Laguna Seca pre-event news and notes

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Round 12, Honda Grand Prix of Monterey October 13-14, 2001, Monterey, California Event: Round 12 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held on the 2.238-mile permanent road course at the...

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship
Round 12, Honda Grand Prix of Monterey
October 13-14, 2001, Monterey, California

Event: Round 12 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held on the 2.238-mile permanent road course at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca as Saturday's feature race at the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey. Saturday's race will mark the 25th time since 1976 the Atlantic series has competed on the famous road course of Laguna Seca.

Race Series: The CART-sanctioned Toyota Atlantic Championship is a key rung on CART's "Ladder System", and is 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, Memo Gidley, Richie Hearn, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani, former Champ Car stars Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan, as well as 1997 FIA Formula One Champion, Jacques Villeneuve.

Friday, October 12:
Practice 8:45 a.m. -- 9:15 a.m.
Qualifying 4:15 p.m. -- 4:45 p.m.

Saturday,October 13:
Qualifying 9:00 a.m. -- 9:35 a.m.
RACE 3:15 p.m. -- 4:15 p.m. (30 laps/67.14 miles)

Race: Six months ago, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship kicked off its 2001 season on Preview: the streets of Long Beach, California. The results from that early April morning race gave a glimpse of what the rest of the season had in store. The podium from the event at Long Beach shows the same three drivers as the top three in the Championship standings heading into the season finale up the California coast line at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca.

David Rutledge (Lynx Racing Swift), Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift), and Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift) swapped the lead at Long Beach with Rutledge finishing first followed by Orsi and Hand. The trio have combined for every win this season except for one and Brazil's Orsi locked up the 2001 Championship over a month ago in Vancouver. Canada's Rutledge will try and hold off the American rookie, Hand for second place this weekend at Laguna Seca. Rutledge holds a 15-point lead heading into the final race.

The Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca has been a huge part of the Atlantic Championship's 28-year history. Gilles Villeneuve and Cobb Racing Owner, Price Cobb, put their names in the Atlantic history book winning the first pair of races in 1976. Over the years, names like Vasser, Carpentier, and Jacques Villeneuve have visited victory lane at Laguna Seca. The weekend's event will be the 25th time that the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship has competed at Laguna Seca.

Brazil's Hoover Orsi secured the first Championship for owner, Keith Hylton, in a wild Round 10 race at Vancouver. With the Championship tucked away, Orsi can race for a win and better his position to make a move to join a talented group of Brazilian drivers in the CART FedEx Championship. Orsi is also chasing Atlantic history trying to tie a mark set by Patrick Carpentier in 1996, by placing 11 podium finishes. Orsi has finished on podium ten times out of the eleven races thus far and can tie Carpentier with podium finish here at Laguna Seca.

"I don't think the pressure is off, because I put a lot of pressure in myself to have a good performance at every race," said a confident Orsi. "Being the champ also puts some pressure on you to perform well. My entire career has been spent under a lot of pressure, because I never had a lot of money so I always had to perform well to get free drives to continue racing. So I'm use to it and I quiet like it."

The points battle now has shifted to who will get to join Orsi on stage at the awards banquet on Sunday night in Monterey, California. David Rutledge recovered from a bad streak and finished third last weekend in Houston. The podium finish allowed him to secure second place from Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/3b Engine Valves Swift), after Basso was caught up in a first turn melee. Hand clinched the Rookie of the Year title with his win at Houston and now has his sights set on Rutledge's second place spot. Hand, who is 15 points behind Rutledge, must also make sure to hold onto third with Basso only trailing him by 12 points.

Hand enters this weekend's race on a two week winning streak. What is more impressive is that Hand accomplished this on tracks he had never raced on before. Before Hand's streak, Orsi had won four in a row which secured the Championship for him. Rutledge started the season winning three of the first four races run on road courses. Of the trio, Rutledge is the highest finisher from last year's race returning to compete again this year. Orsi finished seventh while Hand is running an Atlantic car for the first time this year at Laguna Seca.

Rutledge finished runner-up last year in this event, holding off the charge of 2000 Champion, Buddy Rice in an exciting last lap duel through the corkscrew. Daniel Wheldon who is racing in the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship this season, went on to win the race.

Basso came into last week's race at Houston on a hot streak, and gunning for Rultedge in second place in the Championship. The weekend got off to a good start for Basso after he won the pole and cut Rutledge's second place lead in the points to 13. That all changed in the race however, when Basso made contact with Orsi in the first turn of the race. Basso failed to return to the race while Rutledge went on to place third. Now Basso must look to take over third place from Hand this weekend. Basso finished fourth here last year so he should be one of the top contenders once again this weekend.

Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Swift) lost the Rookie of the Year title last weekend in Houston after Hand's win. Macri is now in a fight for the fifth place in points with his teammate and Atlantic series veteran, Tony Ave (P-1 Racing/Miller Genuine Draft Swift). Macri holds a six point lead over Ave, but is seeing the Laguna Seca course for the first time. This is not a huge advantage for Macri since Ave is racing here in an Atlantic car for the first time himself. Ave won the second race of the season at Nazareth, making him the only other Atlantic driver other than Orsi, Rutledge, and Hand to be listed in the win column.

