Monterey: Friday qualifying report

Front row again for Hunter-Reay. Atlantic rookie earns third straight start up front. MONTEREY, Calif. (June 7, 2002) -- Third time's a charm? That is what Atlantic rookie, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Medlock Ames Winery Autobytel...

Front row again for Hunter-Reay.
Atlantic rookie earns third straight start up front.

MONTEREY, Calif. (June 7, 2002) -- Third time's a charm? That is what Atlantic rookie, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Medlock Ames Winery Autobytel U.S. Print Swift 014.a), is hoping for this weekend in the Round 4 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. Hunter-Reay's lap of 1:19.433 seconds (101.429 mph) earned him his second provisional pole of the season, and more importantly, his third straight start from the front row.

It has been an emotional first one-third of the season for Hunter-Reay, who has captured one pole and broke two fastest lap race records in the first three events. However, three championship points is all the Boca Raton, Florida native has to show for his efforts. Hunter-Reay was clearly running away with last week's Milwaukee race before his car gave out on him in the later stages of the event. Much of the same luck fell on Hunter-Reay at Long Beach when he was bumped off the lead lap in a first turn mess shortly after the green flag fell. Hopefully, the bad luck is out of the way for Hunter-Reay as he looks toward tomorrow afternoon's 30-lap race.

"This seems to be the only way we can get any points right now," joked Hunter-Reay. "We had a really good session this afternoon. We came in to make a change early on in the session and then got right back out there. Traffic was a bit of an issue, but not too bad. It was certainly fun out there."

For those that saw last year's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race at Laguna Seca, things look much the same around Hunter-Reay. Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Miller Genuine Draft Swift 014.a), who started on the outside row here last year, currently stands second with a time of 1:18.809 seconds (100.951). 2001 Laguna Seca winner, Rocky Moran Jr. (Sigma Autosport Swift 014.a), is sitting third with a time of 1:20.214 seconds (100.441 mph). Moran Jr. won last year's race from the third starting spot passing Macri and Joey Hand on the first lap. The California driver feels comfortable on where he stands at the end of the day.

"I really like Laguna Seca, actually, I love it here," said Moran Jr. "Our afternoon session, in general, was pretty good. It is always a struggle here to get a good lap because there is a lot of traffic, so you are always trying to do your best to find a hole and get around all of the other guys. The track seems to be a little slower than last year, but this track is still really great to race on. I think we have a really good car and it is going to be very competitive. I am really looking forward to tomorrow and we will see what happens."

"It was a very good session," commented Macri.  "It started off a bit
slow, but the field opened up.  We got a quick lap, got blocked up again
and got in traffic.  I feel we could really challenge Ryan a bit and get
up a little closer there.  We'll make a few changes and go after it
again tomorrow.  I said this before;  Milwaukee was a main race where I
really wanted to do well especially with back to back races.  Milwaukee
was a big one to turn around our bad luck.  All the guys are pumped up
and everyone is working really hard.  I knew it was going to happen and
I knew we would be fast.  The good luck continues."

The teams are back on the track tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. for final qualifying. Hunter-Reay and Macri have Alex Barron's 1997 track qualifying record of 1:18.755 seconds (102.302 mph) squarely in their sites. Barron's qualifying and race records at Laguna Seca are the oldest standing marks in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship.

Recovering from his disastrous Milwaukee race weekend, Sepp Koster (Michael Shank Racing/Blue Bay Golf Resort Uitert Respons Swift 014.a) ran a strong fourth today with a time of 1:20.228 seconds (100.424 mph), followed closely by Championship points leader, Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) with a time of 1:20.265 seconds (100.377 mph).

2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Champion, Buddy Rice (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a), who is filling in for the injured Joey Hand, struggled to get up to speed after this morning's contact incident in Turn 6. Rice came out on the track midway through the session, but it was not enough time to get the lap he wanted in this afternoon. Rice's lap of 1:20.916 seconds (99.570 mph) places him 14th on the provisional grid.

"After this morning's incident, everybody on the DSTP team rallied and got us together in time to get some additional laps in," said Rice. "We didn't get out for a full afternoon session so we only have about 30 minutes of total track time today. We are good with the car so tomorrow we need some luck, an open lap without traffic, and get a full session in and the DSTP team will be in the hunt."

The final qualifying session starts tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. PST followed by Round 4 of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship which gets underway at 3:30 p.m. PST. Speed Channel will carry the 30-lap event at 10:00 p.m. EST, 7:00 p.m. PST.

CART Toyota Atlantic highlights from the Grand Prix of Monterey Featuring The Shell 300, Saturday, June 8, 2002 will be shown on either one of the following satellite feeds:

7:30-7:45 p.m. ET, Saturday, June 7th, 2002
Galaxy 11
KU12 Transponder
Downlink Frequency 11940, Audio 6.2/6.8 (Vertical Polarization)

8:45-9:00 p.m. ET, Sunday, June 8th, 2002
Galaxy 11
KU12 Transponder
Downlink Frequency 11940, Audio 6.2/6.8 (Vertical Polarization)

** The Toyota Atlantic segment is approximately ½ way into the VNR.

For full results and statistics, go to www.toyotaatlantic.com

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is one of the world's premier open-wheel development series and the top rung on CART's "ladder system", as well as having $100,000 race purses and a one million dollar points fund. It is also noted for its long history of graduating its stars into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic Series are CART Champ Car stars Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani

-cart/atlantic-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Michael Andretti , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Jon Fogarty , Joey Hand , Alex Barron , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Buddy Rice , Sepp Koster , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing