Denver: Saturday race notes

Fogarty wins mile high showdown takes Denver race and Atlantic Championship. DENVER (August 31, 2002) - Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) entered Saturday's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship season ...

Fogarty wins mile high showdown takes Denver race and Atlantic Championship.

DENVER (August 31, 2002) - Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) entered Saturday's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship season finale needing a win to give him a shot at winning the 2002 Championship. He got just that as he maneuvered past Scotland's Ryan Dalziel (Hylton Motorsports/Telemetry Swift 014.a) on the 13th lap and held on to a .652-second margin of victory.

It was a bookend victory for Fogarty as he captured wins in the first and last races of the 2002 season. (Monterrey, Mexico & Denver) In between, there were ten top-five finishes that propelled him to be the first rookie to win the Championship since Alex Barron won the 1997 title.

Fogarty trailed Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) by six points heading into today's 38-lap race and after he passed Dalziel for the lead, Valiante held the fourth place spot. The pressure all shifted to Valiante as he had to move up to second to win the Championship. With five laps remaining and Fogarty pulling away, Valiante spun in Turn 5 while trying to pressure Alex Gurney for third (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a). It was all Fogarty needed to secure the 2002 title.

"I saw an opportunity to pass Ryan (Dalziel) in the brake zone when I beat him to the inside," said Fogarty on the pass. "Then I saw dust spewing from his undertray so I worked at beating him to the dry spot. I had the benefit to see how off he was. As soon as he braked, he locked them up. I made sure he would clear the apex then look for the best run possible off of the turn."

Fogarty continued on the Championship. "It's hard putting a meaning to this day and race into words at the moment. It meant so much for me because I was able to do it for Dorricott Racing. Since we decided to run Atlantic after the demise of Indy Lights, we knew we had a huge undertaking. It was frustrating to be in such a tough battle and going through a steep learning curve at the same time. We had a few baubles and when we did, Michael (Valiante) would capitalize on them. I feel that when it was said and done, this Championship was deserved."

In the early stages of the race, Valiante seemed content to run in fifth place while Fogarty was in second keeping Valiante in the Championship lead. When Fogarty took over the lead on Dalziel's miscue, everything changed.

"When Fogarty moved into first, I had no choice but to try and pass Gurney, and I kept going deep into Turn 5 to try and force him to make a mistake, but there's a transition between asphalt and concrete right there and I just took it in too deep," said a disappointed Valiante. "My car was good running alone, but close behind another car, it pushed and I spun. Then the engine stalled and it was over."

For Dalziel, it was the second straight podium for the Scotsman since joining Hylton Motorsports last week in Montreal where he finished third. Dalziel opened up the season with a runner-up finish to Fogarty in Mexico while driving for Michael Shank Racing. Dalziel, who won his first career $1,000 Toyota "Pole Award" earlier today, also won the $1,000 WorldCom "Fast Pace" Award in his pursuit of Fogarty with a lap of 1:09.818 seconds (84.924 mph).

Through three yellow flag periods, Dalziel kept the heat on Fogarty trying to earn his first career Atlantic win. Although Dalziel hounded the 2002 Champion throughout the closing laps, he could never mount a charge for the lead.

Alex Gurney would hold onto the final podium spot securing third place in the Championship behind Valiante. It was Gurney's fourth podium of the season and with Luis Diaz (Dorrciott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a) taking fourth in the Championship, it gave Dorricott Racing three of the top four spots in the Championship. The Championship also was the second straight for Dorricott in the CART Ladder Series. Dorrciott Racing won the 2001 CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship last year with Townsend Bell.

"First, I'm happy for Dorricott Racing," said Gurney. "Michael (Valiante) had a great season and was always competitive. However, something like this was meant to be for various reasons. There was a lot of pressure the entire race. I knew the points situation. I was certainly defensive, but definitely didn't make more than one move. That was what I had to do. I had to stay ahead of Michael and we accomplished what we sought."

Argentina's Waldemar Coronas (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa/Royce/Maizoro/Millenio Swift 014.a) turned in the best finish for his team with a fourth place showing. It was not enough to vault the rookie driver into the top-ten in the Championship, but it was a solid result to build on for next season. Canada's Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings/Miller Genuine Draft/Battlefield Equipment Rentals Swift 014.a) took the fifth spot in the race and finished seventh in the overall standings.

The first one/third of the race was run under green flag conditions, but as the race wore on, the heat of the day along with the demanding 1.647-mile temporary street circuit started to take their toll. While running third, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Autobytel/Andor Capital Management Swift 014.a) ran into the Turn 1 tire barrier on the 15th lap bringing out the first yellow flag. Shortly after, Grant Ryley (Lynx Racing/Northwest Speedwerx/Cupertino Electric Swift 014.a) hit in the very same spot bringing out the yellow once again on Lap 21. The most spectacular incident occurred on the restart where Turn 1 claimed two more cars when Eduardo Figueroa (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa/Royce/Maizoro/Millenio Swift 014.a) ran into the back of the car of Eric Jensen (Starwood Team Jensen Swift 008.a) sending Figueroa's car over the top of Jensen's, taking both out of the race.

The 2002 season ended with Fogarty winning the Championship with a total of 161 points over Valiante who finished the season with 150 points. Gurney held third with 132 points, followed by Luis Diaz at 124 and Rocky Moran Jr. with 117. As expected heading into the season, the battle for the Championship was tight and it became the closest contest since the 1995 season.

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.

-cart/atlantic-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Michael Andretti , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Grant Ryley , Jonathan Macri , Rocky Moran Jr. , Alex Barron , Townsend Bell , Luis Diaz , Danny Sullivan , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Waldemar Coronas , Eduardo Figueroa , Eric Jensen , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing