Allmendinger and Breuers announced as Mentor Program participants; Diaz grabs first career Toyota Atlantic win; Allmendinger takes home third Barber Dodge victory of the season; Poirier wins double at Raceway Park. INDIANAPOLIS (June 18, 2002)...
Allmendinger and Breuers announced as Mentor Program participants; Diaz grabs first career Toyota Atlantic win; Allmendinger takes home third Barber Dodge victory of the season; Poirier wins double at Raceway Park.
INDIANAPOLIS (June 18, 2002) - Championship Auto Racing Teams today announced AJ Allmendinger and Marc Breuers as the Barber Dodge Pro Series participants in the first CART Mentor Program, to be held in conjunction with the CART Grand Prix of Chicago. The two American drivers will be guests of CART and the Toyota Atlantic Championship and will participate in almost every aspect of the race weekend, including debriefings, engineering sessions and team meetings, plus press and sponsor events, when possible. The intent of the Mentor Program is to increase the lines of communication between Ladder System drivers and key team personnel at the next level.
Allmendinger was selected as result of being the Pro Series point leader following Round 4 of the BDPS season at Portland.
"This is a great honor to be selected for the Mentor Program," said Allmendinger, who has won three times this year at Sebring, Lime Rock and Portland. "I am looking forward to spending time with Atlantic teams and owners. This is a great chance to develop relationships for the future."
Breuers was selected as an at-large invitation by a panel of motorsports personnel. The panel - which included Toyota Atlantic President Vicki O'Connor, Pro Series television talent Leigh Diffey and Jeremy Shaw, Toyota Atlantic television commentator Brian Till, Pro Series Managing Director Jeremy Dale, Skip Barber Marketing and Communications Director George Tamayo, Pro Series Director Rick Ratajczcak and CART Development Series Steward Chris Kneifel - met Sunday afternoon following the Pro Series race to make the decision.
"I am extremely excited and honored to have been selected by such a distinguished panel," commented Breuers. "This makes a lot of the hard work worth it. I was really hoping all weekend that I would get selected and I intend on taking advantage of this opportunity."
The next Mentor Program weekend for Pro Series drivers will be at Fontana with selected Champ Car teams. Toyota Atlantic drivers will participate in their first Mentor Program weekend at Vancouver with Champ Car teams. Participants for the Atlantic Mentor Program weekend in Vancouver will be the point leader following Chicago and an at-large invitation.
DIAZ DOMINATES FOR FIRST VICTORY IN TOYOTA ATLANTICS
For the fifth time in five races this year, a driver captured his maiden victory in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship as Luis Diaz won at Portland International Raceway. Luis Diaz, competing in his first Toyota Atlantic season after coming over from the Dayton Indy Lights Championship, led every lap and beat Jonathon Macri to the line by 4.69 seconds. Jon Fogarty finished in 3rd place to regain his championship points lead, while Laguna Seca winner Ryan Hunter-Reay just missed out on a podium appearance with a 4th place finish. Rocky Moran Jr. continued a strong season with his 5th place run.
Diaz started on the pole and held the point through the always adventurous Turn 1 at Portland, with Macri and Fogarty following. From there, Diaz steadily increased his lead each lap and even maintained the gap while negotiating lapped traffic. Macri was never able to gain enough ground to be within striking distance but kept himself clear of the third place battle.
"I had the best car of my life," said Diaz, who raced last year with Roquin Motorsports in Indy Lights. "I just tried to avoid any mistakes, hit my marks and keep the car on the tracks. I hope we can keep the momentum and keep for the Atlantic Championship against Jon (Fogarty)."
The best race of the day was behind Diaz and Macri with Fogarty and Hunter-Reay fighting for third place. Hunter-Reay, who started ninth, stormed up through the field from 9th to 4th and positioned himself behind Fogarty by Lap 30. With two laps remaining and both drivers negotiating lapped traffic, Hunter-Reay passed Fogarty in Turn 1. However, the battle was not done as just one lap later, and as the white flag flew, Fogarty returned the favor in Turn 1 to regain the final podium spot.
Positions 6-10 were Alex Gurney, Ryan Dalziel, Roger Yasukawa, Michael Valiante and Waldemar Coronas. Fogarty's last lap pass on Hunter-Reay gave him the points to retake the championship lead over Valiante, with Yasukawa, Moran and Diaz rounding out the top five in points.
