Hunter-Reay breezes to third win of the season; win in Cleveland tightens points chase. CLEVELAND (July 14, 2002) -- For the third time this season, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Medlock Ames Winery/U.S. Print Swift 014.a) dominated a...
Hunter-Reay breezes to third win of the season; win in Cleveland tightens points chase.
CLEVELAND (July 14, 2002) -- For the third time this season, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Medlock Ames Winery/U.S. Print Swift 014.a) dominated a CART Toyota Atlantic Championship event on his way to a win.
The Boca Raton, Florida native jumped out to an early lead from his number one starting spot after winning his third $1000 Toyota "Pole Award" of the season yesterday; and continued on to a 7.015 second margin of victory over Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a). With wins in Laguna Seca by over 8 seconds and Chicago by over 9 seconds, Hunter-Reay owns the three largest margins of victory in the season's eight races to date.
At the drop of the green flag, Hunter-Reay moved to the inside to guard the line entering the treacherous right hand Turn 1 at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport temporary street course. Fogarty tucked in behind the leader from his outside front row starting spot and the pair remained in those positions for the remainder of the race.
"I had one of the best cars I have ever driven today," said Hunter-Reay. "It was a dream race as a driver because I had a solid lead without anyone breathing too closely down my neck, but it's never easy. Once I had the gap developed, I had to really take care of my car and just manage the pace."
The win was the second in a row for Hylton Motorsports at the 2.106-mile Cleveland track with 2001 CART Toyota Atlantic Champion, Hoover Orsi, winning here last year. Most important to Hunter-Reay, is that he closed the gap on points leader, Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) and moved up to second in the points chase. After the first three races of the season, Hunter-Reay had only scored three Championship points. But now as the season enters into its final third of the schedule, Hunter-Reay has moved to within eight points of Valiante with a total of 93. Fogarty, who captured his fourth podium of the season, is only one point back of Hunter-Reay and nine points back of Valiante.
Fogarty's teammate, Mexico's Luis Diaz (Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a) battled with Valiante for third place throughout the race with Diaz taking the position for good on Lap 20. Diaz completed the podium which was his second of the year after winning earlier this season at Portland. It was also the third time this season that Dorricott Racing has placed two of their three drivers on podium. Fogarty and Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a) finished on podium at Long Beach with Fogarty and Diaz in the top three at Portland.
"It was tough to keep pace with Ryan's car," said Fogarty. "Nonetheless, the weekend's objective was to make a dent in Valiante's lead in the point championship and we accomplished that. I knew Ryan was going to be tough and he was close in points but I'm sure his objectives were similar to ours. The team gave me a good car. I was watching my mirrors much of the race and rooting for Luis to pass Michael. I'm very glad he did. This makes a little up for last week at Toronto. It's where we should be and I'm happy to be here."
"Cleveland is a bumpy track so it made for a tough race especially with such a high average speed this time," said Diaz. "I'm happy with this result since I had an incident at Toronto that cost a good finish. This result is great for me. This puts me back in the championship fight. I hope to make a repeat visit to the podium at the next race."
Valiante continued on to finish fourth, but not before winning the $1000 WorldCom "Fast Pace" Award setting a record fastest lap of 1:06.235 seconds (114.465 mph), breaking the 2000 record held by Buddy Rice (DSTP Motorsports/Crane & Shovel Sales Corp/Dynocut Swift 014.a) which was 1:08.109 seconds (111.463 mph). Much like yesterday where 15 drivers beat the existing track qualifying record, a total of 15 topped the race lap record as well. It was Valiante's sixth top-five finish of the season.
"The Lynx team gave me a totally great car today, a podium car in fact, but lapped traffic cost me a better finish," said points leader Valiante. "Still, it was a good run, and we're still leading the championship by a nice margin, so we'll take our lessons from here and go to the next one. Trois-Rivieres is a track that I know well and like very much, so we're hoping to do well there, and our new generation Comptech engines should be ready by Road America, so the rest of the season is going to be a dogfight among the top teams."
The race saw its only yellow flag period which came early in the race when Alex Figge (Worldspeed Motorsports/Northern Trust/Redline/Wine Country Motorsports/Ironclad Swift 014.a) made contact with the rear of the car of Roger Yasukawa (Hylton Motorsports/Autobacs/ U.S. Print Swift 014.a) on the entry to Turn 1. Figge's car went airborne over Yasukawa and then collected the machine of Sepp Koster (Michael Shank Racing/Blue Bay Golf Resort/Uitert/ Respons Swift 014.a). Both Figge and Koster were eliminated from the race while Yasukawa lost many laps in the pits while making repairs.
After racing in six of the past seven weekends, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will take a much needed break before returning to action in three weeks at the historic Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres on August 4th.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is one of the world's premier open-wheel development series and the top rung on CART's "ladder system", as well as having $100,000 race purses and a one million dollar points fund. It is also 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, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani as well as former series champions Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan and Jacques Villeneuve.