The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Round 3, Miller Lite 250 May 30-June 2, 2002, The Milwaukee Mile, West Allis, Wisconsin The 2002 Milwaukee race will be the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship's tenth visit to the historic one mile oval in...
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship.
Round 3, Miller Lite 250
May 30-June 2, 2002, The Milwaukee Mile, West Allis, Wisconsin
The 2002 Milwaukee race will be the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship's tenth visit to the historic one mile oval in West Allis, Wisconsin. The race is also only one of the two scheduled oval races this season. After the Round 3 event this weekend, the Atlantic Championship makes it's final visit to an oval track at the end of this month with a trip to the Chicago Motor Speedway.
The two tracks seem similar in appearance, but they are very different in how a driver and his crew have to approach them. Success on one of the ovals does not necessarily translate over to the other. Grant Ryley (Lynx Racing/Northwest Speedwerx Swift 014.a) won the pole in Milwaukee last year and went on to finish runner-up to eventual winner, Hoover Orsi. Later in the 2001 season, Ryley struggled at the Chicago Motor Speedway finishing the race eighth after starting eleventh, one lap down to the race winner. Ryley compares the two circuits.
"Milwaukee and Chicago represent the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of oval tracks," said Ryley who finished fourth at Long Beach and stands 7th in the Championship with 16 points. "Milwaukee is very wide, with short straights and long corners. It has very little banking and you can run cars on several different lines. It's more 'passing-friendly,' and when the car is right, you can run each lap with the gas pedal flat on the floor. It's a track that I like a lot, and a format that I think makes for better racing. Chicago is the opposite. Long straights and short turns, lots of banking, one groove and even the best car has to lift going into the turns. You might even find yourself braking and downshifting. They offer different challenges, and both demand that you be fast right off the trailer, with a good idea of where you're going with the setup or you'll be playing catch-up all weekend."
After years of dominance in Milwaukee by drivers from the United States and Canada, Latin American drivers have captured wins here the past two years. Argentina's Martin Basso earned his first career oval win here in 2000, and Brazil's Hoover Orsi repeated the feat here during his 2001 Championship season. During the past nine races at Milwaukee, the winner has only come from the pole three times with the last driver to win in Milwaukee from the pole being Memo Gidley in 1998.
The 2002 season took an unfortunate turn for Championship contender, Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a) two weeks ago. During a test session at Milwaukee, Hand spun and made hard contact with the turn four wall at the one-mile oval. The injuries Hand sustained in the accident will most likely force him to miss the remainder of the season. The familiar Yellow and Purple DSTP colors will not be seen this weekend at Milwaukee as the team prepares for the next two events at Laguna Seca and Portland. Hand's replacement for this season will be announced in the coming days. Hand was eighth in the Championship with 15 points with a podium showing at Mexico and a pole at Long Beach.
Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) enters the round three race this weekend with a narrow three-point lead over Canada's Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a). The pair split the first two races with Fogarty winning the season opening race in Monterrey, Mexico and Valiante wrestling away the checkered flag at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Along with their 2001 Dayton Indy Lights Championship, Dorricott Racing enters this year's race with a win under their belt. Townsend Bell dominated last season's Lights event while driving for Dorricott, but this will be the first race for the team on an oval in an Atlantic car. Lynx has struggled with ovals over the past few years, compared to their track record on road courses and temporary street circuits. However, they did post a podium showing at Milwaukee last year with David Rutledge.
Although Rocky Moran Jr. (Sigma Autosport Swift 014.a) has failed to crack the podium in this season's first two events, the fourth year American driver finds himself third in the Championship with two steady finishes in Mexico and Long Beach (6th & 5th). Moran Jr. currently has 21 Championship points, 14 points behind Fogarty and looks like he is back on the same track that landed him on the CART Toyota Atlantic All-Star team following the 2000 season. Moran Jr. was the only driver to complete every lap of competition that year while driving for P-1 Racing. 2001 saw Moran Jr. capture his first career Atlantic win at Laguna Seca driving for Cobb Racing.
