HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 25, 2000 -- Dan Wheldon's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship debut was sizzling, battling polesitter Buddy Rice through most of the 50-lap season opener, trading the lead five times with Rice before eventually winning the...
HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 25, 2000 -- Dan Wheldon's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship debut was sizzling, battling polesitter Buddy Rice through most of the 50-lap season opener, trading the lead five times with Rice before eventually winning the first of two Atlantic races during the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented By Toyota weekend. Round 2 of the 12-race CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held Sunday morning.
Rice, in his first race with new team DSTP, led the first 16 laps before engaging in a see-saw contest with Wheldon. From that point, Wheldon and Rice swapped the lead, and some paint, before Wheldon took over the lead for good on lap 45, eventually beating Rice by .936 sec. Wheldon, in the PPIM-Jayhard/BG Products Swift, took a two-point lead over Rice in the championship.
"Buddy's car was very good at drafting off of mine, and mine was not good at drafting off of his," Wheldon said. "I was really quick in the in-field and Buddy was a little quicker on the oval part, is it made a really great race. PPIM prepared a great car and I'm looking forward (to Sunday's race)."
Rice looked strong in the beginning, fending off Wheldon on several re-starts, after starting on the pole for the fourth time in his Atlantic career and earning the $1,000 "Toyota Pole Award." Rice led 32 laps during the race that included 15 caution laps and four full-course yellows.
"We're real happy with our result," Rice said. "To come here and get second place in our first race is terrific. Winning would have been better, but at least we know that we're capable of running up front. Daniel and I were pretty much even. It really came down to who had the draft. With just a few laps to go, he got around me and was able to put a little room between us. I couldn't make a good enough run on him to get back around him. We definitely learned some things that will help us (for Sunday's race)."
Brazil's Hoover Orsi, who signed on with Hylton Motorsports just days before the event, moved from his starting position of 12th to a remarkable third-place finish, passing Rocky Moran Jr., on the last lap to take the final podium spot in his first Atlantic race. Before that, Orsi made some impressive passes midway through the race, putting him in position to challenge near the end.
"I was moving up pretty well and finally got by Rocky as we headed into the in-field part," said Orsi, who still needs a strong finish in Sunday's round two race in order to finance the Long Beach race. "If I do well again, maybe I can continue."
Moran Jr. moved up from eighth, weaving his way into third by the 45th lap, before finishing a career-high fourth in the P-1 Racing/NTN Bearing Swift. Michael Shank Racing's Martin Basso ran well, too, in his first Atlantic venture, starting seventh and running as high as third until fading to fifth near the end.
Alex Gurney's race ended early, however, after getting caught in contact with two other cars on the race's opening lap. Gurney, in the All American Racers Swift, started a career-high fourth.
ESPN2 and ESPN International will broadcast Saturday's Round 1 race from Homestead on Saturday, April 1, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET, while Atlantic fans in Canada can watch the race on CTV SportsNet on Monday, April 10, at 8 p.m. in each of the regional time zones. Sunday's Round 2 will be televised on ESPN2 on Saturday, April 8, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET, with CTV SportsNet airing the race on Monday, April 17, at 7 p.m. in each of the regional time zones.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship continues with the second round of the Homestead double-header, Sunday, March 26, at the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Sponsored by Toyota.