Chardon, Ohio (September 5, 2000) - Following two consecutive wins and five victories out of nine races thus far, Buddy Rice and DSTP Atlantic are seeking a front-running performance in round ten of the 12-race 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic...
Chardon, Ohio (September 5, 2000) - Following two consecutive wins and five victories out of nine races thus far, Buddy Rice and DSTP Atlantic are seeking a front-running performance in round ten of the 12-race 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship series at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, part of the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey CART FedEx Championship weekend.
Rice currently leads the drivers' championship standings by virtue of five wins, two second-place finishes, two pole positions and five fastest race laps with the suburban Cleveland-based DSTP Atlantic team. He also has led the most laps in seven of this year's races, for a total of 215 laps led out of 299 completed, and is the only repeat Atlantic winner this season. Rice has a 22-point lead in the drivers' championship over PPI Motorsports' Dan Wheldon (141-119).
"This weekend is going to be a big race for us," said Rice, 24, who has finished second or higher in every race he has completed this year. "We need another strong finish to keep our momentum up for the final swing of three races. Laguna Seca is the last natural road course we'll race on this season before we move on to the oval at Gateway and the finale in downtown Houston. It's also one of my favorite tracks and seems to suit my driving style quite well. You have to be aggressive and really hustle the car through some parts, yet very smooth and precise in other areas. It's a tough track to get right, but when you do, there's no place else quite like it. I think we'll have a good package at Laguna and all of us at DSTP really want to win this one."
Rice, now in his third year of Atlantic competition after driving for Lynx Racing in 1998 and 1999, has a history of top five and podium finishes at Laguna Seca. Last year, he qualified fifth and jumped into third on the first lap. He moved around Alex Tagliani for second, then chased race winner Anthony Lazzaro to the checkered flag, finishing just .682-seconds behind. In 1998, Rice's first appearance at Laguna Seca, he qualified third and finished fifth to take his seventh top five of the season.
"Laguna Seca is such a special place," said Dede Rogers, team owner. "The track is one of the most beautiful in the country and the racing is second to none. It was also here last year that I first thought about entering a team in the Atlantic series. One year later, we're here racing and shooting for the championship. It's such a great feeling, but, for now, we have to focus on the job at hand and do our best to win this weekend."
Instrumental to DSTP's success this season is Jim Griffith, who serves as the team's vice president of operations as well as Rice's chief engineer. Previously, Griffith served as Lynx Racing's engineer for the past five seasons. His Atlantic record includes two championship titles (1996 and 1997, with Patrick Carpentier and Alex Barron), two Engineer-of-the-Year awards (1997 and 1999, Barron and Rice), and one Mechanic-of-the-Year award (1996, Carpentier).
Rice rejoined DSTP this year after driving for the team in the 1997 U.S. F2000 National Championship. He moved on to Lynx Racing's Atlantic team for 1998 and 1999 finishing seventh and fifth, respectively, in the series championships. His Atlantic record includes six wins (1998 - Nazareth; 2000 - Homestead #2, Long Beach, Cleveland, Trois Rivieres, Road America), 21 top fives, 15 podiums, five poles and nine fastest race laps.
Rice's racing career began in karts at age eleven, where he won multiple championships including two IKF Grand National and seven regional titles. He made his professional racing debut in 1996's US F2000 National Championship series with the help of friend and Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount. Lynx Racing then supported him at DSTP's F2000 team in 1997, where he responded by taking one win, two poles and five podiums en route to seventh overall in the series championship, before moving up to Lynx's Atlantic seat. Today, his sights are firmly set on a career in the CART FedEx Championship, where he hopes to compete against the likes of Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy and Max Papis, as well as his former Atlantic competitor Alex Tagliani.
DSTP was formed by Rogers in 1994 and first fielded a team in the Dodge Shelby Pro Series. The team's initial season resulted in several podium finishes and pole positions leading up to second in the rookie championship. The following year, DSTP made the jump to the US F2000 National Championship pro series as well as selected Hooter's Cup Formula 2000 events with driver Memo Gidley. Although leading the Hooter's Cup series, DSTP elected to focus on the US F2000 National Championship, where Gidley went on to capture three wins and three poles on his way to second in the 1995 F2000 series championship, as well as the Rookie-of-the-Year, Oval Crown Champion and Oval Rookie-of-the-Year titles.
Gidley will campaign the remainder of this year's CART FedEx Championship with Della Penna Motorsports, after successfully filling in at Player's/Forsythe, Walker Racing and Payton-Coyne Racing the past two years. Another former DSTP F2000 driver, Alex Barron (DSTP - 1996), captured the 1997 Atlantic title in his rookie season with Lynx Racing, then rose to the CART Champ Car ranks, driving in 1998 with Dan Gurney's All American Racers and in selected events last year for Marlboro Team Penske. Barron is expected to compete in this weekend's Champ Car race with the Sports Today Dale Coyne team.
Laguna Seca's CART Toyota Atlantic activities begin with practice and qualifying on Friday, September 8, followed by another qualifying session on Saturday morning. The 30-lap Atlantic race is scheduled to begin at 4:00 pm (Pacific) on Saturday, September 9, and will be televised via espn2 on Sunday, September 24, at 10:00 am (EDT), with an encore presentation on Wednesday, September 27, at 5:00 am (EDT).