Valiante survives to take victory at Mid-Ohio

Valiante survives to take victory at Mid-Ohio

Lynx Racing's Michael Valiante survived a first lap collision with pole sitter A.J. Allmendinger and went on to win his second Toyota Atlantic Championship race of 2003. Michael Valiante. Photo by Michael Kim. The victory, just 0.6 ...

Lynx Racing's Michael Valiante survived a first lap collision with pole sitter A.J. Allmendinger and went on to win his second Toyota Atlantic Championship race of 2003.

Michael Valiante.
Photo by Michael Kim.
The victory, just 0.6 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Ryan Dalziel, gives the three-year series veteran his fifth career win in 25 starts.

"It's exhilarating." Valiante said of his victory. "It's been a while since we've been on top so it's certainly a great feeling."

After an aborted first start, Allmendinger took the green with Valiante right by his side as both cars entered turn seven. Neither driver would give up his line and the cars touched tires. The collision that ensued put Allmendinger out of the race with a broken rear suspension.

Starting in fourth spot on the outside of row two, Valiente did'nt wait long to make his move.

"We had a good start and were wheel to wheel with him into that first corner," Valiante said. "I was on the inside (of A.J.'s car) and I thought he saw me. He started turning in on me and I had no where to go, I even tried to get off the gas but it was too late by then. I thought he would have given me more room since he was in the championship lead and had more to loose than I do."

Valiante came out of the incident unscathed and the second full-course yellow came out slowing the field for its third attempted start in six laps.

As the green flag flew again, Valiante went on to lead the first part of the race with Dalziel hot on his tail. At the half way point, five seconds separated the top six cars.

Danica Patrick, the lone female in the series, had a good showing starting from 11th and made it into the top ten with 15 laps remaining, holding that spot to the finish. Patrick has done well for her Team owner Bobby Rahal this season and sits alone in seventh place in the championship.

RuSPORT Racing's Aaron Justus made it interesting on lap 20 of the 30 lap affair, when he closed in on second place Dalziel who at the time was in his own battle with Valiante. Valiante, seeing the fight in his mirrors stretched out his lead a bit on the next lap as Dalziel struggled to hold back Justus.

Dalziel drifted wide in the final turn on lap 27 and Justus was all over him looking for room to pass, but on such a difficult course to pass, it just wasn't in the cards. DSTP Motorsports driver Joey Hand, who had started in seventh, put the pressure on Justus from fourth place as the laps dwindled down. Justus held on to finish third.

Valiante did well to stay in front and took the checkered flag for his second straight podium finish. His other victory this year took place during the season opener in Monterrey, Mexico last March.

"This definitely gives us more momentum going into the last part of the season." Valiante said. "The team's really coming together, we're down in the championship order so we're just going for wins now."

For Allmendinger, it was his first DNF this season. Entering the race with a commanding 36 point lead over Dalziel in the Championship, the series points leader went away with only two additional points, and his lead cut to 20 points with three events remaining.

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Bobby Rahal , Michael Valiante , Joey Hand , A.J. Allmendinger , Aaron Justus , Danica Patrick , Michael Kim