By Mike Stucker - motorsport.com The next to last CART Toyota Atlantic race of the year was run in Houston, Texas. Martin Basso, the pole position winner, chose to start his car on the outside of the front row, with newly crowned 2001 champion...
By Mike Stucker - motorsport.com
The next to last CART Toyota Atlantic race of the year was run in Houston, Texas. Martin Basso, the pole position winner, chose to start his car on the outside of the front row, with newly crowned 2001 champion Hoover Orsi on the inside. Leading Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Joey Hand started third with David Rutledge, fastest in the morning warm-up, next to him.
As they crossed the Start Line on the back straight, they went four wide and started jockeying for positions as the approached the first corner, Turn 5. Orsi and Basso touched going for he same piece of realestate as they enter the corner. Hand sees both going for it, backs off a little, and then drives under the shunt. Behind them, all hell breaks loose with five of the front running cars involved. Despite cars all over the track, everyone rejoins the race except Basso and Case Montgomery. Hand takes the lead followed by Tony Ave, Jason LaPoint, and Jonathan Macri, who had a flying car pass his nose. Rutledge is forced to pit to replace a deflating tire cut in the incident.
On the restart after the yellow to clean up the track, Scott Wood tangles with another car at the back of the field and gets airborn. Ave then pits due to contact in the original incident. Ave goes back out but then pits again and parks his car.
Orsi and Rutledge recover from the first lap mess and begin to climb back up through the field. Orsi is soon in second place.
Macri passed Lapoint for for third but a lap later, while preparing to lap Wood, climbed the left rear tire of Wood when Wood's brakes lock entering Turn 5. Wood spins and stalls betweens Turns 5 and 6. Macri continues at race speed but with his front wing dangling. Rutledge is soon past Macri's mishandling car and starts off after Orsi.
We're not done with the carnage yet, though, as Rodolfo Lavine spins Stephan Roy, putting both cars out.
Orsi and Rutledge began to real in Hand who, up to this point, has gone unchallenged. With 10 laps too go, there is only 1.5 seconds separating the top three. Fourth place Macri had fallen 12 seconds back.
With six laps left, Orsi had cut Hand's lead to about .7 seconds. Hand responded by increasing his lead to 1.085 seconds with 4 to go. Rutledge was .146 seconds behind Orsi.
With one and half laps to go, the leaders passed back-marker Wood in Turn 8. Hand is held up by Wood just a bit, though, so that the top three were seperated by only .832 seconds as they passed under the white flag. But that was as close as Orsi and Rutledge wood get.
Rookie Joey Hand lead home Hoover Orsi and David Rutledge for .594 second victory, his second in the Toyota Atlantic series. The win clinches the Rookie-of-the-Year title for Hand. Jonathan Macri held on for fourth even with his dangling front wing. The winners average speed for the 43 lap (65 mile) race was 71.611 mph (115.246 kph).