Valiante Wins Season Finale in Miami MIAMI (September 28, 2003) - Canadian Michael Valiante ( ...
Valiante Wins Season Finale in Miami
MIAMI (September 28, 2003) - Canadian Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) closed out his season the same way it began, with a victory in the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k run in support of the Grand Prix Americas Presented by Sportsbook.com on Sunday.
Valiante-who also won the season-opening Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix-took advantage when polesitter A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) encountered a mechanical problem as the field approached the green flag, and vaulted from his third place grid position past outside front row starter Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record) into the lead at the start of the race. From that point on, Valiante was never challenged for the lead and went on to record a 1.209-second victory over Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama season finale.
For Valiante, the victory was his third of the season (Monterrey, Mid-Ohio, and Miami) and the sixth of his Toyota Atlantic career. It was also his second consecutive podium finish and his sixth podium of the season, as well as his eighth consecutive top four result and his 10th top four performance in 11 starts this season. With the victory, Valiante assured himself of third place in the final point standings, despite the fact that he missed Round 4 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca due to an illness. It was also the second consecutive victory on the streets of Miami for Lynx Racing, as Patrick Carpentier won from the pole driving for Lynx in the last Miami Toyota Atlantic street race in 1995.
With a second place finish, Patrick became the second woman in history to finish second in a CART-sanctioned event, joining Sara Senske, who was the runner-up in a Barber Dodge Pro Series event at Chicago Motor Speedway in 2001. It was Patrick's second podium finish of the season, as she opened the season with a third place result in Monterrey, and was her second consecutive top-five result, following a fifth place run at Denver last month. It was also Patrick's fifth top five result of the season, and it enabled her to claim sixth place in the final series point standings by just one marker ahead of Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports).
After losing two positions at the start of the race, Dalziel kept the pressure on Patrick throughout the race, but he was unable to fight his way past and had to settle for third. Nevertheless, the result allowed him to secure second place in the series point standings, and will receive his second place trophy in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Awards Banquet at the Hyatt Regency Miami on Sunday night.
It was Dalziel's fifth consecutive podium finish and his eighth podium of the season, and Dalziel and Allmendinger are the only two drivers in the series to have finished on the podium eight times this year. It was also the Scot's 10th straight top five performance and was his 13th top five in 14 starts dating to a third place run at Montreal in 2002.
Finishing fourth for the second consecutive event since rejoining the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship was 2002 series champion Jon Fogarty (#1 Norwalk Furniture). Fogarty managed to keep fourth despite the fact that he was hit from behind by Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT) on the first green flag lap as the field stacked up heading into the first turn, and it was also his seventh straight top four performance in Toyota Atlantic competition dating to a second place run at Cleveland last year.
Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings) completed the top five, and also completed every lap in the race for the 12th time this season. The Canadian is the only driver to have completed every lap this season. It was also his eighth top five result of the season, and solidified his fourth place position in the final point standings.
Hand finished sixth for his fifth top-six performance in his past six starts, followed by Justus, who was forced to pit for repairs after damaging his front wing in the contact with Fogarty, and came home one lap down in seventh. Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Pearl Vodka) finished eighth, followed by Mexican Luis Diaz (#33 Dorricott Racing/Telmex) in ninth, and Eric Jensen (#2 Westin Hotels) in 10th place.
Allmendinger, the 2003 series champion, fell three laps down as a result of his pit stop to repair an engine misfire, which first reared its ugly head during the morning warm-up. However, his was one of the quickest cars on the track once he rejoined the field, and he came home with an 11th place result. He earned a total of 201 points in the season, which is the most points scored by a driver in a season since CART began sanctioning the series in 1998, eclipsing Anthony Lazzaro's total of 197 points during his 1999 championship-winning campaign.
The race was broadcast on a 90-minute tape delay on SPEED Channel in Canada and the United States, and will be rebroadcast twice this week. The first rebroadcast airs at 3:00 p.m. ET on Monday, September 29, with the second rebroadcast scheduled for 5:00 p.m. ET.
Quotes from the top three finishers follow below:
*MICHAEL VALIANTE (#19 Lynx Racing): "This whole weekend's gone pretty well for us. I mean, Ryan (Dalziel), A.J. (Allmendinger) and I have been battling every session by a couple of tenths. This morning we made a change to the car and it was really good to be quickest, and we made a few more for the race. I was just able to get out front and do consistent laps and maintain the lead, and to be honest, it was quite easy to drive the car, because my engineer just nailed the setup, I think today. Either way, if Ryan would have been second or A.J., I think we would have had a pretty good battle on our hands. At the start, unfortunately, A.J. went out, and what can I say? I got a good start, got into the first turn, and the car was good on cold tires, and even on the restarts I was able to gap everybody, and once I had a gap, to maintain it. I've got to give it to Lynx Racing. They've done a great job, and we've really improved the car over the course of the season. Even though we secured third in the championship this weekend, I think it hurt us a little bit to battle here with Ryan when I had to miss that race in Laguna Seca. Third in the championship is great. It's great for the team and I'm extremely happy."
*DANICA PATRICK (#24 Argent Mortgage Company): "Awesome. Of course, it feels good. I think that this shows what's happened all year to get to this point. A lot of work, a lot of blood, sweat and tears, that's just what happens in a first year. We all put it together at the end. It's kind of deceiving with the podium at the first race, but I just think that there were some things that happened in the middle of the season that really made us go a lot better. We changed engines, and I really think that was the biggest thing that made a difference. Other than that, it's just gelling together as a team. I have an engineer that was with us at the first race, who came back to work with me as my primary engineer for the last two races, and he's very good. I'm just very happy. I get along with them well, and I'm pleased to finish on the podium again."
*RYAN DALZIEL (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record): "I think it is pretty obvious that I didn't go at the start, mainly because the rule states that you don't accelerate until the green is thrown. That, and I didn't expect Michael (Valiante) to be on A.J. (Allmendinger)'s position. I thought that they were going to stay in their own position if the guy in front drops out. I'm absolutely gutted for myself and Sierra Sierra (Enterprises). I think we, consistently this weekend, along with Michael, been the quickest car. I really thought that when A.J. dropped out, I thought it was a blessing for me 'cause I knew that there was going to be no overtaking on this track, and whoever was going to get around Turn 1, that position was going to hold. We were really benching to be in the lead through Turn 1, and unfortunately, we were battling for fourth and fifth through Turn 1. I'm gutted, but third's another podium, and we clinched second in the championship so it's been an awesome year for myself and Sierra Sierra."