Miami: Season finale preview

INDIANAPOLIS (September 24, 2003) - After 403 laps and more than 700 miles of racing, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship reconvenes one last time in 2003 for 55 laps (63.25 miles) around the challenging, 1.15-mile street circuit at Miami's ...

INDIANAPOLIS (September 24, 2003) - After 403 laps and more than 700 miles of racing, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship reconvenes one last time in 2003 for 55 laps (63.25 miles) around the challenging, 1.15-mile street circuit at Miami's Bayfront Park for Sunday's Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k at the Grand Prix Americas Presented by Sportsbook.com (SPEED Channel, 12:00 p.m. ET).

The weekend will serve as an official coronation for 2003 Toyota Atlantic champion A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) and his RuSPORT team, who wrapped up the series title with a dominating win in the Argent Mortgage Challenge at the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver on August 31, and Allmendinger will be honored in Sunday evening's 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Awards Banquet at the Hyatt Regency Miami. Allmendinger established a new single-season record for rookie victories by taking his seventh win of the year in Denver, and he goes into the weekend in Miami looking to join 1996 series champion Patrick Carpentier, 1990 Toyota Atlantic Pacific Division champion Mark Dismore, and 1976 champion Gilles Villeneuve as the only drivers to have won eight or more races in a season. Carpentier and Villeneuve share the record for most wins in a single season with nine apiece.

With eight pole positions on the season, Allmendinger could also tie Villeneuve for the most pole positions in a season, as the legendary French Canadian put his car on the inside of the front row nine times in 1976 before embarking on a stellar career in Formula 1. Also, Allmendinger stands to set a record for the most points scored in a season since CART began sanctioning the series' races in 1998 this weekend. With 195 points, Allmendinger needs to score just three points to pass 1999 champion Anthony Lazzaro for that distinction.

While the championship has already been decided, there remains a lot at stake for the rest of the field in Sunday's race. Scotland's Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record)-who put together a terrific season is his own right and currently stands second in the points chase-comes into the weekend holding a 20-point advantage over Canada's Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing). Dalziel and Allmendinger are the only two drivers in the series to have finished on the podium eight times this season, and Dalziel would be pleased to finish out the year with one more appearance on the rostrum. A ninth podium finish would undoubtedly benefit Dalziel, not only financially-speaking as it would solidify his second place position in the final point standings, but also as he works to put together a program for 2004.

Likewise, Valiante-who has already won twice this season-would love to finish out the year with a third victory as he continues to work with Walker Racing on a Champ Car program for 2004. The Vancouver native also has a little bit of history on his side, as Lynx Racing won the last Toyota Atlantic event to be held on a street circuit in Miami as Carpentier claimed the victory for the team in the 1995 season-opener. Valiante leads fellow Canadian Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings) by just six points in the championship chase, and will be fighting throughout the weekend to ensure that he remains in the top-three on the final points table for the second consecutive year after finishing second in the 2002 championship.

For his part, Macri has plenty on the line this weekend as well. For starters, the Gormley, Ontario native is still seeking his first career Toyota Atlantic race victory, despite the fact that he has nine career podium finishes, five of which came this season. In addition, Macri is the only driver in the series to have completed every lap and every mile of the 2003 campaign and is looking to keep his perfect record intact on Sunday. The 21-year-old has a 20-point cushion on fifth place Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT), but he is sure to pull out all the stops in an effort to overtake Valiante for third in the points race this weekend.

With a 20-point gap between himself and fourth place and a 16-point lead over sixth place Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports), Justus would appear to be well-positioned to maintain his fifth place standing in the championship at race's end. However, that will certainly not prevent Justus from trying to record his first Toyota Atlantic race victory in the final event of his rookie season.

In one of the more hotly contested battles for championship position, Hand currently holds a five point lead over rookie Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) for sixth in points. While Lynx Racing was the last winner of a street race in Miami, South Florida has also been kind to DSTP Motorsports, as the team had a win and a second place finish with driver Buddy Rice in the last Toyota Atlantic appearance in the region, a "doubleheader" weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway to start the 2000 campaign. Hand is hoping to continue the team's run of success in Florida this weekend.

Patrick, meanwhile, puts the wraps on what has been a solid rookie season with the first-year Team Rahal Toyota Atlantic program. She picked up her fourth top-five result of the season with a fifth place run in Denver, and the team's decision to field a second car for 2002 Toyota Atlantic champion Jon Fogarty (#1 Norwalk Furniture) paid immediate dividends, as Fogarty took fourth at Denver in his first start since wrapping up the title at the same venue in 2002. There's no doubt that Patrick would love to finish out the season the same way it began, with a podium finish, while Fogarty also looks to return to the podium, which he visited seven times in his championship season last year.

