WHELDON WINS SECOND CAREER ATLANTIC RACE Rookie Keeps Championship Hopes Alive Monterey, Calif,. (September 9, 2000) -- Rookie Daniel Wheldon (PPI Motorsports/Jayhard Products/Swift 008.a) shaved eight points off of Buddy Rice's...
WHELDON WINS SECOND CAREER ATLANTIC RACE
Rookie Keeps Championship Hopes Alive
Monterey, Calif,. (September 9, 2000) -- Rookie Daniel Wheldon (PPI Motorsports/Jayhard Products/Swift 008.a) shaved eight points off of Buddy Rice's (DSTP Motorsports/Swift 008.a) CART Toyota Atlantic Championship lead, after earning his second career Atlantic victory on the 2.238 mile road course at Laguna Seca on Saturday. David Rutledge (Lynx Racing/Swift 008.a) was second, while Rice was third.
Wheldon earned the maximum 22 points for the weekend, picking up two extra points for winning the pole on Saturday morning, and leading the most race laps. The young Brit, who led wire to wire, now trails Rice by a mere 14 points, with just two races remaining in the 2000 season.
"I really felt like this was a decisive race," said Wheldon. "It was either I was going to keep my championship hopes alive, or I was going to watch them fade away. I made the decision that I was going to give it absolutely everything I had. The PPI team was absolutely amazing as usual and gave me an extraordinary car to work with. I'm certainly pleased with the result."
Wheldon arrived at Laguna Seca trailing Rice by 22 points, but pointed out that he had spent time learning the track in late August.
"Buddy was in a strong position coming here and I just had to improve mine," remarked Wheldon. "My head engineer, Nick Harvey, used to work at Skip Barber, and he contacted Skip and asked if I could do some lapping here in a Skip Barber car. I did 36 laps, and that was so beneficial. It really made a big difference and I thank them. I plan to push just as hard at St. Louis."
Rutledge, who earned his first Atlantic pole and win earlier in the season at Montreal, was pleased with his second place finish.
"The Lynx team gave me a great car for qualifying and the race, and I'm really happy to have such a good result in the team's home race on our 10th anniversary," said Rutledge. "The last lap was a real thriller when I got sideways in gravel on the track and the third place car got a run on me. He tried to go inside me at the top of the corkscrew and knocked me sideways, I was able to control it but the contact deflated my rear tire and keeping him behind me for the final lap was a real challenge. This is a real boost for the team and will give us some good momentum going into the last two races."
Rice earned 14 points for his third place finish.
"The car really loosened up for the race, which is a struggle on a high speed course like Laguna Seca," he said. "The PPI cars had a good jump at the start and from there, we were trying to hang on and score some points. On the last lap I almost made it past David Rutledge. He got loose in Turn 3 so I had a run on him into the corkscrew. He move a bit to the middle, I locked up the front and just bumped him. It wasn't intentional and, most importantly, we both went on to finish. We scored some more points, but it's still a three way battle for the championship."
Wheldon picked up his fourth Atlantic career $1,000 "Toyota Pole Award" after posting the fastest qualifying time while Buddy Rice earned the $1,000 MCI WorldCom "Fast Pace" award for recording the fastest race lap at 1:19.921 (100.810 mph).
ESPN2 and ESPN International will broadcast Saturday's Round 10 race from Laguna Seca on Sunday, September 24, at 10:00 a.m. ET, while Atlantic fans in Canada can watch the race on CTV SportsNet on Monday, September 18, at 7 p.m. in each of the regional time zones.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship continues with Round 11, Saturday, September 16, as part of the Motorola 300 at Gateway International Speedway in Madison, Illinois.
<pre> Box Score:
Leader Laps Car From To Total 3 1 30 30
Total Laps: 30 Race Distance: 67.14 miles Time of Race: 40:29.847 Average Speed: 99.473 Margin of Victory: 7.299 Seconds Fast Lap By: # 27 Buddy Rice 1:19.921
</pre> MONTEREY, CA. --Provisional results from Saturday's 30-lap, 67.14 mile CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race number 10, at Laguna Seca Raceway, with finishing position,starting position in parentheses, driver, laps and reason out.
<pre> 1. (1), Daniel Wheldon (R), 30, Running. =09 2. (3), David Rutledge, 30, Running. =09 3. (2), Buddy Rice, 30, Running. =09 4. (7), Martin Basso (R), 30, Running. =09 5. (5), Rocky Moran Jr., 30, Running. =09 6. (8), Alex Gurney, 30, Running. =09 7. (14), Hoover Orsi (R), 30, Running. =09 8. (9), Mike Conte, 30, Running. =09 9. (6), Case Montgomery, 30, Running. =09 10. (10), William Langhorne, 30, Running. =09 11. (15), Bob Perona, 30, Running. =09 12. (13), T.J. Bell (R), 30, Running. =09 13. (4), Andrew Bordin, 30, Running. =09 14. (12), Akihiro Asai (R), 30, Running. =09 15. (18), Stan d'Oultremont (R), 30, Running. 16. (20), Steve Lorenzen (R), 29, Running. 17. (19), Stephen C. Roy (R), 29, Running. 18. (21), David Cutler, 29, Running. 19. (11), Rino Mastronardi, 28, Running. 20. (23), Eric Jensen, 28, Running. 21. (25), Bob Siska, 28, Running. 22. (17), Frederic Gosparini (R), 26, Running. 23. (22), Bakir Begovic (R), 23, Mech.. 24. (16), Masaoki Nagashima,13, Mech.. 25. (24), Christophe Beauvais, 11, Mech..
Caution Laps: 0