INDIANAPOLIS (August 28, 2003) - Just over a month after CART Toyota Atlantic Championship contenders used the Champ Car Mentor Program to get an inside look at the Champ Car World Series, top Barber Dodge Pro Series competitors will get the same...
INDIANAPOLIS (August 28, 2003) - Just over a month after CART Toyota Atlantic Championship contenders used the Champ Car Mentor Program to get an inside look at the Champ Car World Series, top Barber Dodge Pro Series competitors will get the same opportunity with Toyota Atlantic teams this weekend during the Argent Mortgage Challenge at the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver.
With the goal of increasing the communication between the rising stars of the Champ Car Ladder System and key team and sponsor personnel at the next level, three top drivers from the just-completed 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series - champion Leonardo Maia, third-place Dan Di Leo and fifth-place Colin Fleming - will be paired with RuSPORT, Lynx Racing and Polestar Atlantic, LLC, respectively. The drivers will have the opportunity to attend and take part in every aspect of the race weekend with the Toyota Atlantic teams, including debriefings, engineering sessions and team meetings, plus press and sponsor events. In addition, the drivers will listen in on team communications from pit lane during all practice and qualifying sessions plus the race.
American Maia will be paired with RuSPORT, which is in its first year of Toyota Atlantic competition and fields a car for 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series champion A.J. Allmendinger and Aaron Justus. Allmendinger and Justus currently rank first and fifth in the season point standings, respectively, with two races remaining. This weekend in Denver will actually serve as a warm up for Maia with the team, who will test a RuSPORT Atlantic car later this fall. Maia won the Pro Series championship in his second year on the strength of a record-tying six victories and eight podium finishes.
Coming off of his second Barber Dodge season which saw him win his maiden race at Laguna Seca and finish third in the point standings, Canadian Di Leo will spend the weekend with Lynx Racing and fellow Canadian and Barber Dodge Pro Series alumni Michael Valiante as well as part-time driver Bryan Sellers. Valiante, who has won at Monterrey, Mexico and Mid-Ohio this season, is currently third in the championship, 22 points behind second place Ryan Dalziel of Sierra Sierra Enterprises.
Just a few short days after capturing a tight 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series Rookie of the Year race at Montreal on the virtue of his third podium of the season, Fleming will mentor with the Polestar Atlantic, LLC race team. Polestar features Canadian Jonathan Macri, a part-time competitor in the Pro Series during the 2000 season. Macri, who has placed on five podiums this season, is currently fourth in the point standings.
"This program is very positive and actually has benefited our team in the past," said RuSPORT president Jeremy Dale. "A.J. (Allmendinger) took part in this program last year while he was a Barber Dodge driver and Aaron (Justus) mentored with the Player's Forsythe Racing team just last month at Vancouver. The great thing about the Mentor Program is that it demystifies the whole process for the drivers, allowing them to realize that while things are bigger and more complicated at the next level, it is just another race team in the end and it is all very attainable."
"Like any team involved in helping young drivers climb the Champ Car Ladder, Lynx has its 'rising star radar' operating full-time," commented Lynx Racing team manager Steve Cameron. "Dan Di Leo has been on our screen for a while now. It's obvious to us that he has what it takes to make it all the way to Champ Cars and we're happy to give him a behind-the-scenes look at the next step in his career this weekend at Denver. The Champ Car Mentor Program is an innovative and important tool for both drivers and teams, and Lynx is proud to be a part of it."
The Champ Car Ladder System is designed to give aspiring drivers a clear path to the top of the motorsports world and serves as the only complete Driver Development System in the world. It starts at the grassroots level with the Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow karting series, continues into the Formula Dodge National Championship, enters the professional ranks with the Barber Dodge Pro Series and then finally to the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama. From there, drivers strive to the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. In all, there is over $1.5 million in scholarship awards in addition to generous prize and point money for the estimated 400 drivers in the Champ Car Ladder System.