SBRS: CHAMPCAR/CART: CART ladder system weekly update 2002-03-13

Fogarty Scores First Toyota Atlantic Win In The Wet In Mexico Next-Generation Drivers Shine In Formula Dodge National Championship Races At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca DETROIT (March 13, 2002) - The CART Driver Development Ladder System got off to...

Fogarty Scores First Toyota Atlantic Win In The Wet In Mexico
Next-Generation Drivers Shine In Formula Dodge National Championship Races At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

DETROIT (March 13, 2002) - The CART Driver Development Ladder System got off to an exciting start to the 2002 racing season under its newly-established alignment this past weekend, with CART Toyota Atlantic Championship action in Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico and a double race weekend for the Formula Dodge National Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.

In CART Toyota Atlantic action from Monterrey, American Jon Fogarty earned his first career Atlantic win on a rain soaked track Saturday, capping a remarkable first weekend of CART Toyota Atlantic Competition for both Fogarty and Dorricott Racing. Both the team and the driver moved to Atlantic after competing in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship. Fogarty fought past Mexican crowd favorite and teammate Luis Diaz on the sixth lap and built a substantial lead.

However, when Fogarty encountered traffic late in the race, Scottish driver Ryan Dalziel lopped off several seconds and closed right up to Fogarty's gearbox as the race reached its conclusion. In the end, Dalziel came up just short, and Fogarty emerged with a 0.884-second victory. While Fogarty and Dorricott Racing took their first Atlantic win on this day, Dalziel acquitted himself well in his first race with Atlantic stalwarts Michael Shank Racing.

"I really enjoyed the wet," commented Fogarty, who's last professional win came with the Barber Dodge Pro Series at Mid-Ohio in 2000. "It's kind of an improvisational game in wet weather with looking for grip and adapting to changing conditions. You're racing more by feel than anything else at times. Early, it was slippery everywhere but once it began to dry, certain portions were better than others."

"The rain didn't bother me so much," added Dalziel. "It rains every day in Scotland, so maybe I had an advantage. (Team owner) Mike (Shank) gave me a car that was very good."

Joey Hand-the 2001 Atlantic Rookie of the Year and one of the favorites to win the 2002 title--finished third despite several incidents, including contact with other drivers and trips off track through the Fundidora Park grass. Hand's adventure began early with first lap contact between himself and rookie (and former Barber Dodge Pro Series standout) Ryan Hunter Reay. After several other off-course excursions, Hand and Alex Gurney came together on Lap 20, which resulted in a severely bent left front wing. Nevertheless, Hand persevered and was rewarded with a podium result.

Canadian Michael Valiante followed up a strong 2001 partial season run with a fourth place finish. Polesitter Diaz finished fifth but gathered two valuable bonus points for being the fastest in both qualifying sessions.

Showing the effectiveness and strength of the CART Ladder System, 11 of the 24 drivers in Saturday's race are graduates of the Barber Dodge Pro Series.

In Monterey, Calif., meanwhile, a set of maiden victories was the story of the weekend during Rounds 1 and 2 of the Formula Dodge National Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. With a large number of rookies in the field, Grant Maiman and Burt Frisselle--two of the most experienced drivers--were able to fight changing track conditions and an extremely competitive field to capture their first wins.

Frisselle, whose father is 1975 IMSA GTU Champion and 1977 12 Hours of Sebring Champion Brad Frisselle, qualified on the pole position for Saturday's Round 1, and held the lead on the opening lap, with Maiman and 2001 CART Stars of Tomorrow Champion Scott Speed following closely. Friselle held the point until Lap 2 when a miscue heading into the famous Corkscrew turn allowed Maiman to sneak past.

Frisselle then battled to keep Speed at bay for the next few laps, before Speed squeezed by in a daring wheel-to-wheel move in Turn 2. Despite a last lap effort by Speed and Frisselle, Maiman was able to hold on for his first victory. As they took the checkered flag, the top three were separated by only 3 tenths of a second. San Clemente, Calif. native Justin Blower and Al Unser, whose father is two-time Indy 500 winner and CART FedEx Championship Series champion Al Unser, Jr., battled hard to round out the top five.

