served as Lynx Racing's engineer for the past five seasons. His Atlantic record includes two championship titles (1996 and 1997, with Patrick Carpentier and Alex Barron), two Engineer-of-the-Year awards (1997 and 1999, Barron and Rice), and one Mechanic-of-the-Year award (1996, Carpentier).
Rice rejoined DSTP this year after driving for the team in the 1997 U.S. F2000 National Championship. He moved on to Lynx Racing's Atlantic team for 1998 and 1999 finishing seventh and fifth, respectively, in the series championships. His Atlantic record includes six wins (1998 - Nazareth; 2000 - Homestead #2, Long Beach, Cleveland, Trois Rivieres, Road America), 23 top fives, 17 podiums, five poles and 10 fastest race laps.
Rice's racing career 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 series with the help of friend and Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount. Lynx Racing then supported him at DSTP's F2000 team in 1997, where he responded by taking one win, two poles and five podiums en route to seventh overall in the series championship, before moving up to Lynx's Atlantic seat. Today, his sights are firmly set on a career in the CART FedEx Championship, where he hopes to compete against the likes of Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy and Max Papis, as well as his former Atlantic competitor Alex Tagliani.
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 series, DSTP elected to focus on the US F2000 National Championship, 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 will campaign the remainder of this year's CART FedEx Championship with Della Penna Motorsports, after successfully filling in at Player's/Forsythe, Walker Racing and Payton-Coyne Racing the past two years. 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. For 2000, Barron has competed in several Champ Car events with the Sports Today Dale Coyne team.
Gateway's CART Toyota Atlantic race will be televised via espn2 on Sunday, September 24, at 6:30 pm (EDT), with an encore presentation on Thursday, September 28, at 5:00 am (EDT).