Ryan Dalziel, in the ...
Ryan Dalziel, in the #28 Sierra Sierra/Pro Works car, captured a stunning green to checker victory this Sunday at Road America's 4.048-mile notorious road course, to claim his fourth victory of the season in the 17-lap race and placed himself back into championship contention with three races remaining in the Toyota Atlantic Championship.
"This is a great win for the team. I said that we would go down to the wire this year and I'm delighted our back-to-back victories are keeping us well and truly in the fight," stated Dalziel.
This is Dalziel's fifth podium finish this year, bringing his three-year career total to an impressive 17 podium finishes in 33 starts.
Dalziel claimed the pole position after shattering the previous qualifying record on both Friday and Saturday, even after suffering a brake failure during a major accident in mid-week testing, which caused the #28 car to launch into the tire barriers at Canada Corner and the Sierra Sierra team to prepare the back-up car for Friday's qualifying.
"Everyone worked really hard following the incident earlier in the week and this is just the best way to reward them. The win today really boils down to being given a great car to drive," commented Dalziel.
The 22-year-old has tightened the series point's race (239-233) to a marginal six points behind the current leader, Jon Fogarty. With regards to the championship battle, Dalziel feels confident in both his teams' and his own ability. "We've been very quick every time on the track. We've just had some bad luck, as has Jon."
Fogarty, in the #96 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Umbrella Entertainment started the day in second and would end up finishing in the same position. Fogarty was never really in contention for the lead, as Dalziel won by 1.026 seconds. "We have a positive outlook every weekend," stated Fogarty. "We were strong. I thought that we would be stronger for the race."
The true wheel-to-wheel action was behind the race leaders where third place starter and Dalziel's fellow teammate, Andrew Ranger in the #27 Sierra Sierra Tide car, battled Danica Patrick in the #24 Rahal Letterman Racing/Argent Mortgage Company, rookies Ronnie Bremer in the #4 Polestar Racing Group/PaySystems and Tonis Kasemets in the #6 Brookes Associates Racing/Flexovit Abrasives, all contending for third position.
Bremer fought past Ranger to gain third place, leaving Ranger and Patrick to battle it out. During the heated battle, Ranger had an off course excursion, but managed to return to the track.
A few laps later, Bremer, Patrick and Kasemets raced three-wide through turn one where Kasemets came out on the other end in third place; he would remain running in third for a good portion of the race.
This action would later take fifth place Bremer out of the race when he went off course into the gravel trap in turn 14 and flipped his car in an amazing crash; Bremer was uninjured in the incident.
After taking the white flag, Kasamets, still running in third place went wide in turn three, where Ranger and Patrick took the opportunity to slip by taking third and fourth place respectively.
17-year-old Ranger taking third place makes this his fifth podium finish of the season. Ranger has taken over the lead for Rookie of the Year from Ronnie Bremer, 188-178.
"I tried to draft Kasamets but I could not because I had a push in the front end. In the ninth corner (on lap four), Danica came very fast - (which) put me in the grass. I was able to keep going but I dropped back. I just put my head down and pushed all the time. I am very happy (with the results)," said Ranger.
Patrick taking fourth place is still within the hunt for the championship with 209 points and sitting in third, just 30 points behind Fogarty, the series leader.
Kasamets came in fifth place, his top series finish in only his fifth series start, but did set a new Atlantic course record for the fastest race lap of 2:00.452 (120.984 mph). The previous lap record of 2:02.688 was held by Jonathan Macri, set back in 2001.
Bryan Sellers in the #19 Lynx Racing finished sixth, followed by rookie Josh Hunt in the #15 Lynx Racing in seventh, the #25 Rahal Letterman Racing driven by Chris Festa finished an impressive eight, while Al Unser in the #10 P-1 Racing brought home ninth place after last racing in the season opener at Long Beach. Eric Jensen in the #2 Jensen Motorsports rounds out the top ten.
Alex Figge in the #69 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Umbrella Entertainment would see his day come to an end after having contact.
The action continues when the series heads west to Colorado at the Grand Prix of Denver, Round 10 of the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship, from August 13th to 15th.