Magnificent Moran in Montreal; Valiante and Fogarty take Championship down to the wire. MONTREAL, Qc., (August 24, 2002) -- Early on in Saturday afternoon's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race at the 2.709-mile Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in...
Magnificent Moran in Montreal; Valiante and Fogarty take Championship down to the wire.
MONTREAL, Qc., (August 24, 2002) -- Early on in Saturday afternoon's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race at the 2.709-mile Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, it looked like Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) would win the race as well as take over the Championship lead with one race remaining in the 2002 season. But it was Rocky Moran Jr. (Sigma Autosport/Sunoco/BG Products Swift 014.a) who would snatch the victory from Fogarty on the next to last lap to post his first victory of the season.
Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) entered into the weekend with a 14-point lead in the Championship, but in the opening laps of the race, Valiante's right rear tire went flat after light contact with the front wing of Moran Jr. Valiante would drop to 27th place while changing the tire in the pits, but would battle back to earn nine points with hard earned seventh place finish. Moran Jr. would help Valiante out at the end though with his pass of Fogarty for the lead, costing Fogarty four points in the Championship chase. Valiante now leads Fogarty, 146 to 140, heading into the season finale next weekend at the Shell Grand Prix of Denver.
The win was the first of the season for Moran Jr. and also the first for the Sigma Autosport team who is competing in their inaugural season in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Moran Jr. earned his first career win last October at the 2001 season ending Laguna Seca event, which was also the first career victory for his team at the time, Cobb Racing.
Moran's pass for the lead came after trading second place with Ryan Dalziel (Hylton Motorsports/Telemetry Swift 014.a) throughout the second half of the race. The two traded second place five times before Moran Jr. made the pass on Fogarty on Lap 26.
"I just wanted to get as close as I could when entering the hairpin," said California's Rocky Moran Jr. as he set up Fogarty in Turn 10. "I just stayed in the draft and was able to make a move and take the lead. This was just a great race and Jon (Fogarty) drove very clean. I am just so happy I could bring Sigma Autosport their first win. Those guys work so hard for me. This is for them."
"Rocky had more speed down the back straight-away particularly with the draft I provided," said Fogarty, who won the $1,000 Toyota Pole Award in this morning's qualifying. "I wanted to win the race and bring home points, but it was tough to hold him off. I could have locked him, but I'm not going to do that to Rocky. He's a friend of mine and I like to race clean. I made my move to the inside. Rocky already had a draft and he took advantage of it with a sling-shot to the outside and finding the "grippy" brake zone. He was a bit ahead of me by the brake zone, but I wasn't going to stuff it in too deep and risk both of us going out on the last corner. I didn't want to chance t-boning him through the corner. That would have taken me out of the Championship. It was a clean pass on Rocky's part and it made for a good race."
"Well, this was definitely a case of Rocky giveth and Rocky taketh away," joked Valiante. "It was his car that hit me on the opening lap and caused the flat tire that sent me to the back of the field. And then he takes the win away from Fogarty letting us go to Denver with a 6-point lead. Racing is such a strange thing sometimes. But the consistent in the equation is the excellent car the Lynx team gives me. But if not for that flat, I'd have won the race, although I'm sure Fogarty would have finished second anyway. So the Championship will be decided in Denver, and we're ready for it."
It was the best finish for Scotland's Ryan Dalziel since the season opening event in Monterrey, Mexico, where he placed second to Fogarty in the rain. Dalziel was making his first start for the Hylton Motorsports team after driving the first ten races of the season for Michael Shank Racing.
"It was quite a battle for the top three up front," said Dalziel. "But we managed to keep it clean and it was fun. We gave the fans a fantastic show. It was like a dream for me to finish on the podium in first race with Hylton Motorsports. Of course, it would have been nice to win but I am very, very happy. I had a terrific car today. I think it was fast enough to win the race, but we just ran out of time."
Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a) placed his best finish of the season since returning from the testing accident in May which sidelined him for six races. Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a) rounded out the top five with teammate Luis Diaz (Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a) finishing in sixth despite winning the $1,000 WorldCom Fast Pace Award with a time 1:33.567 seconds (104.229 mph). The time establishes a new track record on the re-measured 2.709-mile track.
The race was slowed for ten laps by three yellow flags, two of which were for cars that had slid off course into the gravel traps. But the Lap 9 caution came out when Stephan C. Roy (BBGP Racing/Playstation 2/betonusa.net Swift 014.a) made hard contact with the Turn 15 wall with the right side of the car. Roy was uninjured in the incident which slowed the race for four laps.
It will be an old fashion western shootout next weekend when Canadian Michael Valiante and American Jon Fogarty settle the 2002 Championship on the streets of Denver, Colorado. Via his three wins this season, Valiante holds the tie-breaker should the two drivers finish in a tie in the Championship points. Heading into Friday's first qualifying session in which a critical bonus point will be up for grabs, a win by Valiante is the only spot he can finish to guarantee ownership of the Championship trophy.
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 as well as former series champions Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan and Jacques Villeneuve.