Seven points separate Jon Fogarty from the 2002 Atlantic Championship after finishing second place at Montreal Alex Gurney moves into third place. MONTREAL, Que., Canada (Aug. 25, 2002) - Early in Round 11 of CART's 12-race Toyota Atlantic ...
Seven points separate Jon Fogarty from the 2002 Atlantic Championship after finishing second place at Montreal Alex Gurney moves into third place.
MONTREAL, Que., Canada (Aug. 25, 2002) - Early in Round 11 of CART's 12-race Toyota Atlantic Championship in Montreal, Saturday, Aug. 24, it appeared Jon Fogarty, of Portola Valley, Calif., was on his way to victory and a likely recapture of the Atlantic Championship lead with one race remaining in the 2002 season. However, Rocky Moran Jr. played the "spoiler" in orchestrating a skillful pass of Fogarty on the next to last lap to post his first victory of the season. Fogarty raced on for second place - a finish that proved crucial in setting up a season ending showdown with series leader Michael Valiante.
Valiante entered into the weekend with a 14-point lead, but in the opening laps of the race, his right rear tire went flat after light contact with the front wing of Moran Jr. Valiante dropped to 27th place while changing the tire in the pits, but would battle back to earn nine points with a generous seventh place finish.
However, Moran Jr.'s late race pass of Fogarty aided Valiante more because it cost Dorricott Racing's second year driver four points in the Championship. Valiante now leads Fogarty, 146 to 140, heading into the season finale next weekend at the Shell Grand Prix of Denver.
"Rocky had more speed down the back straight-away particularly with the draft I provided," said Fogarty, who won the $1,000 Toyota Pole Award in the morning's final qualifying. "I wanted to win the race and bring home points, but it was tough to hold him off. I could have locked him, but I'm not going to do that to Rocky. He's a friend of mine and I like to race clean. I made my move to the inside. Rocky already had a draft and he took advantage of it with a sling-shot to the outside and finding the "grippy" brake zone. He was a bit ahead of me by the brake zone, but I wasn't going to stuff it in too deep and risk both of us going out on the last corner. I didn't want to chance t-boning him through the corner. That would have taken me out of the Championship. It was a clean pass on Rocky's part and it made for a good race."
Alex Gurney, of Newport Beach, Calif., meanwhile, pounded out another solid finish in the Behr/ Castrol Swift 014.a in rounding out the top five.
"I wasn't too impressed with this finish but I guess it's still a good one," said Gurney. " After being quickest the weekend's first practice but then hitting the wall in provisional qualifying, we more or less fell behind. I had a minor gearbox problem and I think that's what slowed me the most. I went for an inside move on Joey Hand in the first corner early in the race but pushed wide. I lost a ton of positions. The train blew past. I hung in and worked my way back with the help of others falling off."
Teammate Luis Diaz, if Mexico City, finished in sixth place despite winning the $1,000 WorldCom Fast Pace Award with a time 1:33.567 (104.229 mph). The time establishes a new track record on the re-measured 15-turn, 2.709-mile Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.
"It was a tough race," said Diaz. "First, I had a poor start. Rocky passed the pack from the inside and I was on the outside. I didn't have room to move in the field and got stuck. I was fifth place or the like. Then Ryan Hunter-Reay got hit from behind by somebody and lost a wing. He passed me like crazy on the straight-away. The next couple of corners he was running low so I got passed by most of those behind me. Then I had contact with Coronas and spun. I fell to last. I was able to move back through the field even with a damaged suspension. I started to pass cars and that's when the car started feeling solid again. I had good grip and I raced aggressively."
Gurney sits in third place entering Denver with 117 points. His closest challenger is Diaz who is only three points shy at 114 points.
The race was slowed for ten laps by three yellow flags, two of which were for cars that had slid off course into the gravel traps. But the Lap 9 caution came out when Stephan C. Roy made hard contact with the Turn 15 wall with the right side of the car. Roy was uninjured in the incident which slowed the race for four laps.
Fogarty's runner-up showing guaranteed his first season honor that being his securing 2002 Atlantic Rookie-of-the-Year honors. Fogarty's 26-point margin over his closest challenger, Diaz, is insurmountable with one race remaining.
Dorricott Racing's drivers compose the majority of the top-five prize money winners this season (excluding mid-season bonus winnings). After Montreal, Fogarty improved to second on the earnings board with $117,500. Diaz is fourth with $96,100 while Gurney is in sixth place with $79,000. Total team purse money excluding bonuses has reached $292,600.
Dorricott Racing took the other big cash bonus award of the weekend with Fogarty winning the $1,000 Toyota "Pole Award" with a new track record.
The season finale of the 12-race 2002 Toyota Atlantic Championship will be next Saturday, Sept. 1, on the newly created street circuit of the Shell Grand Prix of Denver. Fogarty, for one, is already primed for the title bout.
"Regarding Denver and street course racing, well, I think Dorricott Racing is pretty strong on those circuits," said Fogarty. "Valiante has been pretty lucky on some of the street courses. I won the pole at Toronto and we were quick at Long Beach too. My engineer, Burke Harrison, is great. We've had experience with those tracks so what I need is a clean race. I just need to finish that one.
"Now that my teammates don't have a mathematical chance for the championship, I'd like to think they will be able to help me prepare for Denver. I'm sure they'd love to finish high but Alex Gurney and Luis Diaz are friends of mine off the race track as well as on. I would hope they would help me win the championship. It would be so great for the team."