FACT SHEET THE CART TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP Round 7, Target Grand Prix July 26-29, 2001, Chicago Motor Speedway, Cicero, Illinois Event: Round 7 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, will be held on the 1.029-mile oval...
FACT SHEET THE CART TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 7, Target Grand Prix July 26-29, 2001, Chicago Motor Speedway, Cicero, Illinois
Event: Round 7 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, will be held on the 1.029-mile oval of the Chicago Motor Speedway, as Sunday's opening event at the Target Grand Prix. Sunday's race will mark the second time since 1999 the Atlantic series has competed in Chicago. The Atlantic Championship did not run in Chicago last year.
Race Series: The CART-sanctioned Toyota Atlantic Championship is a key rung on CART's "Ladder System", and is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic series are CART Champ car stars Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Richie Hearn, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani, and Memo Gidley, former Champ Car stars Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan, as well as 1997 FIA Formula One Champion, Jacques Villeneuve. <pre>
Thursday, July 26: Testing 10:00 a.m. -- 12:00 p.m. Testing 2:00 p.m. -- 4:00 p.m.
Friday, July 27: Practice 8:45 a.m. -- 9:25 a.m. Practice 3:30 p.m. -- 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 28: Practice 8:00 a.m. -- 8:40 a.m. Qualifying 12:15 p.m. -- 1:15 p.m.
Sunday, July 29: Warm Up 9:45 a.m. -- 10:00 a.m. RACE 12:00 p.m. -- 1:15 p.m. (65laps/66.885 miles)
Race: Chicago Motor Speedway will host Round 7 of the CART Toyota Atlantic
Preview: Championship, which kicks off the second half of the 2001 season on the 1.029-mile oval. The Atlantic race in Chicago will be Sunday's opening event of the Target Grand Prix with the green flag scheduled to drop at high noon. This will be the second trip to the Chicago Motor Speedway for the Atlantic Championship. The series ran here in 1999 at the track's grand opening where Sam Hornish Jr. captured the victory.
With half of the season over, two drivers have broken away from the pack in the chase for the 2001 Championship. For those who are trying to catch them, the next few races will be critical to their chances on getting back in the hunt for the season ending trophy.
Current CTAC points leader, David Rutledge (Lynx Racing Swift) has won half of the season's first six races and leads the standings with 94 points, 4 points ahead of Brazil's Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift). The pair have swapped the top spot in the Championship three times since the season opening race in Long Beach, California.
Rutledge is only one of two drivers that ran here in 1999. The other is Rocky Moran Jr. (Cobb Racing Swift) who switched from Condor Motorsports before the Toronto race.
"The Chicago track, surprisingly, is more similar to Nazareth without the elevation changes, than it is to the ovals at Milwaukee and St. Louis," said Vancouver's David Rutledge. "It has tight turns that, unless you can get your car working well enough to take them flat out, needs a bit of trail-braking to get through quickly. The Atlantics didn't race there last year, but it's my recollection that we were surprised by how high-grip a track it was. You'd think that as little as it gets used it would be very green, and it probably will be on Thursday during the test day. But as we and the champ cars get it dusted off and some rubber worked into the surface, you'll see the grip levels go up dramatically and the lap times drop. That means a stiff car with a low-downforce aero setup, and that's where we'll start our development program on Thursday."
Between the two drivers, Orsi has had better results on oval tracks so far this season including his first career CTAC win at Milwaukee and a runner-up finish at Nazareth. Rutledge's strength has been the road course circuits where he scored his three wins. (Long Beach, Montreal, Toronto). Even though Rutledge has not been as strong on the ovals; his performance on them has kept him in the thick of the Championship with a seventh place in Nazareth and a third at Milwaukee. After Chicago, the final five races of the season will be contested on road courses and temporary street circuits.
With the results on ovals, Orsi comes in Chicago feeling confident of his chances to land his third victory of the season. "I'm sure that I will have a really strong car in Chicago," said Orsi. "We did some really good pre season testing on ovals and our oval car is great. I'm looking forward to this race and I am going to work hard to regain the points lead."
The daunting task of trying to chase down Rutledge and Orsi, lies in the hands of a trio of drivers who have had success this season; but a run of bad luck has put them in catch-up mode.
Heading into the Round 4 race at Cleveland, Tony Ave (P-1 Racing/Miller Genuine Draft Swift) was tied for second in points with Orsi and only trailed Rutledge by nine points. He had not finished outside of the top-five in the first four races including a flag to flag win on the oval in Nazareth. A pair of first lap shunts in Cleveland and Toronto relegated Ave to non-points producing finishes, dropping him 41 points behind Rutledge. Getting back on an oval, such as Chicago, could be what Ave and the P-1 Racing team needs to get things pointed back in the right direction.
