Long Beach Friday qualifying report

RUTLEDGE TAKE PROVISIONAL POLE AT LONG BEACH Continues Strong Start for Championship Run LONG BEACH, Calif., (April 6, 2001) - David Rutledge (Lynx Racing Swift), served notice to the rest of the field, that he is the favorite to stand on top...

RUTLEDGE TAKE PROVISIONAL POLE AT LONG BEACH
Continues Strong Start for Championship Run

LONG BEACH, Calif., (April 6, 2001) - David Rutledge (Lynx Racing Swift), served notice to the rest of the field, that he is the favorite to stand on top of the podium at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Rutledge, who had the set the fastest time during the morning's practice session around the 1.968-mile temporary street course, followed it up with a track record time of 1:18.186 seconds (90.636 mph), during first round qualifying. The time broke the track record set my Daniel Wheldon during last year's Grand Prix by just over 7/10ths of a second. Overall, four drivers topped the track record.

Sitting on top at the end of the day was no walk in the park for Rutledge. Rookie, Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift), swapped the head spot on the time charts with Rutledge, over the final minutes of the session. Hand had the second fastest time of the session with a time of 1:18.353 seconds (90.422 mph). Other drivers cracking the previous track record were Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift), with a time of 1:18.423 seconds (90.341 mph), and Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/3b Engine Valve Swift), at 1:18.833 seconds (89.871 mph). Rounding out the top-5 drivers was another rookie making a strong debut in Atlantic competition. Grant Ryley (Worldspeed Motorsports/Northwest Speedwerx Swift), posted a time of 1:19.348 seconds (89.288 mph).

If Rutledge can hold onto the pole following Saturday morning's qualifying session, it would mark the second time he has accomplished the feat. Rutledge's other pole came last year at Montreal Grand Prix, in which he went on to take his first career win.

"The continuity of having a second year with Lynx is showing here," said the fourth year Canadian driver. It's the first time in my career I've had that, and we are building on the work we did last year and in the off-season. The team is working together well, and my new engineer, Rick Cameron and I are focussing 100% on the task of winning the championship. We have an excellent car and should be contending for the lead throughout the season."

Joey Hand, who has filled the championship seat for DSTP Motorsports was equally please with his first day in Atlantic competition. "It was a good session," said Hand. We are still learning the track a little bit. Of course the DSTP car was getting around good. There was no problem with the car; I was just a little short to the party. I think if we have good weather tomorrow, we'll be a serious contender for the pole. If it rains, we'll start off on the front row and I think we'll be a serious contender for the race no matter what."

The Atlantic field of drivers had a strong opening day with only one red flag session. Anthony Simone (Phillips Motorsports Swift), brought out the only red flag when he made light contact with the Turn 5 tire wall with the front of his machine. Simone was able to continue on to his pit stall and repair the front wing damage.

Second round qualifying for Round 1 of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is set for Saturday morning, 8:00 a.m. PST. The local weather forecast, for the Long Beach area, is calling for rain so today's results could set the field for Saturday's race that starts at 3:15 p.m. PST.

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is one of the world's premier open-wheel development series and a key rung on CART's "ladder system". It is also noted for its long history of graduating its stars into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic Series are CART Champ Car stars Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Alex Barron, Memo Gidley, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani as well as former series champions Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan and Jacques Villeneuve.

-Atlantic-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Martin Basso , Hoover Orsi , Grant Ryley , David Rutledge , Joey Hand , Alex Barron , Danny Sullivan , Michael Shank , Anthony Simone
Teams Michael Shank Racing