Montreal: Penultimate round preview

Championship Showdown Enters Penultimate Round as Toyota Atlantic Series Returns To Molson Indy Montreal INDIANAPOLIS (August 24, 2004) -- Like all great championship fights, the battle for the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented ...

Championship Showdown Enters Penultimate Round as Toyota Atlantic Series Returns To Molson Indy Montreal

INDIANAPOLIS (August 24, 2004) -- Like all great championship fights, the battle for the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama title has had its twists and turns.

As the fight enters its final stages this weekend with Round 11 of 12 at the Molson Indy Montreal (tape-delayed on SPEED Channel, Saturday, September 4 - 2 p.m. ET), expect a few more turns and surprises before the last driver is standing and crowned Toyota Atlantic Champion.

The drama in the chase for the 2004 title played itself out on the streets of Denver two weeks ago as Scotsman Ryan Dalziel (#28 ProWorks) closed the gap on American Jon Fogarty (#96 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Umbrella Entertainment) in the Atlantic points race to one single digit (261-260).

But for Dalziel, who trailed Fogarty by 19 points after Round 7, the comeback in the title run has not come without controversy. After recording his second consecutive win and fourth overall this season at Road America in Round 9, Dalziel and his Sierra Sierra Enterprises team were penalized when an internal part on the #28 car's shock absorbers were found to be out of compliance. The team appealed the penalty and, during the Denver race weekend, a three-judge panel overturned the ruling, giving five championship points and a $15,000 fine back to Dalziel and Sierra Sierra.

The next act in this championship drama involved Fogarty. The 2002 series champ started from the pole in the Denver event and led all the way until he faced heavy pressure late from Dalziel and rookie Ronnie Bremer (#4 Healthcare Privileges.com/PaySystems). With four laps remaining, Fogarty was flagged for a block on Dalziel and was assessed a drive-through penalty. The infraction opened the door for Bremer, who captured his first Atlantic win. With Dalziel claiming second place, it also enabled the 2003 series runner-up to draw to within one point of the championship lead as Fogarty came home in sixth position.

Now, it's on to the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve permanent road course for the 24th Atlantic event run in Montreal to see how the next-to-final scene plays out. Neither Fogarty nor Dalziel will give an inch in Sunday's 25-lap (67.725-mile) fight, as both drivers have proven to be fast and efficient on the challenging 2.709-mile course. Fogarty won the pole in his lone Montreal Atlantic start in 2002 and wound up finishing second. Dalziel is 2-for-2 in podium finishes at the venue, coming in third right behind his rival in '02 and finishing second last season.

Still in the title hunt in third place behind a season of consistency is 22-year-old American Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company). After recording her ninth top-five finish in 10 races this season in Denver, Patrick finds herself 30 points off of Fogarty for the championship lead with two events left to run. She'll be looking to improve on her seventh-place finish at Montreal one year ago and she'll need a big weekend in order to make it a three-way race for the championship heading into the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September.

Bremer, the rookie point leader, is riding high after his win in Denver and with three podium results in the last four races, he also looks primed for a successful weekend north of the border. The Danish ace ranks fourth in the overall standings and he leads fellow freshman Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Charmin/Mr. Clean/Snugabye) by two points in the fierce competition for the $10,000 BG Products Rookie of the Year award.

Ranger will feel the heat to run up front this weekend, not only because he wants to reclaim the lead in the rookie race, but he'll also be the focus of the hometown Canadian fans. The 17-year-old native of Roxton Pond, Quebec won in Montreal last season in a Fran-Am car and after seeing the reaction of the Canadian faithful while finishing second earlier this year in the Toronto Atlantic race, Ranger wants to make sure the locals have plenty to cheer about.

Riding high following his third podium of the season, American Bryan Sellers (#19 Lynx Racing) will try to keep the momentum going in Montreal. Sellers battled Ranger throughout most of the Denver event and he was able to grab third place late. Currently sitting sixth in the championship, he wants to get as many points as possible in order to improve his standing in the final finishing order.

Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Umbrella Entertainment) is fresh off his best qualifying performance of the season as he started on the front row with Fogarty, his teammate, in Denver. Figge struggled at the beginning of the race, however, and he eventually came home in eighth place so he'll be looking to finish strong on Sunday.

Rookie Chris Festa (#25 SpacePak/CareCentric) is coming off one of his best results of the season in Denver and he hopes to build on that in his first Montreal Atlantic start. Another first-year driver, Josh Hunt (#15 Wright/Patton/Shakespeare/Atkinson Gore Group), will see his first action on Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in an Atlantic machine this weekend and he's hoping for a good performance as well.

"Just Al" Unser (#10 200 + Marketing and Management/Masterplan Group International), son of open-wheel racing legend Al Unser Jr., will compete for Brooks Associates Racing this weekend after posting top-10 finishes in his last two Atlantic races.

Competing in the C2 category will be Calgary's Cam Binder (#65 Avmax/Western Avionics), who will make his sixth career Atlantic Montreal start on Sunday, while Tony Loniewski (#34 Margay) is back for Olsson Engineering for the first time since Round 9 at Road America.

Three other drivers will return to series action this weekend as Montreal native Philip Fayer (#3 PaySystems) gets back into the car for the first time since Round 8 for Polestar Racing Group and Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store) and Tom Nastasi (#23 USG/Ramset/Mactank/DeWalt) will see their first action since the season opener at Long Beach.

A pair of drivers with Pennsylvania roots will also be making their Toyota Atlantic debuts this weekend. Coming off a win at Road America and a third-place championship finish in the Formula Ford 2000 Zetec series last weekend, Adam Pecorari (#2 Penn Capital/Konica Minolta) of Aston, PA, will compete for Jensen Motorsports while Rich Zober (#66 Zober Industries/Zober.com) of Newtown, PA will run for Comprent Motorsports in a C2 entry.

This weekend's racing on the classic Montreal road course will feature Toyota Atlantic machines that 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 9:15-9:45 a.m. ET. First-round qualifying is set for 3:15-3:45 p.m. Friday afternoon. On Saturday, the Atlantics will run a 30-minute practice from 9:15-9:45 a.m., followed by the final round of qualifying from 3-3:30 p.m. On race day, warm-up is scheduled for 8-8:15 a.m. Sunday morning and Round 11 of the series -- the Molson Indy Montreal Toyota Atlantic race -- will take the green flag at 11 a.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 25 laps (67.725 miles) or 45 minutes.

SPEED Channel will provide tape-delayed television coverage of the Montreal Atlantic race at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 4. 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: Molson Indy Montreal

WHERE:  Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve

WHEN: Friday-Sunday, August 27-29

TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local):

FRIDAY, AUGUST 27
9:15-9:45 a.m., Practice
3:15-3:45 p.m., First-Round Qualifying.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 28
9:15-9:45 a.m., Practice
3-3:30 p.m., Final Qualifying.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 29
8-8:15 a.m., Warm-up
11-11:45 a.m., Atlantic Race.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE:
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 4 -- SPEED Channel, Molson Indy Montreal Toyota Atlantic race, 2 p.m. ET (Tape-Delay).

2003 CHAMPION:  A.J. Allmendinger

2003 POLESITTER: A.J. Allmendinger
TRACK LAYOUT:  2.709-mile permanent road course

RACE LENGTH: 25 laps (67.725 miles) or 45 minutes

TRACK RECORDS:
Qualifying (one lap) -- 2003, A.J. Allmendinger, 106.190 mph (1:31.839).
Race -- (one lap) 2003, A.J. Allmendinger, 106.865 mph (1:31.259); (25 laps) 2003, A.J. Allmendinger, 100.603 mph (40:23.476).

RACE ROUND: 11 of 12 in the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

NEXT EVENT: September 12, Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Championship of Laguna Seca Presented by Yokohama -- Monterey, California

-ccws-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Al Unser Jr. , Jon Fogarty , Tony Loniewski , Tom Nastasi , A.J. Allmendinger , Alex Figge , Adam Pecorari , Ronnie Bremer , Philip Fayer , Dan Selznick , Chris Festa , Josh Hunt , Danica Patrick