Long Beach: Team Rahal preview

Patrick aims to build on Monterrey momentum. HILLIARD, OH . . . Fresh off a third place finish in her debut, Danica Patrick, Team Rahal's Toyota Atlantic driver, heads to the streets of Long Beach, California this week for Round 2 of the 2003 ...

Patrick aims to build on Monterrey momentum.

HILLIARD, OH . . . Fresh off a third place finish in her debut, Danica Patrick, Team Rahal's Toyota Atlantic driver, heads to the streets of Long Beach, California this week for Round 2 of the 2003 Toyota Atlantic Championship, as the Argent Mortgage Company presents the Toyota Atlantic race.

The third place finish at Monterrey in the Argent Mortgage Company car in her Atlantic debut marked a strong start to the 2003 season for the first year Team Rahal Atlantic program. The result is even more impressive, considering this is a start-up operation which features a rookie driver in the Atlantic series.

"We went to Monterrey hoping to come home with a top-five finish, but we came home with a podium," said Patrick. "This is an experienced team, but there is always a little apprehension about when things will click with a new team" said Patrick. "Fortunately, things came together and we were able to get a good clean lap in qualifying which put us in a position to be successful on race day."

"I am really proud of what the Atlantic team accomplished in Monterrey," said team owner Bobby Rahal. "Danica did a great job on track and the team made sure she had the opportunity to succeed. Monterrey is a great start and I think it is a glimpse of things to come."

"The result we had at Monterrey has just made me even more determined heading into Long Beach," said Patrick. "I think we have shown the other teams that we are competitive and that we will be another team they have to contend with for the championship. We have a long season ahead and to be a factor in the championship you have to be consistent. I know what to expect and what it will take to win in the series, and I expect that we will be successful."

Patrick made Toyota Atlantic history with the Monterrey result, she became the first female driver to reach the podium in the 30-year history of the series.

This week marks Patrick's return to Long Beach, where a year ago she won the pro division of the Long Beach Pro/Celebrity Race, beating established fellow pros like four-time Trans-Am Champion Tommy Kendall and IndyCar driver Sarah Fisher. Patrick became the first female to win the pro division and the fact that she did so in a commanding fashion, (winning the pole and the pro division race) she subsequently drew a great deal of media attention.

"It was a fun event and it turned out to be important for my career as well," said Patrick. "I had had some success in Europe, but to be successful in a high profile street event here in the USA certainly opened some doors for me."

Team Rahal's full-season single car Toyota Atlantic Championship entry is sponsored by Argent Mortgage Company, Norwalk Furniture Company and Miller Brewing Company. The entry in the CART Ladder System is Team Rahal's first support program since the team ran a full-season effort in Indy Lights in 1998.

BUSY WEEKEND PART 2 FOR TEAM RAHAL

For the second time this season, and only the second time in Team Rahal's twelve year history, the team will compete in three separate open wheel series on the same weekend. In addition to Danica Patrick's Toyota Atlantic Championship effort, the team will also compete in the Champ Car World Series with Michel Jourdain Jr. at Long Beach. The third Team Rahal program in action this weekend will be Kenny Brack's Pioneer/Miller Lite entry in the IRL's IndyCar Series race in Motegi, Japan.

The first time the three programs ran on the same weekend (March 21-23) Team Rahal captured three top-five results, including podiums finishes for Jourdain (2nd) and Patrick (3rd).

PATRICK TAKES A PODIUM IN SEASON OPENER

Danica Patrick's podium result at Monterrey, Mexico has put her in some select company at Team Rahal as she became just the fourth driver in Team Rahal history to post a podium result in a season opener. Team founder and co-owner Bobby Rahal claimed a podium result twice (1992 & 1995) finishing third at Australia and Miami. Max Papis claimed a victory in the 2000 season opener at Homestead and Michel Jourdain Jr. claimed a second place result in the 2003 opener at St. Petersburg.

"It is always important to get a strong start to a season," said Patrick. "When you can set the tone with a strong opening race you give yourself a bit of a cushion in case something goes wrong. In the grand scheme of things it is just one race, just as if we DNF in race six it is only one race, but for every car that didn't finish on the podium at Monterrey the second race looms a little larger."

MILLER BREWING COMPANY JOINS ATLANTIC PROGRAM

Long time Team Rahal partner, Miller Brewing Company, has expanded their involvement with the Team to include Danica Patrick's Toyota Atlantic Championship program. They will make their debut on the #24 Argent Mortgage Company Toyota/Swift this weekend.

Miller Brewing Company is the co-primary sponsor of Team Rahal's program with Kenny Brack in the IRL's IndyCar Series. Miller was the first sponsor of Rahal/Hogan Racing, the predecessor to Team Rahal.

HOMETOWN SPONSOR ADVANTAGE?

Patrick's primary sponsor, Argent Mortgage Company in based in nearby Orange, California and the first year sponsor is excited about having their driver, Danica Patrick in the field for the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Argent, in fact, has signed on as the title sponsor of the Toyota Atlantic Championship race for this weekend's GPLB.

This week's race being in the sponsor's hometown means she will be busy both on and off the track, but for the highly in demand Patrick, striking that balance between the racing world and corporate world isn't a problem.

"I have had plenty of experience over the years of balancing the two sides of the business," said Patrick. "Any time you race in the hometown of your sponsor you are going to be busy but that is the basis of the sport. I will approach this weekend the same way I approached Monterrey. I know what I have to do to be successful and when I am at the track I will be focused entirely on what it takes to be successful."

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , Danica Patrick , Michel Jourdain , Tommy Kendall