Making a steady climb up the points standings is Argentina's Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/3b Engine Valves Swift). Unlike Ave, the second year driver started the season off slowly; but has come back to life and looks primed to make a run at the leaders. After a less than stellar start for a team that was one of the pre-season favorites to win the Championship, Basso has rallied with a third place finish at Montreal and a fourth at Toronto. Also working in his favor is his first career win, which came last year on the 1-mile oval in Milwaukee. Basso stands fourth in the Championship standings with 51 points, just two points behind Ave.
The final driver in the trio is also the current leader of the Rookie of the Year standings. Filling the shoes of the 2000 Champion, Buddy Rice has not been easy, but Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift) has shown why the defending champion DSTP team picked him to carry the torch. Hand nearly grabbed his first career CTAC win on a wet track in Cleveland taking the lead on the final lap, only to have it wrestled back from him by Hoover Orsi. Outside of the race in Nazareth, Hand has been running in the top-5 of every race. A pair of DNF's at Milwaukee and Montreal has set the team behind in the standings; but they have been a threat to win every time they take to the track. Hand is fifth in the Championship with 45 points.
Rookie, Grant Ryley (Worldspeed Motorsports/Northwest Speedwerx Swift) will continue his roller coaster season in Chicago. The Worldspeed team has been traditionally strong on ovals with Ryley winning the pole at Milwaukee earlier this year. Worldspeed also won on the oval at Gateway International Raceway last season, with Case Montgomery (Condor Motorsports/Ariba Swift) taking the checkered flag by almost nine seconds. After coming off Worldspeed's best road course showing in two years with the third place finish in Toronto, Ryley and the Worldspeed team will be coming into Chicago with their sights set on winning.
"Our attitude going into Chicago is very upbeat," said California's Grant Ryley. "We really feel like we have some momentum on our side going into Chicago. Mike Doyle (engineer) has worked very hard to get the car better on road courses and everybody has seen what he can do with an oval car."
Ryley continues. "The overall championship is a long shot because of the way David (Rutledge) and Hoover's (Orsi) seasons are going; but rookie of the year and top five in the points are most definitely within reach. Those are our goals and those are what we are all working so hard for. I think you would be crazy to count World Speed out on the one mile oval in Chicago." Ryley is sixth in Championship points with 38, and is trailing Joey Hand in the Rookie of Year standings by seven points.
Other drivers in Chicago looking for their first career wins are T.J. Bell (Cobb Racing Swift), Jonathan Macri (P-1Racing/NTN Bearings Swift), and Stephan C. Roy (P-1Racing/Playstation 2 Momo Swift).
Bell, driving in his second Atlantic season, scored his first career podium in Cleveland, and stands seventh in the Championship with 37 points. Driving in his first season and still a contender for the Rookie of the Year, Macri scored his best two finishes on the ovals at Nazareth (4th) and Milwaukee (6th). Macri is ninth in the standings with 35 points. Trois-Rivieres, Quebec's Roy rounds out the top-10 with 33 points. Roy also has had solid performances on ovals including a fifth place spot at Nazareth. Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing/Copart Auto Auctions Swift) is only running half of the season's 12 races and won't be competing in Chicago. Valiante is in eighth with 36 points.
In the points Championship, positions 6th through 13th are just separated by 12 points. A podium finish or a DNF could have a huge impact on where a driver moves in the standings. Not having the season he had hoped, Moran is 11th with 29 points, followed by Mexico's Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Swift), who has a podium finish to his credit this year at Nazareth, with 27 points. Charles Hall (Duesenberg Brothers Racing/Western Union First Data Swift) has 26 points, despite missing the first two races of the season.
Atlantic: The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship has only raced on the oval at the Chicago History at: Motor Speedway one time in 1999. The previous Atlantic winner at Chicago was; Chicago: Sam Hornish Jr. (1999). Andrew Bordin won the pole in 1999.
Television: ESPN2 and ESPN International will broadcast Sunday's Round 7 race from Chicago on Broadcasts: Saturday, August 4, at 5:30 p.m. ET, while Atlantic fans in Canada can watch the race on CTV SportsNet on Tuesday, August 7, at 7:00 p.m. in the EAST,ONTARIO and WEST time zones, and Monday, August 6, at 8:00 p.m. in the PACIFIC zone. CTV repeat dates are: EAST, Wednesday, August 8, 2:30 p.m., ONTARIO, Tuesday, August 14, 2:30 p.m., PACIFIC, Monday, August 13, 4:00 p.m., and WEST, no repeat date. ESPN2 will replay the race on Monday, August 13, at 5:00 a.m. ET.
Next Race: The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship continues with Round 8 next week on Sunday, August 5, at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres.