Monterey, CA (September 9, 2000) - Buddy Rice and the Chardon, Ohio-based DSTP Atlantic team continued their streak of podium finishes by virtue of capturing third place in today's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race at Laguna Seca. Rice set...
Monterey, CA (September 9, 2000) - Buddy Rice and the Chardon, Ohio-based DSTP Atlantic team continued their streak of podium finishes by virtue of capturing third place in today's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race at Laguna Seca. Rice set the fastest lap of the race (1:19.921) and continues to lead the drivers' championship by 14 points over Dan Wheldon (155 - 141).
"We missed just a little bit on the setup for the race," said Rice, who started the race second after setting the fastest time in this morning's second round of qualifying, just shy of Wheldon's pole sitting time set yesterday in provisional qualifying. "The car was really loose which is a struggle on a high speed course like Laguna. The PPI team had a strong start, so I just settled in and tried to get as many points as possible. We came close to taking second from David (Rutledge) on the last lap, but he did a great job of holding me off. He got a little loose in turn three, so I had a good run on him coming into the corkscrew. He moved to the middle to keep me behind, then I locked my front brakes and bumped him. It was completely unintentional and, most importantly, we were both able to finish. We had another solid run and brought in some more points for the championship. With two races to go, it's going to be a close battle right down to the wire."
At the start of the 30-lap race, polesitter Wheldon took the lead followed by Rutledge, Andrew Bordin and Rice. As Wheldon began to extend his lead, Rutledge, Bordin and Rice staged a three-way battle until Bordin clipped the rear of Rutledge's car on lap 18, forcing him to pit for repairs. Rice took over the third spot and challenged Rutledge for the remaining 12 laps. Wheldon captured his second win of the season, with a flag-to-flag victory in a caution-free race, followed by Rutledge, Rice, Martin Basso and Rocky Moran Jr.
"We were close today," said Dede Rogers, team owner. "It goes to show just how competitive the Atlantic series is. Laguna Seca is a tough track to pass on and Buddy did a great job of keeping us in the points. We lost a little ground in our championship lead, but we have two races coming up that we should be pretty strong at."
With two races remaining, the championship battle has come down to three contenders - Rice, Wheldon and Basso - all with a mathematical chance to win the title. Out of ten races this year, Rice has five wins, two second-place finishes, one third, two DNFs (resulting from contact from other competitors while leading or in second position), eight podiums, two poles and six fastest race laps. He also has led more race laps than any other competitor (215 out of 329 completed).
The race 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). Round 11 of the 12-race 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic season takes place on Saturday, September 16, at Gateway International Raceway, near St. Louis, Missouri. ###