Two more drivers will settle their final points position this weekend as well. Rookies, Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Swift) and Grant Ryley (Worldspeed Motorsports/LibertyUnites.org/Northwestspeedwerx Swift) will attempt to take over seventh place from Michael Valiante, who is not racing here this weekend. Valiante stands with 64 points in the Championship with Lavin close behind with 61 points. Ryley trails by a short distance at 56 points. Despite being a rookie in the Atlantic Championship, Lavin has raced here numerous times in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship. Laguna Seca is a home track for Grant Ryley.

Orsi will once again have a teammate this weekend. Stephan C. Roy (Hylton Motorsports/Playstation 2 Momo Swift) is competing in a second car prepared by Hylton Motorsports in the final two races of the season. This could have not come at a better time for Roy who is in a close fight for the top-10 spots in Championship points. Roy is currently 11th in the Championship with a total of 49 points, 5 points behind T.J. Bell who is not expected to race this weekend. Roy drove nine of the season's ten races with P-1 Racing and the other with Duesenberg Brothers Racing.

Jason LaPoint (Lynx Racing Swift) will fill the seat of the second Lynx car in the final two events. LaPoint made his Atlantic debut at Road America with a third place qualifying effort. Although he only managed a seventh place finish in that race, LaPoint followed it up with his first top-five finish last week in Houston. Like LaPoint, Kasey Kahne (P-1 Racing/Ford Racing Technology Swift) made his Atlantic debut at Road America and is set to run the final two races. Unlike LaPoint though, Kahne's first Atlantic race did not go as well, as a mechanical failure put an end to Kahne's race before he could even take the green flag. Kahne had better luck last week in Houston finishing seventh on the lead lap.

Three drivers will make their Atlantic debut this weekend. Portland, Oregon's, Scott Jenkins (Duesenberg Brothers Racing/Western Union First Data Swift) will pair up with Unionville, Ontario's Tony Asaro (Duesenberg Brothers Racing/Western Union First Data Swift) for their first Atlantic starts. Margraf Motorsports will return from its hiatus since Long Beach with DeWayne Cassel (Margraf Motorsports/ADT Tyco Swift). Bakir Begovic (Begovic Racing/B & H Engineering Swift) will make his second Atlantic start after competing here last year.

Atlantic: The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship has at Laguna Seca 24 times dating back to History at: 1976. The previous Atlantic winners at Laguna Seca were; Gilles Villeneuve (1976), Laguna Seca: Price Cobb (1976), John David Briggs (1984,1985), Ted Prappas (1986), Tom Phillips (1986), Jimmy Vasser (1987, 1991), Mitch Thieman (1988), Mark Dismore (1990, 1990, 1990, 1992, 1992), John Tanner (1991), Jacques Villeneuve (1993, 1993), Richie Hearn (1994), Case Montgomery (1995), Patrick Carpentier (1996), Alex Barron (1997), Anthony Lazzaro (1998, 1999) and Daniel Wheldon (2000).

Last Year at: Daniel Wheldon took the win last year at Laguna Seca keeping the heat on Buddy Rice Laguna Seca: in the 2000 Championship points battle. Rice won the Championship the following race at Gateway International Raceway.

Wheldon secured the pole in Saturday morning qualifying over Rice with a time of 1:19.704 seconds (101.084 mph). Wheldon controlled the race from the drop of the green flag leading all 30 laps with a margin of victory of 7.299 seconds. David Rutledge and Buddy Rice bumped wheels coming through the corkscrew on the final lap while fighting for second place. Rutledge held off the charge to take second with Rice finishing in third, followed by Martin Basso and Rocky Moran Jr.

Television:

ESPN2 and ESPN International will broadcast Saturday's Round 12 race from the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca on Sunday, October 21, at 11:30 a.m. EST, while Atlantic fans in Canada can watch the race on CTV SportsNet on Monday, October 22, at 7:00 p.m. in the EAST and WEST time zones, Tuesday, October 23, at 7:00 p.m. in the ONTARIO time zone and Wednesday, October 24, at 7:00 p.m. in the PACIFIC time zone. CTV repeat dates are: EAST, Tuesday, October 23, at 1:00 a.m., Monday, October 29, at 4:30 p.m., and Wednesday, November 7, at 2:00 p.m., WEST, Tuesday, October 23, 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, October 27, at 11:00 p.m. There are no repeat dates for the PACIFIC and ONTARIO time zones. ESPN2 will replay the race on Thursday, October 25, at 4:00 a.m. EST.

Next Race: The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca will conclude the 2001 season.

--CART/Atlantic-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Mark Dismore , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Richie Hearn , Martin Basso , Tony Ave , Hoover Orsi , Michael Valiante , Grant Ryley , David Rutledge , Joey Hand , Stephan C. Roy , T.J. Bell , Jonathan Macri , Rocky Moran Jr. , Alex Barron , Anthony Lazzaro , Danny Sullivan , Gilles Villeneuve , Kasey Kahne , Buddy Rice , Price Cobb , Rodolfo Lavin , DeWayne Cassel , Michael Shank , David John
Teams Michael Shank Racing