the hunt is over Atlantic rookie bags first career win. MONTEREY, Calif. (June 8, 2002) -- He had been there before. Front row and looking good for the win only to have bad fortune leaving him in ruin. Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton ...
the hunt is over Atlantic rookie bags first career win.
MONTEREY, Calif. (June 8, 2002) -- He had been there before. Front row and looking good for the win only to have bad fortune leaving him in ruin. Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Medlock Ames Winery Autobytel U.S. Print Swift 014.a) broke out of the bad luck cloud that had shadowed him the first three races to win his first career CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race today at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca.
Hunter-Reay, 21, lead all 30-laps from the pole after winning his second straight $1000 "Toyota Pole Award" earlier this morning. The Boca Raton driver was never really challenged as he pulled away from the field for an 8.062 seconds margin of victory over Rocky Moran Jr. (Sigma Autosport Swift 014.a), who won this race last year.
"The race was great," said a relieved Hunter-Reay. "This win is just fantastic. I know I had to go out there and have a mistake free race and that is what we did today. I have to thank Keith (Hylton) and congratulations to him for putting both cars on the podium. Ever since Long Beach when I got my lap back, I knew I could win races and it has just been killing me. This team believes in me and their preparation is bar none."
"I don't know what it is about this track, but this race seemed to last forever, just like last year," said Moran Jr. "This was a really great finish for the Sigma Autosport team. We had such a great race starting from 5th and finishing 2nd. This finish really helped us in the run for the championship and I am very confident and looking forward to obtaining more points in Portland."
The first four races of the 2002 season have now shown four different winners, three of which are rookies. The victories for all four drivers are the first of their career.
Last week's winner at Milwaukee, Roger Yasukawa (Hylton Motorsports/Autobacs U.S. Print Swift 014.a) finished third this afternoon, giving Hylton Motorsports its first spot on the podium with two drivers. It was also the second straight win for the team as well as seventh overall. With rookies, Hunter-Reay and Yasukawa, Hylton Motorsports is trying to defend its 2001 Championship which it won with Brazil's Hoover Orsi.
"I want to congratulate Ryan who's first win should have come long before this," said Hylton's Yasukawa. "I had to work really hard today. Thanks go to Hylton Motorsports for giving me a terrific car and putting me in this position. Even though I had a good car, I really had to push it."
Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) entered this weekend with a five point lead in the Championship over Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) and looked to be on his way to leaving with the lead as well, as he held second place until the 24th lap of the event. Much like Hunter-Reay's problem last week in Milwaukee, Fogarty's car failed on him heading up the hill toward the corkscrew. With Fogarty out of the race, Valiante scrapped his way to a fifth place finish which allowed him to take over the Championship points lead with 52 points, six ahead of Fogarty. Yasukawa moved to third in the Championship at 43 points followed by Moran Jr. at 40 points and Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a) with 39 points. The silver lining for Fogarty is that he collected his first career $1000 WorldCom "Fast Pace" Award with a time of 1:19.651 seconds (101.151 mph).
"I got a good start. I was able to pass Alex (Gurney) and then I was inside of Macri," said Fogarty. "Sepp Koster came around the outside and down on me. We had contact but it wasn't a big deal for me. I think he spun. I came out 'P2' which was fantastic. I drove really hard to keep the car in second place but, unfortunately, the car didn't give back. It turned out to be 'one of those days."
"Well, the gods of racing must have had a good laugh today," joked Valiante. "It's not very often you can qualify 14th, spin during the race, finish fifth and come away with the championship points lead. We had nothing to lose after qualifying so we put the setup from outer space on the car and it worked fairly well in the race. My teammate, Grant Ryley and I were running the same times as the pack of cars ahead of us, but they were just a bit too far ahead to draft and we couldn't get past. Then Grant and I tangled in turn two, and I spun, but it all worked out somehow and we kept ourselves in the battle. I think we learned something valuable here and hopefully we won't have to struggle quite so hard and place such a strain on Lady Luck as we did here."
Scotland's Ryan Dalziel (Michael Shank Racing Swift 014.a) finished fourth for his second top-five of the season. Dalziel placed second in the season opener in Monterrey, Mexico nearly chasing down the winner, Jon Fogarty, on the final lap.
The Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca has been traditionally a tough track to pass on, and that set up the first and only yellow flag of the race. A picture perfect start saw the field roar past the starter and toward the tight corner in Turn 2. As drivers jockeyed for position, several cars made contact and by the time the smoke had cleared, nearly half the field had been involved or slowed in the incident. Carl Russo (Performance Development & Racing Swift 014.a) got the worse of it and was the only car forced to retire from the incident. Much like the first lap scramble earlier this season as Long Beach, the race order was jumbled as drivers either gained or lost up to seven positions.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is one of the world's premier open-wheel development series and the top rung on CART's "ladder system", as well as having $100,000 race purses and a one million dollar points fund. 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, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani