Allmendinger and Dalziel take championship battle to Cleveland runways and taxiways as 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship reaches halfway point. INDIANAPOLIS (July 1, 2003) - Over the past four races, points leader A.J. Allmendinger ( ...
Allmendinger and Dalziel take championship battle to Cleveland runways and taxiways as 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship reaches halfway point.
INDIANAPOLIS (July 1, 2003) - Over the past four races, points leader A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) and Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record) have traded dominating performances in CART Toyota Atlantic Championship competition, and the pair leads a stout field onto the runways and taxiways of Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport for Round 6 of the 12-race 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k on Saturday, July 5 (SPEED Channel, July 6, 1:00 p.m. ET).
As the series reaches the halfway point, Allmendinger and Dalziel have clearly distinguished themselves as the men to beat, as Allmendinger dominated en route to victories in Round 2 at Long Beach and Round 4 at Long Beach, while Dalziel claimed his first career win at The Milwaukee Mile in Round 3, and came back for a resounding victory in Round 5 at Portland International Raceway. In all four cases, the winner has claimed the $1,000 Toyota Pole Award and has gone on to lead every lap.
However, the wide and flat surface at Burke Lakefront Airport has an abundance of overtaking areas, so it would seem to be unlikely that Allmendinger, Dalziel, or anybody else will run away and hide from the field at the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k. Nevertheless, based on their performance over the past four events, both Allmendinger and Dalziel must be considered the favorites going into the weekend.
Allmendinger has been an ace in qualifying throughout the season, as he has placed his bright yellow machine inside the top three starting positions in each of his first five starts in the series. Included in the run were two pole positions (at Long Beach and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca), and he has parlayed those starting positions into top-four results in each of the past four races. He currently leads Dalziel by six points in the chase for the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship competition.
For his part, Dalziel has been even hotter over the past three races, as he has finished inside the top-two positions in all three events, including two wins. In addition, he has finished inside the top-four in six of his past seven starts in the series dating to the event at Montreal in 2002, and has moved from eighth in the points following Round 2 at Long Beach to second after Round 5 in Portland.
The Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k will be more than a two-man race, however, as there are a host of fierce competitors who will be looking to break the cycle of dominance that Allmendinger and Dalziel have enjoyed of late. Local favorite Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports/BG Products), who resides in nearby Concord Township, Ohio and drives for Chesterland-based DSTP Motorsports is one driver that is capable of making his way to the top step of the podium at the end of the day on Saturday.
Hand finished second in his first appearance at the track in 2001, but missed last year's event as he continued to recover from injuries he sustained during testing at The Milwaukee Mile. The third-year competitor has faced an uphill climb since returning to the cockpit for Round 9 of the 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship at Trois-Rivieres, but comes into the weekend at Cleveland riding the momentum of his best finish since the accident with a second place performance at Portland.
Likewise, Canadian Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings) also has something of a "hometown" advantage this weekend, as he drives for Chardon, Ohio's Polestar Atlantic, LLC. Macri snapped a streak of consecutive top-four finishes with an eighth place showing in Portland, but he is eager to begin a new streak with his first career Toyota Atlantic victory, which could come on Saturday.
Completing the Ohio triangle is Hilliard-based Team Rahal with Columbus resident Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) behind the wheel. Topped by a third place finish in the season opener at Monterrey, Patrick has finished inside the top-six in three of five starts in her rookie season, and is entering a stretch of races at tracks where she competed in the Barber Dodge Pro Series last season. She finished seventh after qualifying 14th at Cleveland in the '02 BDPS event, and but more importantly, she learned some of the idiosyncrasies of the Burke Lakefront Airport circuit that could serve her well in her second appearance at the track.
Another driver that will no doubt put his previous experience at Burke Lakefront Airport to good use is Lynx Racing's Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing). The Canadian finished fourth in his first appearance at the track last year, and reasserted himself as a threat for the 2003 championship with a fine third place performance at Portland after missing the event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca due to an illness.
Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing) is the highest-finishing driver from last year's Cleveland event to return for the 2003 rendition, as he brought home a third place trophy in his first appearance in 2002. Diaz will be joined by teammate Kyle Krisiloff (#31 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One), who is racing at a track on which he has previous Toyota Atlantic experience for the first time this weekend. He finished 15th at Cleveland one year ago.
Others with previous Cleveland Toyota Atlantic experience include third-year driver Stephan C. Roy (#16 PlayStation2/MGD/Mexxsport/Momo), and second-year competitors Alex Figge (#69 Wine Country Motorsports/Patrick Racing/Trench Shoring) and Alex Garcia (#9 Dixien/Omnisource/LA Fitness/Diestra). Drivers who will be making their Cleveland debuts this weekend include RuSPORT's Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT), who looks to extend his streak of top-five finishes to six consecutive races this weekend; and Starwood Team Jensen teammates Eric Jensen (#2 Westin Hotels) and Philip Fayer (#8 PaySystems).
The entire field will be comprised of "spec" Swift 014.a chassis powered by Toyota 4A-GE engines that are capable of producing 240 horsepower and speeds in excess of 165 mph. All cars will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks.
The weekend schedule for Toyota Atlantic calls for an initial, 30-minute practice session which will take the green flag at 2:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 3, and Thursday's Toyota Atlantic action concludes with a 40-minute first round qualifying session beginning at 6:40 p.m. ET. While most U.S. residents will be taking the day off on Friday, July 4 for the Independence Day holiday, the Toyota Atlantic teams and drivers will be back on the job beginning with another 30-minute practice session beginning at 1:15 p.m. ET and will be followed by a final, 40-minute qualifying session beginning at 4:45 p.m. ET. Saturday's race day schedule provides for a 15-minute warm-up session at 2:00 p.m. ET, with the start of the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET. The scheduled distance for the race is 32 laps (67.392 miles), but is subject to a 50-minute time limit.
Television coverage in the United States and Canada will once again be provided by SPEED Channel on a tape-delayed basis beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 6. Live Timing & Scoring information will also be available for every on-track session on the official web site of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, www.toyotaatlantic.com.
WHAT: Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k
WHERE: Burke Lakefront Airport - Cleveland, Ohio
WHEN: Thursday-Saturday, July 3-5.
CART TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local):
THURSDAY, JULY 3
Practice, 2:15 - 2:45 p.m.
First-Round Qualifying, 6:40 - 7:20 p.m.
FRIDAY, JULY 4
Practice, 1:15-1:45 p.m.
Final Qualifying, 4:45 - 5:25 p.m.
SATURDAY, JULY 5
Warm-up, 2:00 - 2:15 p.m.
Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k, 5:30 p.m.
U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: SPEED Channel
SUNDAY, JULY 6 - 1:00 p.m. ET.
MONDAY, JULY 7 - 1:00 p.m. ET (Rebroadcast)
RACE LENGTH: 32 laps (67.392 miles) or 50 minutes
NEXT EVENT: July 12, Molson Indy Toronto, Exhibition Place-Toronto, Ontario, Canada.