Although they lost the Championship points lead last week at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, Dorricott Racing's stable of three drivers come to Portland as the favorites to drive away from the Great Northwest with a win. The team has not lost...
Although they lost the Championship points lead last week at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, Dorricott Racing's stable of three drivers come to Portland as the favorites to drive away from the Great Northwest with a win.
The team has not lost here since 1998 while competing in CART's Ladder System. Starting in 1999, Dorricott Racing claimed its first victory at Portland International Raceway while running in the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship with Oriol Servia, and then followed it up the next two years with victories by Jason Bright and Damien Faulkner. Although the track is new to the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, it is obvious that Dorricott Racing has it figured out. Any advantage like this is very important in a competitive series like the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. During the first one-third of the 12-race 2002 season, there have been four different drivers in victory circle.
The team held the same advantage heading into the season opener at Monterrey, Mexico. Like Portland, it was a new track to Atlantic, but was raced on before with the Indy Lights. Dorricott came out strong by winning the pole with home countryman, Luis Diaz (Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a) and then taking the race with Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a). However, the advantage enjoyed in Mexico should not play out as strong in Portland. The circuit in Monterrey was new to most every driver and team in Atlantic. This combined with the unique track grip played havoc to most teams all weekend. Portland International Raceway however, is familiar to many drivers competing here this weekend via races run in the Barber Dodge Pro Series and the Star Mazda Pro Series.
For the first time this season, Fogarty enters a CART Toyota Atlantic Championship event without a share of the points lead. Fogarty was running a strong second place while setting the fastest race lap last weekend at Laguna Seca before succumbing to a mechanical problem late in the race. The exit denied Fogarty from scoring any Championship points for the first time this season and Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) took advantage with a fifth place finish pushing him to the head of the pack in the Championship standings. Valiante now leads the Championship with 52 points, 6 points ahead of Fogarty.
The biggest possible threat to Dorricott Racing's dominance at Portland International Raceway will be Hylton Motorsports rookie tandem of Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Medlock Ames Winery Autobytel U.S. Print Swift 014.a) and Roger Yasukawa (Hylton Motorsports/Autobacs U.S. Print Swift 014.a). After a disappointing start the season, the defending Championship team, who won last year's title with Brazilian, Hoover Orsi, has roared back to life with two straight wins. Yasukawa took his first career win two weeks ago at the Milwaukee Mile and Hunter-Reay duplicated the feat last weekend at Laguna Seca. Yasukawa did not run the first race in Mexico, but finishes of seventh, first, and third, have landed him right in the thick of the Championship battle in third place. Yasukawa's 43 points places him just nine away from the leader, Valiante. Hunter-Reay has been perhaps the most dominant driver so far this season. The rookie's track record includes two poles, two record fastest race laps, along with his win last week. Last week's victory turned luck around for Hunter-Reay and moved him up to ninth in the Championship with 26 points, signaling to the rest of field that he will have to be reckoned with in the Championship. Both drivers moved up the CART Ladder system from the Barber Dodge Pro Series, so Portland will be familiar to them.
A total of six drivers are within shot of leaving Portland with the Championship points lead. Fogarty and Yasukawa are the closest to Valiante, but four other drivers have a chance if events turn out right. Rocky Moran Jr. (Sigma Autosport Swift 014.a) is coming off his best finish of the 2002 season last week at Laguna Seca. Moran Jr.'s runner-up finish was his best showing since winning last year's Laguna Seca event and now stands 12 points behind Valiante with 40 points heading into a track he competed on in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. Two more drivers are just one point behind Moran Jr. in the standings. Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a) and Mexico's Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Modelo Swift 014.a) both share fifth in the Championship with 39 points. Gurney will hope to use the Dorricott knowledge of Portland to move him up and Lavin will rely on his years racing at Portland International Raceway competing in the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship. Finally, Ryan Dalziel (Michael Shank Racing Swift 014.a) stands seventh in the Championship with 34 points. The Scottish driver nearly won the season opener in Mexico while tearing through the field on a wet rack. Hailing from a country where it rains a lot, Dalziel is right at home when the moisture starts to fall. Although none is forecast, rainy weather is common in this part of the country and if the skies should turn loose with water, it will play into Dalziel's strengths. Even though he can't take the Championship lead, Luis Diaz is still far from out of the Championship hunt holding eighth place with 27 points.
There are still five drivers who have runner-up finishes on their resumes, but no career Atlantic victories. Along with Gurney, Lavin, and Dalziel, Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Miller Genuine Draft Battlefield Equipment Rentals Swift 014.a) and Grant Ryley (Lynx Racing/Northwest Speedwerx Cupertino Electric Swift 014.a) are looking for their first wins after coming so close to victory lane. Although Macri and Ryley have had some success early this season, both drivers are lower in the points than they expected to be at this stage. Macri is tenth with 22 points with Ryley just one behind at 21 points.
The key to Saturday's afternoon's 3:00 p.m. PST race may very well rest in Turn 1 at Portland International Raceway. The past two road course events have seen first turn incidents play a major role in the outcome of their respected races. Valiante and Gurney were the only drivers to dodge the first turn parking lot in Long Beach and seven drivers were involved in the first turn incident at the start of last weeks race at Laguna Seca. Portland's first turn could be the most hazardous of all with a long front straight drag strip ending in a 90 degree chicane to the right. Needless to say, the chance to come out of Portland with a good finish will depend on the driver's ability to get through that first turn unscathed.
Recovering from injuries sustained in a practice crash at the Milwaukee Mile one month ago, Joey Hand appeared back in the DSTP pits last week at Laguna Seca to support his driving coach, Buddy Rice (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a), who is filling in for him while he heals. Rice, who won the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship with DSTP Motorsports, didn't have the return back to the series he had hoped for last week at Laguna Seca. A practice incident that nearly destroyed the car coupled with limited qualifying time, mired the 2000 Champ back in 13th for the start of the race. Rice lost six spots dodging the first lap melee, but by the end of the race, he had charged back through the pack for an eighth place finish. Rice and the DSTP team are hoping for a little less complicated weekend this time around. As for Hand, he is determined to be back in the car for the August 4th race at Trois-Rivieres.
Waldemar Coronas (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa Royse Maizoro Millenio Swift 014.a) and Alex Figge (Worldspeed Motorsports/Wine Country Motorsports Glycomax Redline Airtrix Swift) will be trying to recover from last weeks first turn incident. Although the incident did not eliminate Coronas, it played a role in his lap 14 mechanical departure from the race. Figge was in the middle of last week's first turn incident that drew a fine from Atlantic Stewards. Figge was not alone in drawing the Stewards attention. Ryley was also fined and Bob Siska (RJS Motorsport Swift 008.a) was suspended for two races. Eduardo Figueroa (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa Royse Maizoro Millenio Swift 014.a) was placed on probation for the next four races with several more drivers receiving stiff warnings for their on-track actions last week.
Rookie, DeWayne Cassel (JPT Motorsports/Tyco ADT Swift 014.a) will make his first appearance this season in Portland.
Fogarty holds a three point lead in the Rookie of the Year chase over Yasukawa.
Valiante and Lavin are the only drivers to complete every lap this season. (161 laps)
Hunter-Reay has led the most laps this season. (71 laps)