Dalziel on Denver pole, Championship will be settled today

Neither of the two drivers who can win the 2002 Toyota Atlantic Championship were able to get one of the qualifying points this weekend. Points leader Michael Valiante will start sixth and rival Jon Fogarty will line up fourth for this afternoon's...

Neither of the two drivers who can win the 2002 Toyota Atlantic Championship were able to get one of the qualifying points this weekend. Points leader Michael Valiante will start sixth and rival Jon Fogarty will line up fourth for this afternoon's final race of the season. Ryan Dalziel got today's bonus point for his first Atlantic series pole with a time of 1:09.085 seconds (85.825 mph.) Young Scot Dalziel is enjoying his switch to the Hylton Motorsports team, having qualified and finished third in his first race with the team last week in Montreal. Yesterday's fast qualifier, Alex Gurney, will start on the outside of the front row, right in front of his Dorricott Racing teammate.

Lynx Racing's lead driver Valiante holds a slim six-point lead over Fogarty prior to the race and with 21 points available, either driver could claim the prestigious championship. No other driver is close enough to win the season series. Here are the possibilities: If Valiante finishes in the top three today, he will win the championship. If he finishes fourth today, then Fogarty can take the big prize with a race win. If Fogarty is second, then Valiante can finish sixth and still be the champion. If Fogarty is third, Valiante needs to be eighth. Should Valiante not finish the race or otherwise fail to score points, Fogarty still needs to finish seventh or better to take away the spoils. To add a further element of confusion, there is a single point awarded to the driver that leads the most laps in the race. If either driver wins that point, that will change the points picture.

The Atlantic drivers took a few minutes to get up to speed, with several drivers leading the timesheets early in the session without besting the provisional pole time set in yesterday's session by Gurney. Valiante was first to take the fast time of the weekend with a time of 1:10.001 seconds. Immediately after his time was registered, the session was red flagged for a turn 8 collision by Eduardo Figueroa, Aaron Justus and Luis Diaz. Figueroa was able to continue, but Justus and Diaz had their cars locked together, and the session was halted for the cleanup.

After the break, Fogarty was the first to break into the 1:09 second bracket, but he held the point for only a few minutes, as Ryan Hunter-Reay scorched the Denver circuit with a 1:09.240 second lap. The two championship contenders continued to try to get back to the top of the chart, but could not beat the flyer by Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay's teammate, Dalziel could and did, setting the pole lap just one minute before the session came to an early end when Rodolfo Lavin parked his car in the tire barriers at the last turn. Hunter-Reay held on for the second-fastest time in the session and will start third.

Joey Hand will start fifth in today's race, showing consistent speed in the DSTP car with the fourth fastest time in each qualifying session. Behind Valiante will be Waldemar Coronas and last week's winner Rocky Moran Jr. on row four. Sepp Koster and Grant Ryley will be on row five.

The final race of this exciting Toyota Atlantic championship season will get the green flag at the CART Denver Grand Prix at 3:30 pm this afternoon (Mountain time). The race will be televised live on SPEED Channel at 5:30 pm. EDT.

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Alex Gurney , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Grant Ryley , Joey Hand , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Rodolfo Lavin , Sepp Koster , Waldemar Coronas , Eduardo Figueroa , Aaron Justus