Chardon, Ohio (July 10, 2000) - With a return to the top of the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship points chart following their Cleveland victory, Buddy Rice and the suburban Cleveland-based DSTP Atlantic team are positioned for a...
Chardon, Ohio (July 10, 2000) - With a return to the top of the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship points chart following their Cleveland victory, Buddy Rice and the suburban Cleveland-based DSTP Atlantic team are positioned for a front-running performance in this Sunday's CART Toyota Atlantic race at the Molson Indy Toronto, part of the CART FedEx Championship weekend in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
DSTP has captured three victories out of six races thus far, in only its first season of CART Toyota Atlantic competition. Rice currently leads the drivers' championship standings, by virtue of three wins, one second-place finish, one pole position and two fastest race laps. He also has led the most laps in each of five of this year's six races and is the only repeat Atlantic winner this season.
"As I remember, Toronto is very fast for a street course," said Rice, who is now in his third year of Atlantic competition and last raced in Toronto in 1998, since the Atlantic series skipped the event last year. "It's pretty tricky because there are so many different elements to it, and there's not a lot of room for error. It's really important to watch yourself when passing and, especially, in traffic. The first turn is also very tight, so it's critical to put a fast lap together in qualifying to get a starting position near the front. I think we'll show up with a good set-up. DSTP has given me a great car basically right out of the trailer at every race this year and I don't think Toronto will be any different."
"Toronto is such a great city," said Dede Rogers, team owner. "It's a terrific location for a street race and the Atlantic series always puts on a great show. It's another track that lends itself to trouble if you're at the wrong place at the wrong time. The safest place to be is out front, and that's where we hope to be."
Rice, 24, learned the hard way in 1998 just how treacherous the Toronto track can be. After starting the race 10th, he ended up 25th after contacting the Turn 13 wall while battling for position.
Instrumental to DSTP's success this season is Jim Griffith, who serves as the team's vice president of operations as well as Rice's engineer. Previously, Griffith 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, Carpentier).
Rice rejoined DSTP this year 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. His Atlantic record includes four wins (Nazareth (1998), Homestead (2000), Long Beach (2000), Cleveland (2000)), 18 top fives, 12 podiums, four poles and six 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 a career in the CART FedEx Championship, where he hopes to compete against the likes of Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy and Roberto Moreno, as well as 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 this year's CART FedEx Championship with the Player's/Forsythe team, after successfully filling in at the Walker Racing and Payton-Coyne Champ Car teams last year. 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 CART Toyota Atlantic activities begin with practice and qualifying on Friday, July 14, followed by another practice and qualifying session on Saturday, July 15. The 35-lap Atlantic race is scheduled to begin at 12:00 pm on Sunday, July 16, and is the featured support race to the CART FedEx Championship Series race later that day. It will be televised via espn2.