Chardon, Ohio (June 12, 2000) - If past performance is any indication of future success, then Buddy Rice is clearly positioned for a front-running return to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for round five of the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic...
Chardon, Ohio (June 12, 2000) - If past performance is any indication of future success, then Buddy Rice is clearly positioned for a front-running return to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for round five of the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship series, part of the FIA Formula One Canadian Grand Prix weekend in Montreal, Quebec.
Not only has Rice fought for the front in each of his two previous appearances at Montreal, he currently leads the 2000 Atlantic drivers championship points standings by virtue of two wins out of four races thus far with the remarkable DSTP Atlantic team. His first victory of the year came in the series' second round at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March, then again at the Grand Prix of Long Beach street course, in California. Last week in Milwaukee, Rice appeared to be on his way to another victory, until contact with a competitor ended his race-winning bid.
"We're certainly focused on what we need to do in Montreal," said Dede Rogers, owner of DSTP, which previously fielded a team in the U.S. F2000 National Championship before entering the Atlantic series this year. "Milwaukee was a set back in terms of the result, but it's motivated us to return with a vengeance in Montreal. I think we'll have a great race, and if there's one driver I would bet on to lead the way this weekend, it's Buddy."
"Montreal is unquestionably my favorite race on the Atlantic circuit," said Rice, who holds a 10-point margin (61-51) over PPI Motorsports' Dan Wheldon. "The track itself suits my driving style and the race is always very fast-paced. The track marshals are excellent at removing any stalled cars, so there really aren't any yellow flags. You're literally driving at 100 percent for the entire race. The Canadian fans are just amazing, and it's always an honor to run in front of the Formula One crowd. This year's race is going to be great. DSTP is such a terrific team, and we're out to win this weekend."
Rice, 24, is no stranger to Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. In two previous appearances, he's finished on the podium twice while driving for Lynx Racing in 1998 and 1999. Last year, he started sixth and moved up to third by the time he exited turn one. By the third lap, he was challenging Canadian favorite Alex Tagliani for the lead. The two pulled away from the field and staged their own two-car duel for the remainder of the race, with Tagliani winning by a nose at the line - just four-tenths of a second ahead. During the race, Rice set the fastest lap with a new course record of 1:36.704 - faster than the pole position qualifying speed.
In 1998, Rice jumped from third position and into the lead in his first-ever Atlantic standing start on dry pavement, bypassing the Player's Canadian front row of Tagliani and Lee Bentham. He led the first lap before Tagliani was able to get by in a battle that saw them swap the lead several times. Rice led the race on three different occasions before the Player's teammates were able to get together and open up a comfortable lead. Rice finished the race third, behind Bentham and Tagliani.
Jim Griffith, who engineers the #27 Swift/Toyota of Rice and oversees DSTP Atlantic's team operations, is certainly a key to DSTP's success. As CART's Toyota Atlantic 1999 Engineer-of-the-Year, he served as Lynx Racing's engineer for the past five seasons. His Atlantic record includes two championship titles (1996 and 1997, with Patrick Carpentier and Alex Barron), two Engineer-of-the-Year awards (1997 and 1999, Barron and Rice), and one Mechanic-of-the-Year award (1996). Griffith also engineered DSTP's F2000 National Championship team since 1995, until the team decided to run an Atlantic-only entry for this year. Rice, of Phoenix, Arizona, rejoins DSTP after driving for the team in the 1997 U.S. F2000 National Championship. He moved on to Lynx Racing's Atlantic team for 1998 and 1999 finishing seventh and fifth, respectively, in the series championships. Rice's Atlantic record includes three wins (Nazareth (1998), Homestead (2000), Long Beach (2000)), 17 top fives, 11 podiums, four poles and five fastest race laps.
Rice's racing career began in karts at age eleven, where he won multiple championships including two IKF Grand National and seven regional titles. He made his professional racing debut in 1996's US F2000 National Championship series with the help of friend and Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount. Lynx Racing then supported him at DSTP's F2000 team in 1997, where he responded by taking one win, two poles and five podiums en route to seventh overall in the series championship, before moving up to Lynx's Atlantic seat. Today, his sights are firmly set on the CART FedEx Championship, where he hopes to compete against the likes of Andretti, Tracy and Montoya, as well as his former Atlantic competitor Tagliani.