Laguna Seca: Season finale preview

Toyota Atlantic 2004 Title Comes Down To Fogarty Versus Dalziel This Weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca INDIANAPOLIS (September 7, 2004) -- Two drivers. One race. One championship. From the very beginning of the 2004 Toyota Atlantic ...

Toyota Atlantic 2004 Title Comes Down To Fogarty Versus Dalziel This Weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

INDIANAPOLIS (September 7, 2004) -- Two drivers. One race. One championship.

From the very beginning of the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama season, American Jon Fogarty (#96 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Umbrella Entertainment) and Scotsman Ryan Dalziel (#28 ProWorks) have proven to be the cream of a talented crop of young open-wheel racers that have showcased their skills on ovals, road and street courses over the last six months. This weekend, the half-year tug-of-war between the two series veterans will be decided in the Atlantic season finale -- the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Championship of Monterey Presented by Yokohama (tape-delayed on SPEED Channel, Sunday, September 26 - 2 p.m. ET).

The battle between Fogarty and Dalziel has been so good, it's almost a shame that it has to end. But end it will on Sunday, in Round 12 of the Atlantic schedule and it's Dalziel that must make up ground on his rival's home turf if he hopes to capture his first Toyota Atlantic Championship. The 22-year-old Scot trails Fogarty by five points entering the weekend. With 35 points still available to be earned, that's not a big deficit to overcome, However, the tussle between these two racers has been so tight all season, it won't be easy to get those points back either.

Examining the season's results illustrates just how impressive these two have been against some terrific competition this year. Of the 387 race laps run in Atlantic competition so far this year, either Fogarty or Dalziel have led all but 35 of those laps. Each driver has won five pole positions this year, capturing all but one pole available in '04 (Danica Patrick won the pole at Portland in Round 5) and between them they've accounted for nine of the series' 11 victories (Alex Figge won in Round 2 and Ronnie Bremer was victorious in Round 10).

With the battle being so close between Fogarty and Dalziel, it's tough to tell who has the advantage entering the final race. Fogarty already has one title under his belt, winning a close competition for the 2002 Atlantic crown and he has the five-point cushion. He was also born in Palo Alto, California so he certainly knows the 2.238-mile Laguna Seca road circuit based in Northern California pretty well. Dalziel could argue, however, that he has a better history at Laguna. He finished fourth in 2002 and was on the podium with a second-place result last season compared to Fogarty's 22nd place finish due to mechanical problems in his lone Atlantic start at the classic road course in '02.

Dalziel also has proven adept at slicing into Fogarty's lead. The native of Lanarkshire, Scotland trailed the former champ by 19 points after Round 7 and rallied all the way back to tie the championship two weeks ago in Montreal. Fogarty reclaimed the lead after winning the final pole and Round 11 of the series at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, but does that just mean it's Dalziel's turn to shine this weekend in this back-and forth fight to the finish?

The answer will come Sunday, along with a lot of other unsettled issues in Toyota Atlantic competition. All eyes will be on the championship contenders, but battles for the final positions in the season standings will be fought all over the race track this weekend.

Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) looks to have sewn up third place in the championship behind a series-leading 10 top-five finishes this season. She trails Dalziel by 35 points and Fogarty by 40 heading into the last round but she's certainly proven to be the most consistent runner this year as the only driver to complete every lap of competition. She hopes to keep her top-five run alive by improving on her 13th-place finish last season at Laguna.

The showdown for top series rookie will also be settled this weekend and the competition there between Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Charmin/Mr. Clean/Snugabye) and Ronnie Bremer (#4 Healthcare Privileges.com/PaySystems) has been almost as good as the one for the Atlantic title. Ranger, the gifted Canadian teen, currently holds a nine-point advantage over Bremer in the race for the $10,000 BG Products Rookie of the Year award as both drivers prepare for their first Atlantic experience on the challenging Laguna Seca circuit this weekend.

Second-year driver Bryan Sellers (#19 Lynx Racing) hopes to close out the season strong and finish among the top five points-earners in 2004. Sellers, who's produced three podium results this season, is currently sixth in the standings, just seven points out of fifth place. He made his Atlantic debut last season at Laguna and came home in 11th place.

Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Umbrella Entertainment), Fogarty's teammate on the Santa Barbara-based Pacific Coast team, is finishing his season in fine fashion. Figge has qualified in the top five for the last three races and he's coming of his second podium of the season with a third-place finish in Montreal.

