Long Beach: Round two preview

Valiante looks for second consecutive victory in 20th CART Toyota Atlantic Championship appearance at Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. INDIANAPOLIS (April 7, 2003) - Canadian Michael Valiante ( ...

Valiante looks for second consecutive victory in 20th CART Toyota Atlantic Championship appearance at Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

INDIANAPOLIS (April 7, 2003) - Canadian Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing)-who opened his 2003 season with a victory in the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix on March 23-returns to the site of his first career Toyota Atlantic triumph this weekend as the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship makes its 20th appearance at the famed Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for the Argent Mortgage Company Toyota Atlantic Race on Sunday, April 13 (SPEED Channel, Live, 1:30 p.m. ET).

Valiante enters the weekend in Long Beach looking to extend Lynx Racing's winning streak at Long Beach to three, dating to a victory by David Rutledge in the 2001 event. Last year, Valiante started third and claimed the lead from Dorricott Racing driver Alex Gurney with nine laps remaining and sped off to a 2.812-second victory over the Southern Californian. The win proved to be a catalyst for Valiante's season, as he went on to record two additional victories en route to second place in the final 2002 championship standings. By virtue of his success at Long Beach last year and his 2003 season-opening victory, Valiante clearly rates among the favorites this weekend.

Among the drivers who will contest Valiante for the victory this weekend will be third-year Toyota Atlantic competitor, Joey Hand (#27 BG Products/DSTP Motorsports). Last year, Hand took his second career Toyota Atlantic pole position at Long Beach but did not lead a lap and retired after 10 laps due to contact. He was also strong throughout the 2003 season-opening weekend in Monterrey, claiming the provisional pole and dominating the time charts before a mechanical failure eliminated him from the race after nine laps. Nevertheless, Hand's showing in Monterrey served notice that he will be a force to be reckoned with throughout the 2003 championship.

After finishing second to Valiante in Monterrey, Canadian Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN) will also be among the favorites in Long Beach. Macri will be looking to collect his first career Toyota Atlantic race winner's paycheck after finishing second four times in his career. Likewise, the third-place finisher in Monterrey, Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) enters Long Beach with extra incentive to win as the sponsor on her car is also the title sponsor of the race. Patrick already has one victory on the streets of Long Beach under her belt, as she took the Pro Division of the Toyota Pro Celebrity race in 2002.

Two drivers who showed blazing speed in Monterrey but did not get the results they had hoped for were Dorricott Racing driver Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex) and A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT). Diaz took his second consecutive Monterrey pole position, but was eliminated from contention for the victory shortly after the green flag dropped on the race due to contact from behind by Allmendinger, who started third. After being forced to pit with a punctured tire, Diaz responded by turning the race's fastest lap late in the running en route to a 10th place result. Allmendinger, meanwhile, suffered a damaged front wing and battled the car to an eighth place result. Both drivers enter Long Beach looking to put the Monterrey disappointment behind them.

Others to watch this weekend will be Scotland's Ryan Dalziel (#28 Discovery Lake/Daily Record Newspaper); Crestline, Calif. resident Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT); and Santa Barbara's Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Patrick Racing). Dalziel comes into the Long Beach weekend riding a three-race streak in which he has finished inside the top four positions and includes his first career Toyota Atlantic pole position, which he achieved at the 2002 season finale in Denver. Dalziel finished fourth in the 2003 season opener in Monterrey.

Justus finished a Toyota Atlantic career best of fifth in Monterrey and has finished inside the top-10 in three of his four career starts in the series. Figge, meanwhile, qualified third on the provisional starting grid in Monterrey before slipping to eighth after final qualifying. He rebounded to equal his career best Toyota Atlantic performance with a sixth place showing.

This weekend will see the return of long-time Toyota Atlantic competitors P-1 Racing to the series with Trois-Rivieres, Quebec native Stephan C. Roy (#16 TBA/Miller Genuine Draft/Momo) in the cockpit. Roy has made three previous appearances at Long Beach, earning a best finish of sixth last year. Others with previous Long Beach experience in the field are owner/driver Eric Jensen (#2 Westin Hotels), who earned his first career Toyota Atlantic points in Monterrey; and Alex Garcia (#9 Dixien/Omnisource), who finished 15th in his inaugural Long Beach event last year.

Through an agreement with Polestar Atlantic, LLC., Phoenix, Ariz. native Dan Selznick (#47 The Room Store) makes his CART Toyota Atlantic Championship debut this weekend in Long Beach. Selznick brings previous experience in SCCA Formula Atlantic competition. Others making their first Long Beach appearance will be Canadian Marc DeVellis (#67 Pro-Works), who earned championship points for the third time in four career series starts with a seventh place run in the Monterrey season opener; Philip Fayer (#8 PaySystems), who finished 13th in his series debut in Monterrey last month; and Kyle Krisiloff (#13 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One), who owns points-paying finishes in three of seven career Toyota Atlantic starts.

The Long Beach weekend gets underway for Toyota Atlantic with a 30-minute practice session beginning at 8:45 a.m. on Friday, and will be followed by a 30-minute first-round qualifying session from 1:45 to 2:15 p.m. Saturday's schedule has the Atlantic cars on-track for practice from 9:15 to 9:45 a.m. and a final, 30-minute qualifying session from 3:00 to 3:30 p.m. Race day will see the Toyota Atlantic machines take their final, 15-minute warm-up session beginning at 8:00 a.m. and the green flag drops on the Argent Mortgage Company Toyota Atlantic Race at 10:30 a.m. The race will be televised live on SPEED Channel beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET and live timing and scoring data for all sessions will be provided on the official web site of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, www.toyotaatlantic.com.

-cart/atlantic-

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Michael Valiante , David Rutledge , Joey Hand , Stephan C. Roy , Jonathan Macri , Kyle Krisiloff , Luis Diaz , A.J. Allmendinger , Alex Garcia , Alex Figge , Eric Jensen , Aaron Justus , Philip Fayer , Danica Patrick