Toronto: Team Rahal preview

Team Rahal Atlantic Track Talk - Toronto HILLIARD, OH . . . When Team Rahal's Danica Patrick takes to the track this weekend in the Argent Mortgage Car at Toronto, she will be running her seventh CART Toyota Atlantic Championship event and her...

Team Rahal Atlantic Track Talk - Toronto

HILLIARD, OH . . . When Team Rahal's Danica Patrick takes to the track this weekend in the Argent Mortgage Car at Toronto, she will be running her seventh CART Toyota Atlantic Championship event and her 12th race since joining Team Rahal in the summer of 2002. In the 11 races she has logged, Patrick has posted three top-five results and seven top-ten finishes, including a podium finish in her Atlantic debut in Monterrey, Mexico.

For Patrick, the ultra-competitive 21-year-old, the up and down weekends like what she fought through last week in Cleveland are the toughest part of developing as a driver.

"Last weekend was a really rough weekend with the engine problems and the handling issues we encountered," said Patrick. "However, all the problems aside, we still posted our second best finish of the season. It goes to show that a little patience and perseverance can pay off. At Cleveland a little good fortune smiled on us and we will take it because we have certainly had our share of misfortune this season."

Patrick enters Toronto seventh in the Toyota Atlantic Championship, just two-points out of sixth. Four top-six results in six races have showcased Patrick's ability to race. The only races she has failed to finish came when she was caught in scrums at Long Beach and Laguna Seca.

"Maybe the key is that I shouldn't run in California," joked Patrick. "We are working hard to make the car better and move up the grid. I said at the start of the year that if we showed improvement over every race weekend we would be successful. As I look back we have shown that improvement each week and that is encouraging. I am a rookie and rookies will make mistakes and go through growing pains. Although we have a lot of experience on the Argent Team, this is still the first year Team Rahal has had an Atlantic program, and the crew is still coming together. While I want to win races and move to the next level, my primary focus right now is to grow as a driver."

Team Rahal owner Bobby Rahal is pleased with the progress that his young charge is making. "When I signed Danica to a contract I told her it was the start of a multi-year process to develop her as a driver," said Rahal, himself a veteran of the Atlantic Championship. "A podium in the first race was beyond my expectations and certainly set a high standard for the Atlantic program, a standard we expect of all our programs at Team Rahal. One of the things that first drew Danica to my attention was her determination and drive to succeed. She has worked through some difficult weekends and some that weren't as challenging, but at every turn she has grown as a driver. Years from now she will look back on this season as laying the foundation for her success."

PATRICK MAKING SERIES HISTORY

Danica Patrick's third place result at Monterrey, Mexico was the first time in the 30-year history of the Toyota Atlantic Championship that a female had finished on the podium. Coupled with the fact that Patrick is the first female to run a full season program, and she is writing Atlantic series history each time she drives the #24 Argent Mortgage/Toyota/Swift.

PATRICK RETURNS TO TORONTO

This week Danica Patrick returns to Toronto where she made her Team Rahal debut in 2002 in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. Patrick started tenth and finished seventh in her North American open-wheel debut.

As she prepares to run the Toyota Atlantic race at Toronto it will mark the second time during the 2003 season that she has run on a track she raced on in Barber Dodge. Last week at Cleveland she finished fifth after starting tenth for her second top-five of the season. In her 2002 Barber Dodge run at Burke Lakefront Airport Patrick started tenth and finished seventh.

"The two cars are different so there are still some major difference you face as a driver," said Patrick. "Still the experience of having raced on a track is beneficial. Some of the other drivers have raced here in Toronto in Atlantics and that does give them a distinct advantage over some of the rookies. The bottom line is that if you can drive a car and if you are fast then you will have success. The Barber Dodge experience last year was great for me because it gave me a chance to go street racing for the first time. Some of the lessons I learned last year will be with me for my entire career."

TEAM RAHAL STILL LOOKING FOR FIRST TORONTO WIN

Team Rahal was founded in 1992 as Rahal/Hogan Racing and in the team's eleven previous trips to Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto, the team has never won the Molson Indy Toronto. Bobby Rahal did win the inaugural Molson Indy Toronto in 1986, edging Danny Sullivan and Mario Andretti.

Team Rahal's best finish at Toronto belongs to Rahal himself who three-times brought the Miller car home in second ('92,'94, '95). In 13 races at Exhibition Place Rahal had one win, three second place results and seven podium finishes.

Since Rahal's retirement following the 1998 season the best result for a Team Rahal driver was Max Papis' fifth place finish in 1999.

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Mario Andretti , Danny Sullivan , Danica Patrick