THE PROVERBIAL 50-CENT PART Anytime someone tells you a racing story in which "...he'd a won if that stinkin' 50-cent part hadn't broke!", you're being told a piece of the truth with a U.S. military-sized financial fib concealed at its...
THE PROVERBIAL 50-CENT PART
Anytime someone tells you a racing story in which "...he'd a won if that stinkin' 50-cent part hadn't broke!", you're being told a piece of the truth with a U.S. military-sized financial fib concealed at its heart -- because there's not one single part on a racing car, with the possible exception of a quart of oil or a spark plug, that costs less than $50. So, with the old mechanic's tale of the proverbial 50-cent part put to rest, the story of Lynx Racing Buddy Rice and the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston goes like this; he'd a won if that stinkin' $50 part hadn't broke! Rice qualified his #19 Lynx Racing Swift 008.a on the pole for the final event of the 12-race KOOL/Toyota Atlantic season, and both he and the team were, not unreasonably, looking forward to closing out a competitive but frustrating season with a win. In the hours leading up to the race, the vastly experienced and highly-motivated Lynx mechanics went over Rice's car with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it was as perfect as humanly possible. It performed flawlessly in the morning warm-up. Then, at the very start of the race, at the instant the green flag dropped, Rice went to change gears and the shift lever broke off in his hand. The threaded pin and roller assembly that holds the gear lever mechanism to the side of the car's tub -- a Swift-specified part -- failed. In coming days, the Lynx team will analyze the failed piece to determine if it had a manufacturing flaw or is over-stressed for the loads involved. Since it's not possible to change gears without this pin and roller, Rice had no choice but to limp around the track in first gear, pull into the pits and lose four laps while his mechanics scrambled to improvise a fix. Once he was able to re-join the race, with all hope of preserving his third-place in the championship points battle gone, there were only two things left to do: First, to demonstrate clear superiority by setting the fastest lap of the race -- which he did with a time of 1:07.882, two tenths of a second faster than his pole-position qualifying time; and second, to treat the rest of the race as a test session and gather information for next year. "We didn't win the race, but there's nobody in that field who had a faster car than we did," said Rice. "I feel bad for the team and the guys who worked so hard to give me the best car I've had all season. We were hoping to end the season with a win, and we had the car to do it, but sometimes there's just no accounting for the whims of Lady Luck. We've been competitive at every race this year, and finished on the podium four times, and with all the data we've gathered at the various tracks, the team should be ready to go for the championship next year." Rice wound up finishing 16th in the Houston race, and fifth in the season championship battle. Anthony Lazarro, who won the championship with his victory at Laguna Seca two weeks ago scored 197 points. Kenny Wilden was second with 150, Andrew Bordin third with 121, Alexandre Tagliani fourth with 118 and Rice fifth with 113. Rice's season stats over the 12-event 1999 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship included nine top-10 finishes, seven top-5s, and four podium finishes, including the Milwaukee oval and the road courses at Montreal, Road America and Laguna Seca. His record on street circuits includes a pair of fourths, in the season-opener at Long Beach and a brilliant drive in the rain at Vancouver where he had to come up from the back of the pack not once but twice. He won more than $80,000 in prize money. He also twice won the Yokohama "Now You've Got Control" Award for a significant or spectacular pass (Montreal and Mid-Ohio), and was awarded the MCI "Fast Pace" Award three times for the fastest race lap (Milwaukee, Road America and Houston). In his first year with the team, Rice's Lynx Racing teammate, Mike Conte, had the better race of the duo. Unlike his 'three day disaster' of last year where, driving for another team, he qualified 16th and crashed out of the race on lap 7 to finish 23rd, this year he qualified 12th ran in 8th for a good part of the race, and ultimately finished 9th. This brought his total of top-10 finishes for the year to eight, spread evenly across ovals, road courses and street circuits. "Houston is a splendid track for a street circuit," says Conte. "But is shares with all street circuits the characteristic of being difficult to pass on particularly when you lose touch with the fast pack up front. The Lynx team and my crew in particular gave me a good car for the race, and I want to say a special thank-you to my chief mechanic Satoshi Mori who was somehow able to balance working heroic hours on weekends with studying to become a helicopter pilot during the week. He'll be leaving the team to fulfill his dream of becoming a full-time pilot, and I want to thank him for his skills and his friendship." In the 2000 season, Lynx Racing will be celebrating its tenth year of competition in the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship. Owned by Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty, Lynx Racing is both a championship-winning racing team and a uniquely successful driver development program. The team's mission is to seek out young drivers with championship potential and provide them with the training, resources and opportunity to realize that potential and make the jump to auto racing's 'major leagues.' Lynx alumni now driving in the CART FedEx series include Patrick Carpentier, Alex Barron and Memo Gidley. In addition to Buddy Rice and Mike Conte in the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic series, Lynx also sponsors a car for the team's first female driver, Sara Senske, 21, of Kennewick, Washington. Senske competes in the Star Mazda Championship, driving a car fielded by Kent Stacy's championship-winning S3 Racing, and in the innovative new Women's Global GT series where she won the Portland round from the pole.
Texaco Grand Prix of Houston / Top 10 Finishers
Finish Qualify Driver
1 3 Andrew Bordin, Woodbridge, Ont., Canada 2 2 Anthony Lazzaro, Acworth, Ga. 3 4 William Langhorne, Washington, D.C. 4 5 Kenny Wilden, Burlington, Ont., Canada 5 6 Alexandre Tagliani, Lachenaie, Que, Canada 6 7 Alex Gurney, Newport Beach, Calif. 7 12 Rino Mastronardi, Pistoia, Italy 8 9 David Rutledge, W. Vancouver, B.C., Canada 9 15 Mike Conte, Seattle, Wash. 10 13 Sam Hornish Jr., Defiance, Ohio
Atlantic Houston Television Schedule (all times Eastern):
Sunday, Oct. 10 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. First broadcast (ESPN2) Wednesday, Oct. 13 1:30 a.m. - 2:30 a.m. Repeat broadcast Wednesday, Oct 13 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. Repeat broadcast Sunday, Oct. 10 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. ESPN International Tuesday, Oct. 5 8:00 p.m. CTV (Canada) Saturday, Oct. 16 Check local listings RDS (Canada)
September 27, 1999