Fogarty's teammates, Luis Diaz (Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a) and Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a) are still in the hunt as well. Both drivers have competed in Milwaukee with Diaz running here with the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and Gurney with the Atlantic Championship in 1999 and 2000. Diaz and Gurney are currently fourth and fifth in Championship points. Diaz won the pole in his home country of Mexico and finished the race in fifth, was caught up in the first lap melee at Long Beach and failed to score points there. Gurney's path was the opposite of his teammate, Diaz. Gurney was eliminated in Mexico after contact with another car, but regrouped for a runner-up finish at Long Beach.
The season has not started the way the defending Championship team of Hylton Motorsports had hoped for. Although the team has been fast, setbacks had their drivers mired out of the top ten in Championship points. Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Medlock Ames Winery Swift 014.a) sole point came from winning the provisional pole on the first day of qualifying at Long Beach. Both of the opening races saw Hunter-Reay caught up in the mix of opening lap incidents; although he managed to set the fastest race lap at Long Beach after recovering from the first lap skirmish there. Roger Yasukawa (Hylton Motorsports/Autobacs/Ueno Clinic/Pacific Creative Swift 014.a) did not compete in the season opening race at Mexico, but scored nine Championship points at Long Beach with a seventh place finish.
Currently 17th in the Championship, Alex Figge (Worldspeed Motorsports/Redline Glycomax Ironclad Swift 014.a) will be looking toward Milwaukee to get back in the hunt for the Atlantic title. Worldspeed had a very strong car here last year, with then driver, Grant Ryley. Ryley planted the car on the pole and battled Hoover Orsi for the win throughout last year's race. Figge knows he will have the car to produce a solid run this weekend. Ryley, who now teams with Valiante at Lynx Racing will hope to parlay his success here last year. With his fourth place showing at Long Beach, Ryley climbed to seventh in the Championship points with a total of 16.
Most of the full-time teams in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be equipped with the new Swift 014.a at Milwaukee, which replaced the Swift 008.a as the "spec" chassis for 2002. The three-car effort of Michael Shank Racing ran the older Swift 008.a in two of their cars for the first two events this year. Now, Ryan Dalziel (Michael Shank Racing Swift 014.a) and Sepp Koster (Michael Shank Racing/Blue Bay Golf Resort Utert Respons Swift 014.a) will be even with the rest of the cars after running the first two races in the Swift 008.a. Scotland's Dalziel held serve in the old car nearly winning the rain dampened race in Mexico. Dalziel was eliminated from the Long Beach race early, but the result from Mexico has placed the Scottish driver sixth in the Championship with 16 points. The Netherlands' Koster is just five points back in eleventh. Mexico's Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Modelo Swift 014.a) started the season in the new car, but has not had the results he was looking for coming into his second Atlantic season. Milwaukee should be just what Lavin needs with Shank's record here in the past. Martin Basso's 2000 win came here while driving for Michael Shank Racing and the team was strong last year as well; but lady luck put a kink in their 2001 results. Finally, Lavin's only career Atlantic podium came on the oval at Nazareth last year.
P-1 Racing was strong on ovals last year as well. Tony Ave won last year at Nazareth while other P-1 drivers racked up podiums and top-five finishes on the circular tracks. Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Miller Genuine Draft Swift 014.a) placed fourth last year at Nazareth and finished no worse than sixth on the three oval events in 2001. Stephan C. Roy (BBGP Racing/Playstation 2 Stereo Plus Swift 014.a), who drove for P-1 Racing last season, captured his first career Atlantic podium on the oval in Chicago.
Along with Dalziel, Waldemar Coronas (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa/Standox/Maizoro Swift 014.a) and Eduardo Figueroa (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa/Standox/Maizoro Swift 014.a) will start their first race on an oval this weekend. Coronas enters this weekend tenth in the Championship with a total of 13 points driving for the first year team.