Fact Sheet The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Round 2, Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota May 3-6, 2001, Nazareth Speedway, Nazareth, PA Event Round 2 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, will be held on the...
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship
Round 2, Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota
May 3-6, 2001, Nazareth Speedway, Nazareth, PA
Event Round 2 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, will be held on the .946-mile Nazareth Speedway oval, as Sunday's opening event at the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota. Sunday's race will mark the 10th time since 1991; the Atlantic series has competed on the eastern Pennsylvania track.
Race Series The CART-sanctioned Toyota Atlantic Championship is a key rung on CART's "Ladder System", and is 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, Richie Hearn, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani, former Champ Car stars Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan, as well as 1997 FIA Formula One Champion, Jacques Villeneuve. <pre> Atlantic Schedule
Thursday, May 3: Testing 10:00 a.m. -- 12:00 p.m. Testing 2:00 p.m. -- 4:00 p.m.
Friday, May 4: Practice 8:45 a.m. -- 9:25 a.m. Practice 3:30 p.m. -- 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 5: Practice 8:45 a.m. -- 9:15 a.m. Qualifying 11:30 a.m. -- 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 6: Warm Up 8:30 a.m. -- 8:45 a.m. RACE 10:15 a.m. -- 11:15 a.m. (65 laps/61.49 miles) </pre> Only three of this season's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship competitors have raced an Atlantic car at Nazareth. Long Beach winner, David Rutledge (Lynx Racing/Keg Steakhouse Swift), Wisconsin's Tony Ave (P-1 Racing/Miller Genuine Draft Swift), and Mexico's Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Swift), all have competed on the three-corner track, which features a 34-foot elevation change. Rutledge, who hails from Vancouver, Canada, ran his first race here in 1998 earning a fifth place finish, following it up a year later with a fourth. Ave, who finished 5th here in 1997, and 12th in 1999, placed fifth in the season opener. Lavin has raced here with the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and started the season at Long Beach with a 7th place finish.
The disadvantage for first time drivers at Nazareth will be lessened by four hours of testing on Thursday. Before the race weekend starts, Atlantic drivers will have a pair of two-hour sessions, to get themselves familiar with the historic track. In addition to the four hours on Thursday, the teams will also get over 1 1/2 hours of practice time on Friday and Saturday before qualifying begins on Saturday afternoon.
At the season opening race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Rutledge was the clear favorite because of his experience with the temporary street circuit. It is not as clear cut for him in this race, though. All of Rutledge's podium finishes, in 2000, came on road courses, along with the win at Long Beach to start this season. He has not been able to continue the early success he found on the ovals during his first few years in the Atlantic Championship. Although he ended up with two top-5 spots last year at Miami/ Homestead and Milwaukee, he only managed 12th place finishes in the other races at Miami/Homestead and Gateway.
Rutledge, who comes into this race with the series points lead, will have to contend with a pair of second-year, South American drivers, who found success on ovals last season. Argentina's Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/3b Engine Valves Swift), won his first ever American oval race last year at Milwaukee, following it up with a third place finish at Gateway. Basso wound up no worse than sixth last year on the four oval tracks. Basso finished 6th, at the season opener, at Long Beach. Brazil's Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift) took a runner-up finish behind Rutledge at Long Beach, and stands second in Championship points. Orsi, who is searching for his first career win, also grabbed a pair of podium finishes, on the 2000 oval tour, at Homestead and Milwaukee.
With his experience, Ave could be a huge threat to win on Sunday. His only Atlantic victory came on the modified oval at Miami/Homestead in 1996. CART Toyota Atlantic All-Star, Rocky Moran Jr (Condor Motorsports/Ariba Swift) should also be a contender after a disappointing 10th place finish at Long Beach. Moran Jr., from California, was contending for a top five spot before getting involved in a last lap incident. Despite the incident, Moran owns an impressive streak that is hard to match in any form of motorsports. Dating back to last season's first race, to this year's opener at Long Beach, Moran has completed every lap run in those 13 races. That makes for a total of 503 consecutive laps completed. Moran will look to add 65 more to that tally on Sunday morning.
The status of the 2001 rookie class became a bit clearer after Long Beach. The same situation they were faced with going to the temporary street circuit at Long Beach, looms before the rookie drivers again, as they will see Nazareth for the first time ever. However, racing on a new track did not seem to faze Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift), from California, as he led in the early stages at Long Beach, before being overtaken by Rutledge and Orsi to place third on the podium. Even though the defending champion, DSTP team, will be making their first appearance here, they had no problems with ovals last year with series champion, Buddy Rice, as their driver.
Along with Rodolfo Lavin, Ontario, Canada's Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Swift), were other full-time rookie drivers that gathered top-10 finishes at Long Beach. Lavin came home seventh, while Macri finished one spot behind Lavin in eighth.
Other drivers will be trying to turn the tide after disappointing starts to the 2001 championship. The most notable of these will be second-year driver, T.J. Bell (Cobb Racing Swift), who was taken out of the race on the very first turn at Long Beach. Bell, from Nevada, scored points on every oval during the 2000 campaign, and a strong performance at Nazareth could erase the memories of the short performance at Long Beach. Another driver not getting off to the start he had hoped for was California rookie driver, Grant Ryley (Worldspeed Motorsports/Northwest Speedwerx Swift). After placing fifth in Friday's qualifying session, Ryley's gearbox broke before the green flag flew, dropping him from the race two laps into the event. Qubec's Stephan Roy (P-1 Racing/Momo Swift), rounds out the drivers who come to Nazareth on the heels of DNFs at Long Beach. Roy was forced to drop out of the Long Beach race, seven laps shy of the finish, due to a mechanical failure.
Other drivers scoring points in their first ever Atlantic race was New Zealand's Matthew Halliday (Duesenburg Brothers Racing/Western Union Swift) and California's Frank Dancs (Condor Motorsports/Ariba Swift). They finished 11th and 12th respectively, at Long Beach.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will only run three oval tracks during the 2001 season. Round 3 will have the Atlantic teams paying a visit to The Milwaukee Mile in early June. Round 7 will take place at the Chicago Motor Speedway in late July. Drivers who feel they are at their best on ovals, will have to make the most of these three races, starting this weekend in Nazareth.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship has raced at Nazareth Speedway 9 times, at dating back to the 1991 season. The previous Atlantic winners at Nazareth were: Nazareth Jony Marcelo (1991), Harald Huysman (1992), Claude Bourbonnais (1993), Mark Dismore (1994), Patrick Carpentier (1995, 1996), Alex Barron (1997), Buddy Rice (1998), and Anthony Lazzaro (1999).
Television ESPN2 and ESPN International will broadcast Sunday's Round 2 race from Nazareth Broadcasts on Sunday, May 13, at 10:30 p.m. ET, while Atlantic fans in Canada can watch the race on CTV SportsNet on Tuesday, May 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the East, Ontario, and West time zones, and Monday, May 14, 8:30 p.m. in the Pacific time zone. CTV repeat dates are: East, May 16, 3:00 p.m., Ontario, May 16, 4:30 p.m., Pacific, May 15, 5:00 p.m., and West, May 16, 3:00 p.m. ESPN2 will replay the race on Wednesday, May 16, at 4:30 a.m ET.
Next Race The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship continues with Round 3 on Saturday, June 2, at the historic Milwaukee Mile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.