THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY Lynx Racing's intended destination, a third consecutive KOOL/ Toyota Atlantic Championship, has in fact slipped and slid away in a steady drizzle of bad luck, but among both drivers and team members there was...
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
Lynx Racing's intended destination, a third consecutive KOOL/ Toyota Atlantic Championship, has in fact slipped and slid away in a steady drizzle of bad luck, but among both drivers and team members there was neither the time nor inclination to indulge in 'if only...'
Literally minutes after adverse events at the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey placed another championship beyond reach, the team was taking action aimed at a return to form in the final race through the streets of Houston on October 4... and discussing plans for 1999.
Lynx driver Memo Gidley, who won three of the first four races in 1998 and then saw his championship hopes slowly melt away after the team was forced to switch from Ralts to Swifts at mid-season, came to Monterey second in the championship, 8 points behind Player's driver Lee Bentham.
He needed to finish eighth or better to keep his championship hopes alive and take the battle to Houston. Instead, on the re-start after a lengthy yellow flag, he found himself tangled in a spinning mass of cars in turn 2. Contact with another car damaged his rear suspension, putting him out at the halfway point of the race. He was credited with a 22nd-place finish, and is currently third in the points with 123.
Bentham, with whom Gidley had been battling all season long, won the championship with a second-place finish behind PPI-MCI driver Anthony Lazzaro.
"It's hard to have it end this way, especially since we started so strong and the team worked so hard all season long," said Gidley. "But we put that behind us as soon as it happened and started working on how to finish the season at Houston with a performance that's more in keeping with the true nature of Lynx Racing. What happened this season isn't the end of anything, it's just the one that got away."
Gidley's Lynx Racing teammate, Buddy Rice, also faces a formidable challenge at Houston. After starting his rookie season with a pole in his first-ever Atlantic race at Long Beach, and following it up with a win, from the pole, at Nazareth, Rice too felt the effect of the Swift switch. Even so, his luck was at least a little better than Gidley's, and he managed several respectable finishes -- on the podium, or at least in the points. He was 5th at Monterey, the highest-finishing rookie.
He currently sits 6th in the overall championship points battle with 108, but is second in the battle for "Rookie of the Year" honors behind Andrew Bordin (a former Indy Lights driver now in his first year in Atlantic), who has 127 points.
"The best we can do now is to finish 2-3 in the championship and win Rookie of the Year," says Rice. "It's a long shot, but we're going to Houston with that goal in mind. There are twenty-two points available at a race, twenty for winning, one for getting the pole and one for leading the most laps, so I'm pretty much going to have to win and Andrew is going to have to have some bad luck for me to have a chance. But at Lynx, we go to every race expecting to win, and we'll spend all day, every day between now and then working to make that happen."
Houston is a brand-new track on the CART circuit, a 10-turn, 1.68-mile street course immediately adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center in the heart of downtown. Teams will begin moving into their garages on Wednesday, Sept. 30 and Thursday, Oct. 31.
The first on-track action for the Atlantic cars is a half-hour practice session starting at 8:25 a.m. Friday, Oct. 2, followed by preliminary qualifying at 1:00 p.m. Final qualifying will take place from 11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 3. There will be a 15-minute warm-up session starting at 10:15 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 4, with the race scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m.
Lynx Racing, now entering its eighth year of operation, is a uniquely successful driver development team owned by two women, Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty. The team is dedicated to seeking out young drivers with championship potential but without financial resources and helping them make the jump to the top levels of the sport.