Mid-Ohio: Round nine preview

Allmendinger tries for fourth consecutive Cart Toyota Atlantic Championship victory as series makes return to Mid-Ohio for first time since 1999 season INDIANAPOLIS (August 6, 2003) - After becoming the first driver to win three straight races...

Allmendinger tries for fourth consecutive Cart Toyota Atlantic Championship victory as series makes return to Mid-Ohio for first time since 1999 season

INDIANAPOLIS (August 6, 2003) - After becoming the first driver to win three straight races and five in a season since 2001, and becoming the first rookie to win five races in a season since 1997 with a victory in last weekend's Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship points leader A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) is looking to become the first driver since Patrick Carpentier to win four straight races as the series returns to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the first time since 1999 for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio (SPEED Channel, 12:30 p.m. ET).

Carpentier actually won the final eight races of the 1996 Toyota Atlantic season en route to the series title, and tied the legendary Gilles Villeneuve for the most victories in a single season with nine wins overall in '96. With five wins heading into this weekend's Round 8, Allmendinger would need to win all remaining races in order to share that record with Carpentier and Villeneuve, but if he is successful in winning his fourth straight this weekend, it would only be the third time that a driver has won more than three races in-a-row. In addition to Carpentier's run of eight straight wins in 1996, the only other time a driver has won more than three consecutive events was when the series' all-time victory leader Mark Dismore won five straight to begin his championship-winning 1990 Toyota Atlantic Pacific Division season.

Allmendinger has also started each of the past three events from the pole position, and if he is able to collect his fourth straight $1,000 Toyota Pole Award this weekend, he will be the first driver since Hoover Orsi in 2001 to qualify on the pole in four consecutive events. Carpentier also holds the records for consecutive pole and consecutive wins from the pole with eight in each category in 1996.

More important than the records to Allmendinger, however, is the fact that the RuSPORT rookie holds a 34-point lead in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship point standings over second-year competitor Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record). He has already eliminated all but the top-nine drivers from championship consideration, and a strong result this weekend would reduce that number further.

With the largest number of entries to date in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship scheduled to compete in the Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, however, Allmendinger will have his work cut out for him. After snapping a streak of consecutive podium finishes at four with a fifth place run at Toronto, Dalziel returned to the rostrum with a strong second place performance in the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, and kept the pressure on Allmendinger throughout the closing stages of the race. Dalziel has finished inside the top-five in six consecutive races and a total of nine times in his past 10 starts, and remains a threat to win this weekend.

Likewise, Canadian Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) has finished inside the top four in each of his past four starts, and has qualified inside the top three positions in each of his past three starts. That performance has enabled him to move from fifth to fourth in the championship standings despite the fact that he missed the Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca due to an illness.

After welcoming a new teammate at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in Louis-Philippe Dumoulin, Valiante will once again be paired with rookie Bryan Sellers (#17 Lynx Racing/3Dimensional Services/Drive4USA) on the two-car team at Mid-Ohio. It will be a "hometown" event of sorts for Sellers, the 2002 Formula Ford 2000 Zetec champion, as the rookie hails from Centerville, Ohio, and Sellers had some success in the FF 2000 events at Mid-Ohio last year with a pole, a race win, and a third-place finish in three races at the track last year.

It will also be somewhat of a hometown race for rookie Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) as the Roscoe, Ill. native currently resides in Columbus to be near the Team Rahal headquarters in Hilliard, Ohio. Patrick took a career-best fourth place starting position in the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres and followed it up with a fifth place performance in the race for her third top-five result of the season, which no doubt gives her and the team some momentum heading into Mid-Ohio.

Third-year competitor Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports) is the third Ohio-based driver in the field, as he hails from Concord Township and drives for Chesterland-based DSTP Motorsports. Hand finished fourth in the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres for his best result since taking second in the G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway in June. Canadian Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings), who currently ranks third in the championship standings, also has an Ohio connection as he drives for Chardon-based Polestar Atlantic, LLC. Macri has finished on the podium a total of five times this season, but comes into the weekend still looking for his first career Toyota Atlantic win.

Another driver who has posted strong results but is still searching for his first win is Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT). The rookie has finished inside the top-five in six of eight starts this season and has finished second twice behind his teammate, Allmendinger, and comes into the weekend looking to erase a disappointing weekend in Trois-Rivieres where he finished 14th after making contact with the tire barrier while running third.

