Montreal: Rahal Letterman Racing preview

Rahal Letterman Racing - Toyota Atlantic Track Talk - Molson Indy Montreal Patrick Looking For Win To Close Out Atlantic Campaign HILLIARD, Oh. - With just two races left in the Toyota Atlantic career of Danica Patrick, the 22-year-old sensation...

Rahal Letterman Racing - Toyota Atlantic Track Talk - Molson Indy Montreal
Patrick Looking For Win To Close Out Atlantic Campaign

HILLIARD, Oh. - With just two races left in the Toyota Atlantic career of Danica Patrick, the 22-year-old sensation of Rahal Letterman Racing, is looking to close out her time in the Atlantic series with a victory.

"We have done it all over the last two years, except win," said Patrick after her fifth place finish at Denver which featured the fastest lap of the race. "We have been close, but something has always stood between us and victory. We have finished on the podium, we have finished second, we have had the fastest race lap and we have won the pole. Now I really want to close out the season with a victory."

With her time in the premier open-wheel developmental series about to end and opportunity lying ahead for her at the next level, it would be easy for Patrick to be distracted, but she maintains her intense focus on the Toyota Atlantic Championship. Patrick enters this weekend's race at Montreal third in the Atlantic Championship, 30 points behind leader Jon Fogarty and 29 points behind second place Ryan Dalziel.

"There are plenty of points still available that we could catch the leaders, but some bad luck has to find Jon and Ryan for us to get back in the championship," said Patrick. "We have consistently been running up front, but we haven't been able to win and both of them have won races. Right now that is the difference. All we can do is approach this weekend looking to maximize the points and we will let the chips fall where they may."

Patrick has enjoyed a stellar second season in Toyota Atlantic piloting the #24 Argent Mortgage Company car to a top-five result in nine of the ten races. She leads the loop in top-five results and she had secured three podium finishes including a second place effort at Portland in Round 4. She is the only driver in the series to complete every lap this season and she won the pole position for Round 5 at Portland. The high point of the season may have been Patrick's 24 hour reign as the points leader of the series (following Round 4), making her the first female driver in open-wheel history to lead a series championship.

"It is a great honor and something that I will probably appreciate more later in life," said Patrick. "Right now I am just trying to figure out a way to get the Argent car back on top of the points and to do that I have to win a race or two and get a little lucky. I know there are plans being made for next year, but I can't worry about that right now. All I can focus on is finishing the season strong for Argent and Rahal Letterman Racing."

COLLEGE FRESHMAN FESTA READY FOR MONTREAL

Think back for a moment to those golden days of college. Now remember that timeless college tradition known as the road trip. If you were like most your first road trip was probably to a neighboring college to meet up with old friends or a new acquaintance.

Now consider the road trip that 18-year-old Rahal Letterman Racing rookie Chris Festa is on. Monday Festa began classes at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Majoring in business and marketing, Festa will log three days of classes and then hop a flight for Montreal for the third-annual Molson Indy Montreal. Festa will make his 11th Toyota Atlantic Championship start this weekend and will be vying for his first victory.

Festa has been granted athletic status at FSU which helps give him priority status in the scheduling of his classes and access to academic tutors who can assist when he is forced to miss class because of a race or test.

"It has been a great first week of school, but I still have this weekend's race on my mind," said Festa. "With my class schedule I have time during the day where I can prepare for the race by reviewing notes and watching tapes of races at Montreal. It isn't like high school where the day was filled with classes and there wasn't a break. My professors have been really good about me missing class the first week. It certainly helps to have access to the athletic tutors."

Festa enters the weekend eighth in points and third in the Toyota Atlantic Rookie of the Year battle. "The series has been even more competitive than I thought it would be," said Festa. "The only way you improve as a driver is to run against a high level of competition and there is no doubt I have learned a lot this season. What we need to do now is finish strong and build momentum for next year. Danica finished last season with a pair of really strong results and that momentum carried over to this year. I am looking to do the same."

Festa added the Florida State Seminole to his helmet at Denver and will race with the FSU logo on the front of his helmet the rest of the season.

PATRICK IS CONSISTENTLY RUNNING UP FRONT

Danica Patrick's streak of six consecutive top-five results was snapped at Portland (seventh in Round 5), but she has since posted five straight top-five results meaning that she has posted a top-five finish in eleven of the last 12 races dating back to 2003 at Denver. A top-five result this week will match Patrick's longest top-five streak of her Atlantic career. She leads the series in top-five results in 2004.

Patrick signed with Rahal Letterman Racing in 2002 inking a multi year deal which allowed her to make her Barber Dodge Pro Series debut at Toronto in '02. In 27 races total with Team Rahal/Rahal Letterman Racing, Patrick has posted 23 top-ten results.

FIRST RACE AT MONTREAL FOR FESTA

This weekend will mark the first time running the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for Rahal Letterman Racing's Chris Festa. The 18-year-old rookie an avid F1 fan is excited about running the historic course.

"I have watched a lot of races on this track, but this will be the first time I have ever have raced on this track," said Festa. "I have had the opportunity to run on some legendary tracks this season and that has been a thrill. To actually drive on a track where the greats of F1 have run is a thrill for any driver, let alone an 18-year-old rookie in Atlantic, but I can't focus on the fact that this is an F1 track. I just have to approach this as another Atlantic track. A track is a track and you have to learn it as quickly as possible."

So does Festa have a secret to learning the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve? "It is the perfect excuse to play a lot of X-Box," said Festa, who uses video games to gain an understanding of the track.

PATRICK IS WRITING ATLANTIC HISTORY

Patrick continues to write open-wheel racing history with each race she runs for Rahal Letterman Racing. At Portland she became the first female driver to lead an open-wheel championship when she took the series lead after Round 4. Also at Portland (Round 5) she captured her first Atlantic pole position and thus became the first female driver in series history to win a pole. She is the only female driver to finish on the podium (five times) and her second place finishes at Miami (2003) and Portland (2004) are the highest results in the series history for a female driver.

ATLANTIC CHAMPION RICE DELIVERS INDY WIN FOR RAHAL LETTERMAN

Buddy Rice, the 2000 Toyota Atlantic champion, captured the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May for Rahal Letterman Racing. The victory at Indianapolis was the first for Rahal Letterman Racing and made team co-owner Bobby Rahal just one of two men (A.J. Foyt) to win Indy as a driver (1986) and as an owner (2004). Rice led 91 laps and one of his chief rivals on the day was Andretti Green Racing's Dan Wheldon whom Rice beat for the 2000 Atlantic Championship. With his victory May 30th, Rice became the first Toyota Atlantic Championship champion to have won the Indy 500.

RAHAL LETTERMAN LOOKS TO DUPLICATE 2003 SUCCESS AT MONTREAL

Rahal Letterman Racing will seek to duplicate the team's 2003 success when it travels north this week. Michel Jourdain Jr. captured the team's only Canadian win at Montreal last season striking a perfect balance between fuel mileage and speed.

The Jourdain win is the only Canadian victory for Rahal Letterman Racing.

-rlr-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Bobby Rahal , Jon Fogarty , Dan Wheldon , Gilles Villeneuve , Buddy Rice , Chris Festa , A.J. Foyt , Danica Patrick , Michel Jourdain