Round 2 on Sunday brought a bit of a mystery. Qualifying in the morning was conducted during a rain shower and with visibility hampered and track conditions being slick, an adventurous, 30-minute qualifying session ensued. At the end, with many drivers spending time in the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca grass and gravel pits, Frisselle once again captured the pole position.

Whatever comfort the drivers gained during qualifying was lost when the green flag dropped for the second 17-lap race. While rain had been the story during qualifying, the skies had since cleared to make way for the sun and a quickly drying race track. Drivers were forced to abandon their previous rain setups and make a judgment call as to what would allow them to be fast in the combined wet and dry conditions.

Frisselle and Unser were able to make those changes work to their advantage. Frisselle dominated from the point and unlike the previous day, he had no intention of giving up the lead. Unser charged up from his fifth place starting position to challenge Maiman for second place, and he succeeded in securing it on lap 12. The battle for second allowed Frisselle to pull away and easily score his first career FNDC victory. Unser finished second, with Saturday's winner Maiman finishing third. Californian Robbie Montinola and Canadian Barber CART Karting Scholarship winner Ward Imrie rounded out the top five. While Frisselle scored an uncharacteristic wide margin of victory, Unser, Maiman and Montinola were separated by less than a second at the line.

Frisselle and Maiman both earned first and third place finishes during the weekend but Frisselle left Monterey with the points lead by virtue of his two pole positions.

"I definitely think my past experience helped here this weekend," commented Frisselle, a San Diego University student. "Like everyone else, I wanted to make certain we started the season strong and having a fair amount of seat time at Laguna gave me an extra edge. I wouldn't want to be in any other spot (than in the points lead). Obviously, there is a little bit of pressure since I am now the guy everyone wants beat but I plan on keeping the lead."

"I absolutely believe this is a good omen for 2002," added Maiman, a Wisconsin native who now calls Daytona Beach, Fla. home. "It doesn't get a whole lot better. Certainly, I would have liked to have won both races, but this puts me in a good position for the season. Now, I am just looking forward to Fontana and equally positive results."

WHAT'S NEXT

The Barber Dodge Pro Series, the "Official Entry Level Professional Series of CART," kicks off its 17th season of competition this weekend at the prestigious 50th Annual 12 Hours of Sebring. The Pro Series cars will take to the track on Wednesday for initial practice, with 1st and 2nd round qualifying on Thursday and Friday. The BDPS field will take the green flag on Saturday morning, just prior to the start of the American LeMans Series 12 Hour Race.

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will race next as part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 12-14. 2001 Toyota Atlantic Champion Hoover Orsi is the defending winner while Joey Hand is the top returning driver from last year's Long Beach race.

Rounds 3 and 4 of the Formula Dodge National Championship will be at California Speedway, April 11-13, in conjunction with the Champ Car weekend at Long Beach. It is an inaugural event. <pre> CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLES

Toyota Atlantic Championship Formula Dodge National Championship (Through Round 1 of 12) (Through Round 2 of 13)

1. Jon Fogarty - 21 points 1. Burt Fisselle - 36 points 2. Ryan Dalziel - 16 points 2. Grant Maiman - 34 points 3. Joey Hand - 14 points 3. Al Unser - 27 points 4. Luis Diaz - 13 points 4. Scott Speed - 25 points 5. Michael Valiante - 12 points 5. Robbie Montinola - 21 points </pre> Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE: MPH) owns, operates and markets the CART FedEx Championship Series. Former series champions Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser are among the stars who will battle for the 2002 FedEx Championship Series title on ovals, temporary street circuits and permanent road courses. CART also owns and operates its top development series, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. CART also sanctions the Barber Dodge Pro Series as part of a marketing partnership with Skip Barber, LLC. For more information about the CART Ladder System, log onto www.cart.com and click on the links to the Toyota Atlantic Championship, Barber Dodge Pro Series, Formula Dodge National Championship and Stars of Tomorrow.

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About this article
Series Atlantic , Barber Pro , IndyCar , Other open wheel
Drivers Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Jon Fogarty , Ward Imrie , Hoover Orsi , Michael Valiante , Joey Hand , Luis Diaz , Scott Speed , Burt Frisselle , Skip Barber , Grant Maiman , Michael Shank , Ryan Hunt , Al Unser , Robbie Montinola
Teams Michael Shank Racing