CART Toyota Atlantic Championship readies for lone oval event of 2003; the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite INDIANAPOLIS (May 28, 2003) - After a seven-week hiatus, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship returns to action...
CART Toyota Atlantic Championship readies for lone oval event of 2003; the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite
INDIANAPOLIS (May 28, 2003) - After a seven-week hiatus, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship returns to action this weekend at the historic Milwaukee Mile for Round 3 of the 12-race 2003 schedule, the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite on Saturday, May 31 (SPEED Channel, 6/1, 9:00 p.m. ET). This weekend's race marks the 12th time that Toyota Atlantic machines will race on the legendary 1.032-mile oval, and is the only oval event on the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Schedule.
Since the Argent Mortgage Company Toyota Atlantic Race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, there have been a few significant changes to the entry list. Most notably, the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite will feature two returning names that are familiar to Toyota Atlantic fans, as Tony Ave (#5 P-1 Racing) and 2001 Toyota Atlantic champion Hoover Orsi (#7 Pro-Works) will be in Saturday evening's field for the first time since the end of 2001.
Ave, a native of Hurley, Wis., returns to his native Badger state, and will drive a second car for P-1 Racing alongside Canadian Stephan C. Roy (#16 TBA/Miller Genuine Draft/Momo). The 31-year-old driver has two career Toyota Atlantic race victories-both on ovals-as he took the checkered flag first at Nazareth Speedway in 2001 and also won the 1996 season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Ave has finished fourth in each of his past two starts at The Mile (in 1997 and 2001), and has qualified inside the top-10 in each of his three previous Toyota Atlantic appearances at the track, topped by a best start of second in '97. Ave's last Toyota Atlantic start came in the 2001 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where he finished seventh.
In addition to Ave, P-1 Racing has another strong connection to the state of Wisconsin and Milwaukee in particular, as the team is co-owned by Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount, who spent his entire 20-year career as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Yount recorded 3,142 hits and won American League Most Valuable Player awards playing shortstop in 1982 and center field in 1989, and remains one of the most beloved sports personalities in the state of Wisconsin. He currently serves as first base coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks in addition to co-owning P-1 Racing along with former driver-turned-owner, Bill Fickling.
Orsi, 25, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, is also making his return to Toyota Atlantic this weekend, replacing Marc DeVellis in the #7 Pro-Works machine for Sierra Sierra Enterprises. The Brazilian scored one of his five career Toyota Atlantic victories in 2001 on The Milwaukee Mile, and finished third in his only other appearance at the track in 2000. Orsi has not competed in Toyota Atlantic since winning five races en route to the 2001 series title. He finished third in his last start at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to finish the '01 campaign. Orsi will be paired with Scotland's Ryan Dalziel (#28 Discovery Lake/Daily Record Newspaper) on the two-car Sierra Sierra team.
In another significant development during the down time between Long Beach and Milwaukee, second-year competitor Kyle Krisiloff (#31 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One) has switched teams, moving from Cameron Motorsports to 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic champions Dorricott Racing, where he will drive alongside Mexican Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex) on the now two-car team. Krisiloff will be making his first appearance at The Milwaukee Mile this weekend, while Diaz returns for his second career Toyota Atlantic appearance and fourth appearance overall, as he also competed in Dayton Indy Lights Championship events in 2000 and 2001. His best finish at the track came in the '01 Indy Lights event when he finished fourth after qualifying ninth. He finished ninth last year.
While the recent developments will undoubtedly shake things up this weekend, the battle for the 2003 Toyota Atlantic title remains fierce heading into Round 3. Canadian Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) currently leads the championship on the strength of a victory in the season-opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix and a fourth place performance in the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Race at Long Beach. Valiante holds a three point advantage (33-30) over rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT), who currently holds second place by virtue of his first career Toyota Atlantic race victory in Long Beach. Allmendinger is tied in points with Canadian Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN), who finished second in the season opener and placed third in Long Beach.