Whereas last weekend's field featured six Canadians and six Americans, the U.S. of A. will have nine drivers in the field this weekend. In addition to Allmendinger, Justus, Sellers, Patrick and Hand, four more drivers will be flying the Star Spangled Banner this weekend. Former Barber Dodge Pro Series competitor Marc Breuers (#12 Old Guard House) will be making his Toyota Atlantic debut this weekend, which will also mark the first appearance of the season by Brooks Associates Racing. Breuers returns to the site of his first BDPS victory, which came in 2002, and is also scheduled to drive in the Denver and Miami events. Second-year driver Alex Figge (#69 Wine Country Motorsports/Patrick Racing/Trench Shoring), 17-year-old Kyle Krisiloff (#7 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One), and rookie Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store, who will be making his second start of the season, complete the lineup for the United States.

Joining Valiante and Macri in representing our neighbors to the north will be three drivers from Quebec. Stephan C. Roy (#16 PlayStation 2/MGD/Mexxsport/Momo), fresh from tying his season-best performance in his hometown of Trois-Rivieres last weekend with an eighth place result after starting ninth, will once again be in the cockpit of the P-1 Racing machine. Montreal-based Starwood Team Jensen fills out the Canadian lineup with drivers Eric Jensen (#2 Westin Hotels) and Philip Fayer (#8 PaySystems).

A total of five countries will be represented in this weekend's field, as Mexico's Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing) and Venezuelan Alex Garcia (#9 Dixien/Omnisource/LA Fitness/Diestra) add to the international flavor of the series. Diaz picked up his best result since he finished sixth in the Grand Prix of Monterey in June with a sixth place performance last weekend in Trois-Rivieres, and Garcia comes into Mid-Ohio looking for his fourth top-10 result of the season.

All of the cars in this weekend's field are Swift 014.a chassis powered by 240 horsepower Toyota 4A-GE engines 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 calls for the Atlantic machines to be on track Thursday, August 7 for testing from 9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. ET and again from 2:00 - 6:00 p.m. ET. Friday's schedule provides for a 30-minute practice session beginning at 12:15 p.m. ET and will be followed by first-round qualifying from 3:45-4:15 p.m. ET. There will be a second 30-minute practice session on Saturday beginning at 9:15 a.m. ET with final qualifying scheduled for Saturday at 3:00 p.m. ET, and race day will see the Toyota Atlantic machines on track for a 15-minute warm-up at 8:00 a.m. ET and Round 8 of the 12-race 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is scheduled to take the green flag at 11:30 a.m. ET. The scheduled distance for the race is 30 laps (67.740 miles), but is subject to a 50-minute time limit.

SPEED Channel will carry television coverage of the Toyota Atlantic Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio in the United States and Canada on a one-hour tape delay beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET, with rebroadcasts scheduled for 3:00 p.m. ET on Monday, August 11 and again at 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday, August 15. Live Timing & Scoring information is also available for every session on the official web site of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, www.toyotaatlantic.com.

CART TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP
FAST FACTS
CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF MID-OHIO

WHAT:  Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio

WHERE: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course - Lexington, Ohio.
WHEN: Thursday-Sunday, August 7 - 10.

CART TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local):

FRIDAY, AUGUST 8
Practice, 12:15 - 12:45 p.m.
First-Round Qualifying, 3:45 - 4:15 p.m.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 9
Practice, 9:15 - 9:45 a.m.
Final Qualifying, 3:00 - 3:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 10
Warm-Up, 8:00 - 8:15
Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, 11:30 a.m.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: SPEED Channel:
SUNDAY, AUGUST 10 - 12:30 p.m. ET
MONDAY, AUGUST 11 - 3:00 p.m. ET
FRIDAY, AUGUST 15 - 5:00 p.m. ET.

RACE ROUND: 9 of 12 in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship.

NEXT EVENT: August 23, Molson Indy Montreal, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Mark Dismore , Patrick Carpentier , Hoover Orsi , Michael Valiante , Joey Hand , Stephan C. Roy , Jonathan Macri , Kyle Krisiloff , Luis Diaz , A.J. Allmendinger , Marc Breuers , Alex Garcia , Alex Figge , Eric Jensen , Louis-Philippe Dumoulin , Aaron Justus , Bryan Sellers , Philip Fayer , Dan Selznick , Danica Patrick