Standing 12 markers in arrears of Patrick heading into the final round is Mexican Luis Diaz (#33 Dorricott Racing/Telmex), who opened his 2003 season with the third pole position of his Toyota Atlantic career. "El Chapulin" has not yet visited the podium in 2003 after three top-three performances last year, but he remains focused on closing out the season in style and a victory this weekend would be extremely helpful as he works on his 2004 plans.

After opening the season with five consecutive top-seven results-which had him sixth in the points chase after Round 5 in Portland-second-year driver Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Pearl Vodka) has faded a bit down the stretch, but remains in position to finish inside the top-10 in the final points table. He currently stands ninth in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, just two points behind eighth place Diaz.

Figge also holds a six point lead over tenth place Kyle Krisiloff (#7 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One), and the 17-year-old is poised to be "on stage" at the Awards Banquet, as he currently leads 11th place Alex Garcia (#9 Dixien/Omnisource/LA Fitness/Diestra) 16 points. Krisiloff's season was buoyed by an impressive second place performance in Round 3 at The Milwaukee Mile.

Garcia, meanwhile, wraps up his second season of Toyota Atlantic competition in Miami. The Venezuelan has finished inside the top-10 three times thus far in 2003, topped by a career-best result of sixth at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport in July.

Canadian teammates Eric Jensen (#2 Westin Hotels) and Philip Fayer (#8 PaySystems) have also enjoyed career-best results this season. Jensen, the only owner/driver in the series, completes his first full-year of Toyota Atlantic competition and posted a career-best result of eighth at Cleveland. Fayer, a rookie in 2003, also had his career-best result of ninth at Cleveland and followed that up with a 10th place finish in his next start at Trois-Rivieres. Jensen is currently 13th in points, just five behind Stephan C. Roy, who is not competing in Miami, while Fayer is 15th in the championship, seven points behind the idle Bryan Sellers.

Rookie Marc Breuers (#12 Hamilton Lane) returns for his third and final start of the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship with Brooks Associates Racing. The Pennsylvanian established a new career best with a 10th place performance in Denver, topping the 12th place result he posted in his series debut at Mid-Ohio in Round 9.

All of the cars in this weekend's field will be Swift 014.a chassis powered by Toyota 4A-GE engines producing 240 horsepower and are capable of speeds in excess of 165 miles per hour. All cars will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks.

The weekend schedule for Toyota Atlantic provides for an opening, 30-minute practice session beginning at 9:05 a.m. and will be followed by first round qualifying from 4:15 - 4:45 p.m. Saturday's schedule will see the Toyota Atlantic machines back on course for a second, 30-minute practice session beginning at 8:00 a.m., with final qualifying schedule for 12:30-1:00 p.m. Sunday's race day schedule calls for a 15-minute warm-up session beginning at 8:00 a.m., to be followed by the final round of the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k, which is scheduled to take the green flag at 10:30 a.m. ET.

SPEED Channel will provide television coverage of the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k in the United States and Canada on a 90-minute tape delay, airing at 12:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 28. The network will also offer a pair of rebroadcasts, the first airing at 3:00 p.m. ET on Monday, September 29 and the second at 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday, October 3. Live Timing & Scoring data from every session will also be available on the official web site of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, www.toyotaatlantic.com.

WHAT:  Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k.

WHERE: Grand Prix Americas Presented by Sportsbook.com - Miami, Florida.
WHEN: Friday-Sunday, September 26-28.

CART TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local):

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26
Practice, 9:05 - 9:35 a.m.
First-Round Qualifying, 4:15 - 4:45 p.m..

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27
Practice, 8:00 - 8:30 a.m.
Final Qualifying, 12:30 - 1:00 p.m.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 28
Warm-Up, 8:00 - 8:15 a.m.
Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k, 10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 28: SPEED Channel, 12:00 p.m. ET.

TRACK LAYOUT:  1.15-mile temporary street circuit.

RACE LENGTH: 55 laps (63.25 miles) or 50 minutes

RACE ROUND: 12 of 12 in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Mark Dismore , Patrick Carpentier , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Joey Hand , Jonathan Macri , Kyle Krisiloff , Luis Diaz , Gilles Villeneuve , A.J. Allmendinger , Marc Breuers , Alex Garcia , Buddy Rice , Alex Figge , Eric Jensen , Aaron Justus , Bryan Sellers , Philip Fayer , Danica Patrick