If history is any indication, this weekend may produce Macri's first Toyota Atlantic race victory. Last year, Macri finished third at The Mile behind winner Roger Yasukawa, who graduated to the Indy Racing League, and Rodolfo Lavin, who has moved onto Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. In addition, Macri has finished inside the top-10 in all of his previous oval starts in Toyota Atlantic.
Allmendinger, meanwhile, has not competed in a Toyota Atlantic event on an oval prior to this weekend. That said, it hasn't taken the 21-year-old Californian to get up to speed in either of the first two events, and it would be no surprise if Allmendinger was at the front of the field in Milwaukee as well. Valiante will also be tough to beat, as he finished third in his last oval race at Chicago Motor Speedway last year, and has finished inside the top seven positions in both of his previous oval starts in Toyota Atlantic.
Another driver to watch this weekend should be Allmendinger's RuSPORT teammate Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT), as he knows a thing or two about oval racing with his previous experience in the U.S. Formula Ford 2000 National Championship. During his national championship-winning season in 2000, Justus also claimed the "Oval Crown" championship, going undefeated in three oval starts. He also won on a "modified oval" at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 1999. Justus currently stands fourth in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship standings.
Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Patrick Racing) stands fifth in the '03 championship, and comes into The Milwaukee Mile fresh from a career-best fifth place finish at Long Beach. The Californian picked up a previous career-best result of sixth at Milwaukee last year, so he should also be competitive this weekend.
One driver who will be looking to exorcise some demons this weekend is Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports/BG Products). Hand suffered a back injury that kept him out of six races last season during a crash in testing at Milwaukee last year, and this season has gotten off to a bit of a rough start for the third-year competitor. In addition, Hand's previous best finish on an oval was ninth at Nazareth in 2001, but he will have the advantage of previous experience on the oval this weekend, which should help his cause.
Another driver who is brand new to oval racing this weekend is Team Rahal rookie Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company), as the sum total of her previous oval track experience was a NASCAR Busch Series test in 2002. However, she should benefit from the depth of knowledge provided by her team owner, three-time Champ Car World Series champion Bobby Rahal, and an experienced cast of engineers and mechanics.
Venezuelan Alex Garcia (#9 Dixien/Omnisource) fills out the entry list, and looks to build on the oval track experience he gained during his rookie year of 2002. Garcia finished 20th at Milwaukee last year, and was 23rd in his only other oval appearance at Chicago Motor Speedway.
All of the drivers in Saturday's field will pilot "spec" Swift 014.a chassis powered by Toyota 4A-GE engines capable of producing 240 horsepower. All of the cars will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks.
The weekend schedule gets underway with the first CART Toyota Atlantic Championship practice session on Thursday, May 29 at 2:30 p.m. CT scheduled for 30 minutes and will be followed by a second 30-minute session beginning at 6:30 p.m. local time. Friday's schedule calls for practice from 1:30-2:00 p.m. CT, and the only single-car qualifying session of the season beginning at 6:15 p.m. Race day will see the Toyota Atlantic cars on-track for a 15-minute warm-up session beginning at 12:45 p.m., and the green flag is scheduled to drop on Round 3 of the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship at 5:30 p.m. CT. The scheduled distance of the race will be 70 laps (72.240 miles), but is subject to a 50-minute time limit. SPEED Channel will carry tape-delayed coverage of the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite Toyota Atlantic race beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 1.
Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite
The Milwaukee Mile - West Allis, Wis.
Thursday-Saturday, May 29-31.
CART TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local):
THURSDAY, MAY 29
Practice, 2:30 - 3:00 p.m.
Practice, 6:30 - 7:00 p.m.
FRIDAY, MAY 30
Practice, 1:30 - 2:00 p.m.
qualifying, 6:15 - 7:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, MAY 31
Warm-up, 12:45 - 1:00 p.m.
Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite, 5:00 p.m.
U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE:
SUNDAY, JUNE 1 - SPEED Channel, Milwaukee Mile Centennial, 250 Presented by Miller Lite, 9:00 p.m. ET (Tape Delay).