Chardon, Ohio (May 30, 2000) - Buddy Rice, driver for the newly-formed DSTP Atlantic team, has one goal in mind this year - win the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship series title. And if his rapid start to the season is any indication, he's...
Chardon, Ohio (May 30, 2000) - Buddy Rice, driver for the newly-formed DSTP Atlantic team, has one goal in mind this year - win the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship series title. And if his rapid start to the season is any indication, he's certainly poised to take the Atlantic crown, and establish himself as America's leading candidate to move into the CART FedEx Championship next year.
With two consecutive wins out of just three races thus far, Rice currently leads the Atlantic championship standings. 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.
Considering the Chardon, Ohio-based DSTP Atlantic team made its Atlantic series debut just months ago at the Homestead race, the results are quite remarkable. This weekend, the team seeks to continue its front-running form on the Milwaukee Mile oval, in West Allis, Wisconsin, for Round 4 of the 12-race 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship series, part of the Miller Lite 225 CART FedEx Championship weekend.
"I couldn't have wished for a better introduction to the Atlantic series," said Dede Rogers, owner of DSTP, which previously fielded a team in the U.S. F2000 National Championship. "The team has worked extremely hard for these results and we hope that there will be more good things to come in Milwaukee. It's been a long break since Long Beach, and I'm sure that everyone has raised their game in preparation for this race. It should be another very exciting round of Atlantic racing."
"We definitely want to get as many points as possible in Milwaukee," said Rice, who holds a 10-point margin (60-50) over PPI Motorsports' Dan Wheldon. "The series is so competitive that at any given race there's ten to 12 drivers capable of winning, and we know that everybody has been testing pretty hard since Long Beach. Our plan is to keep focusing on our own program and not worry about what the other teams are up to. With so much room for passing and relatively little banking, Milwaukee always makes for an exciting race."
Rice, 24, is no stranger to Milwaukee's famed one-mile oval. Now in his third year of Atlantic competition, after driving for Lynx Racing in 1998 and 1999, he's experienced both ends of the field at the start, as well as the finish. In 1998, he qualified outside of the front row, only to finish the race 11th after pitting to change a blistered right front tire. Last year, in a reversal of fortune, Rice qualified an uncustomary 10th and charged up to finish third - his first of four podiums in 1999.
"Every year, you learn so much more about the tracks, car set up and race strategy," said Rice, who makes his 28th career Atlantic start this weekend. "At a track like Milwaukee, it's absolutely critical to understand the fundamentals of the car, and know how to translate the set up information to the team. Everybody has to be working together, and Jim Griffith has been such an outstanding coach and mentor for me these past few years."
Griffith, who engineers Rice as well as oversees DSTP Atlantic's team operations, is certainly a key to DSTP's early season 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 Alex Tagliani.
DSTP was formed by Rogers in 1994 and first fielded a team in the Dodge Shelby Pro Series. The team's initial season resulted in several podium finishes and pole positions leading up to second in the rookie championship. The following year, DSTP made the jump to the US F2000 National Championship pro series as well as selected Hooter's Cup Formula 2000 events with driver Memo Gidley. Although leading the Hooter's Cup series, DSTP elected to focus on the US F2000 National Championship, where Gidley went on to capture three wins and three poles on his way to second in the 1995 F2000 series championship, as well as the Rookie-of-the-Year, Oval Crown Champion and Oval Rookie-of-the-Year titles. Gidley recently campaigned a portion of last year's CART FedEx Championship for the Walker Racing and Payton-Coyne Champ Car teams, then again this year with the Player's/Forsythe team. Another former DSTP F2000 driver, Alex Barron (DSTP - 1996), captured the 1997 Atlantic title in his rookie season with Lynx Racing, then rose to the CART Champ Car ranks, driving in 1998 with Dan Gurney's All American Racers and in selected events last year for Marlboro Team Penske.
This weekend's Atlantic activities begin with an open test day on Thursday, June 1, followed by practice and single-car qualifying on Friday. The 60-lap, 60-mile race is scheduled to begin at 3:15 pm Central Daylight Time on Saturday, June 3, and will be televised via espn2 on Sunday, June 11 at 10:00 am (EDT) with an encore presentation on Wednesday, June 14 at 5:00 am (EDT). Round 5 of the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic season takes place on June 17 in Montreal, Canada, as the primary support event to the FIA Formula One Canadian Grand Prix.