ALLMENDINGER EXTENDS LEAD IN BDPS
AJ Allmendinger of Hollister, Calif. continued his pursuit of the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series Championship at Portland by scoring a third victory in four races to increase his point lead over Rafael Sperafico. Allmendinger led from Lap 7 to the checkered flag, outpacing Dan Di Leo of Markham, Ontario and Davy Cook of Tallahassee, Fla. Memo Rojas of Mexico City, Mexico while Rafael Sperafico of Toledo Parana, Brazil rounded out the top five.
The action started early as polesitter Julio Campos spun in Turn 3 on the first lap, narrowly avoiding Marc Breuers and Allmendinger. Just one lap later, fourth place starter Christian Szymczak - who had fallen back on the green flag - attempted a bold passing maneuver that failed, sending him into the gravel trap with terminal damage and causing a full course caution.
Breuers, Friday's provisional pole qualifier, led Allmendinger and the rest of the field back to the green on Lap 6. Allmendinger got a good run down the front stretch and made an inside move to go past Breuers into the lead. From there Allmendinger would steadily extend his lead over Di Leo and Cook, and held a five second lead when Campos crashed hard in Turn 10 and brought out a race ending yellow flag.
"I knew going into the race that the first corner was going to be key," said Allmendinger, a rookie in the Pro Series. "I had a good run, maintained my position and kept it clean. Julio spun in front of me in Turn 3 and I narrowly avoided him.
"On the second restart, I got a good jump on Marc (Breuers)," continued Allmendinger. "He raced me clean and I slipped by in Turn 1. After that, it was just a matter of concentration and putting in consistent laps, which we did. From here, I just have to remain consistent and make sure I keep gaining points and not let anyone into the points fight."
Campos would recover from his early spin and steadily worked his way up from 18th place at the restart to 9th place just six laps later. Next, he tracked down Parthiva Sureshwaren and fellow Barber CART Scholarship driver Leonardo Maia. Making a bold outside move in Turn 7, he passed Sureshwaren and set his sights on Maia. Campos slid by Maia as the pair negotiated Turn 1. Maia tried to return the favor as they drove onto the backstretch, resulting in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel dual.
Entering Turn 10, Campos clipped the tire barrier, spun and hit the outside retaining wall. The car rolled onto its top and actually became airborne before coming to a stop on the front stretch. Campos was uninjured and managed to walk away with some assistance from the CART Simple Green Safety Team.
Despite his wild ride, Campos is still thinking about the big picture.
"I am okay, although a little sore," said Campos, who would finish in 18th place and out of the points. "I am disappointed about the first lap spin but we came back strong. My championship hopes have taken a hit the last two weeks but there are still six races left to right the ship."
Breuers, who fought car control issues during the race, came home sixth. Maia finished in 7th place. Josh Rehm, Piero Rodarte and Aurelio Lopez rounded out the top ten.
With the win, Allmendinger extends his lead over Sperafico to 33 points. However, positions 2-5 of Sperafico, Breuers, Cook and Rojas are only separated by eight points.
POIRIER COMPLETES THE SWEEP IN INDIANAPOLIS
Barber CART Scholarship driver Scott Poirier won his first career victory on Saturday during Round 7 of the Formula Dodge National Championship at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Just hours later, he would win Round 8, complete a weekend sweep and secure his hold on the Championship point lead. Mexico's Luis Pelayo and Canada's Ward Imrie also both had strong performances to improve their position in the season points battle. Due to inclement weather earlier in the week, both races would be held the same day.
In Round 7, Poirier took the lead on Lap 2 from polesitter Grant Maiman and led the remainder of the way to take the checkered flag over Imrie and Pelayo. Maiman would finish in 4th place, while Jonathon Jorge completed the top five.
In Round 8, Poirier held the point on the start but Pelayo got the jump and secured the first corner to take the lead. Pelayo would hold the lead most of the race and appeared to be on the way to his first career National Championship victory. However, taking confidence from his win earlier in the day, Poirier passed Pelayo in Turn 6 with just four laps remaining. Despite valiant efforts by the young Mexican, Poirier held him off to take his second victory of the day.
"It's very exciting to be at the top of the podium finally. Despite all the rain, I've really enjoyed being here at IRP. I drove very well and stayed away from making mistakes. Getting out front in both races allowed me to focus and not get worried about what was happening behind me."
"It's still too early to be thinking about the championship at this point," continued Poirier. "Any one of these drivers can win these last five races. However, there isn't any other place I would rather be right now."
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will take a week break before resuming action at the CART Grand Prix of Chicago on June 29th and 30th.
The Barber Dodge Pro Series is next in action at the Molson Indy Toronto, July 5th-7th.
The Formula Dodge National Championship will take a one month break before returning to action with Rounds 9 and 10 at Mont Tremblant, Quebec on August 2nd-4th.
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.