Laguna Seca: Team Rahal preview

Patrick prepares for run at historic laguna Seca. HILLIARD, OH . . . Fresh off a sixth place finish in her first oval race, Team Rahal's Danica Patrick and the Argent Mortgage Company team head west to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Round 4 of...

Patrick prepares for run at historic laguna Seca.

HILLIARD, OH . . . Fresh off a sixth place finish in her first oval race, Team Rahal's Danica Patrick and the Argent Mortgage Company team head west to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Round 4 of the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Patrick, currently seventh in the championship, is looking forward to returning to the road courses which comprise the bulk of her racing experience.

"As a driver you have to tell yourself that this is just another track," said Patrick. "There is a lot of history at Laguna Seca, and Laguna is a track that Team Rahal has done well at in the past, but the challenge for Team Argent and myself is to get up to speed quickly. We had a test scheduled at Laguna Seca in April but we had problems that day and were only able to turn a handful of laps. From what I was able to gather it is a fast track with high speed tight corners. It is a harder track to prepare for than one with hairpins, so we will have our work cut out for us."

Team owner Bobby Rahal has seven wins at Laguna Seca as a driver and team owner. Rahal won four straight years on the scenic 2.2-mile road course during his Champ Car career (1984-87) and then watched as his drivers captured the event three times in four years (Bryan Herta 1998 & '99, Max Papis 2001).

"Danica's background is primarily on the road courses so I feel pretty good about what has been accomplished as the program heads back to the permanent tracks," said Rahal. "She has distinguished herself at each stop and with a little bit of luck she could have a couple more podium results this season.

Patrick captured a podium finish in the Atlantic season opener at Monterrey, Mexico on the permanent road course. She ran sixth before posting a DNF due to contact at Long Beach and she ran as high as fourth at Milwaukee before finishing sixth.

Laguna Seca starts a stretch of races where Atlantics will race on permanent road courses in five of the next seven events.

"Certainly I have a familiarity with road courses since I have run on them for the majority of my career," said Patrick. "Still, I have enjoyed the challenge of the street races, and I had a lot of fun on my first oval at Milwaukee. Toyota Atlantics is about gaining experience to move to the next level, so I'm glad we get to run on ovals, street courses and road courses."

Team Rahal's full-season single car Toyota Atlantic Championship entry is sponsored by Argent Mortgage Company, Norwalk Furniture Company and Miller Brewing Company. The entry in the CART Ladder System is Team Rahal's first support program since the team ran a full-season effort in Indy Lights in 1998.

PATRICK MAKING SERIES HISTORY

Danica Patrick's third place result at Monterrey, Mexico was the first time in the 30-year history of the Toyota Atlantic Championship that a female has finished on the podium. Coupled with the fact that Patrick is the first female to run a full season program, and she is making series history each time she drives the #24 Argent Mortgage/Toyota/Swift.

Patrick doesn't mind the attention but she knows she will have arrived when the fact she is a female is no long the story. "I want to be known as the best driver, period," said Patrick. "Everyone is always looking for the latest and greatest thing, but for me racing isn't about being the best female driver in the sport, but being the best driver I can possibly be. I cringe sometimes when I hear people say that I am the first female driver to do this or that. Don't get me wrong, I know that I fill a unique niche in racing so I will use that to my advantage to benefit my sponsors, but I know I will have made it when the media and the other drivers simply refer to me as a driver."

RAHAL HOPES TO ADD TO HIS LAGUNA WIN TOTAL

Mid Ohio Sports Car Course or his self described "favorite course" Elkhart Lake's Road America are often the tracks associated with three-time series champion Bobby Rahal. However, it is Laguna Seca where Rahal has crafted his greatest success. Seven times as a driver and an owner, Rahal has taken home the winner's trophy.

Team Rahal and Rahal himself have won at Laguna Seca every way from the dominating manner of Rahal and Bryan Herta in 1998 and 1999 to the fuel strategy run of Max Papis in 2001.

"I have always loved running at Laguna Seca," said Rahal. "It is truly one of the great race tracks in the United States and that fact that I have had some success here as a driver and owner hasn't hurt my fondness for the track."

PATRICK TO TRY HER HAND AT ALMS

Two weeks ago just prior to Milwaukee, Patrick flew to Georgia for a test in an American Le Mans Series car at Road Atlanta. So successful was the test that Patrick will make her ALMS debut at the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta at Road Atlanta June 27-29 in a car for the British Prodrive team which will field a pair of Ferrari 550 Maranellos in the GTS class.

"I've always wanted to do Le Mans-type racing, and run longer races," said Patrick. "I am working at building a racing background and gaining experience that will allow me to move up to the next levels of motorsports."

"At Danica's age and with her learning process, racing in this series will really help her," said Team Rahal owner Bobby Rahal. "The more you do as a driver, the more you learn. Endurance driving is really good for a young driver because you learn when to take care of a car and when to race." (6/9/03)

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Bryan Herta , Danica Patrick