Rookies Chris Festa (#25 SpacePak/CareCentric) and Josh Hunt (#15 Wright/Patton/Shakespeare/Atkinson Gore Group) also hope to close out their first seasons in an Atlantic car with good results. Festa, who ranks third in the rookie standings, has eight top-10 finishes this year for Rahal-Letterman Racing. Hunt, the Australian teen, owns five top-10 results and will be looking to rebound after an early-race accident ended his day at Montreal.

Second-year pilot Philip Fayer (#3 PaySystems), Bremer's teammate at Polestar Racing Group, will be making his first Laguna Seca start on Sunday. After finishing a career-best fifth in his last Toyota Atlantic race at Road America in Round 9, Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK ind./TMI/Redline Oil) returns to the track this weekend for Brooks Associates Racing, looking to bring his first season in the series to a satisfying conclusion.

In Montreal, Adam Pecorari (#2 Penn Capital/Konica Minolta) made his Atlantic debut and the driver who finished third in this season's Formula Ford Zetec series will look to improve on his 9th-place result of two weeks ago.

Series veteran Cam Binder (#65 Avmax/Western Avionics) has made five career starts at Laguna Seca, producing two top-10 results, and he'll be hoping for another strong finish running in a C2 entry on Sunday.

One driver will be seeing his first Atlantic start this weekend as Australian racer Daniel Papis will compete for Brooks Associates Racing.

The Toyota Atlantic machines that will round out the 2004 campaign this weekend are all Swift chassis powered by 240-horsepower Toyota 4A-GE engines capable of speeds in excess of 165 mph. All cars will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks.

The event schedule calls for the Toyota engines to roar to life for the first time on Friday morning with practice from 11:45 a.m. -- 12:15 p.m. PT. First-round qualifying is set for 4 -- 4:30 p.m. Friday afternoon. On Saturday, the Atlantics will run a 30-minute practice from 8:30 - 9 a.m., followed by the final round of qualifying from 12:15 -- 12:45 p.m. On race day, warm-up is scheduled for 8 -- 8:15 a.m. Sunday morning and the 2004 season finale, Round 12 of the series -- the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Championship of Monterey Presented by Yokohama -- will take the green flag at 10:30 a.m. PT. The race is scheduled for 30 laps (67.140 miles) or 50 minutes.

SPEED Channel will provide tape-delayed television coverage of the Laguna Seca Atlantic race at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 26. The race will also air to U.S. service men and women in 77 countries around the world through the American Forces Radio & Television Service. For additional information, and to follow all on-track sessions as they happen though the live timing and scoring link, visit the series' official web site, www.toyotaatlantic.com.

FAST FACTS

WHAT: Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Yokohama

WHERE:  Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

WHEN: Friday-Sunday, September 10-12

TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local):

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10
11:45 a.m. -- 12:15 p.m., Practice
4 -- 4:30 p.m., First-Round Qualifying.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
8:30 -- 9 a.m., Practice
12:15 -- 12:45 p.m., Final Qualifying.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
8 -- 8:15 a.m., Warm-up
10:30 -- 11:20 a.m., Atlantic Race.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE:

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 26
SPEED Channel, Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Yokohama, 2 p.m. ET (Tape-Delay).

2003 CHAMPION:  A.J. Allmendinger

2003 POLESITTER: A.J. Allmendinger
TRACK LAYOUT:  2.238-mile permanent road course

RACE LENGTH: 30 laps (67.140 miles) or 50 minutes

TRACK RECORDS: Qualifying (one lap) -- 2003, A.J. Allmendinger, 104.653 mph (1:16.986). Race -- (one lap) 2003, A.J. Allmendinger, 103.655 mph (1:17.727); (30 laps) 2000, Dan Wheldon, 99.473 mph (40:29.847).

RACE ROUND: 12 of 12 in the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

NEXT EVENT: This is the 2004 season finale for the Toyota Atlantic Championship

-ccws-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Jon Fogarty , Dan Wheldon , A.J. Allmendinger , Alex Figge , Adam Pecorari , Ronnie Bremer , Bryan Sellers , Andrew Ranger , Philip Fayer , Chris Festa , Tonis Kasemets , Josh Hunt , Danica Patrick