Luis Diaz wins at Portland to lead Dorricott Racing to a CART track record "four-peat". Jon Fogarty regains lead in Toyota Atlantic Championship. Alex Gurney overcomes motor issues for solid sixth place. PORTLAND, Ore. (June 16, 2002) - - From...
Luis Diaz wins at Portland to lead Dorricott Racing to a CART track record
Jon Fogarty regains lead in Toyota Atlantic Championship.
Alex Gurney overcomes motor issues for solid sixth place.
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 16, 2002) - - From the moment he won the pole position, Luis Diaz was convinced that his first career Toyota Atlantic victory was only 35 race laps away. What he didn't know was that his victory would be so convincing that it left nearly every observer walking away with shaking heads but acknowledging that Mexico's newest race sensation was real and Dorricott Racing "rules" at Portland.
Diaz parlayed his pole position into a flag-to-flag victory at Portland International Raceway in round five of the 12-race Toyota Atlantic Championship on Saturday, June 15. Diaz cruised uncontested around the 10-turn, 1.969-mile permanent road course a time of 40:04.588 and an average speed of 103.175 mph. His victory was as dominating as his 4.690-second margin of victory over rival Jonathon Macri.
"First, I dedicated this race weekend to Bob Dorricott," said an emotional Diaz after the race. "I couldn't think of a better way to show it than to win the race for him. Bob gave me the opportunity to race with Dorricott Racing and I'll be forever grateful."
It also marked the first time in CART history that a team in a CART-sanctioned event had won four consecutive races and four consecutive poles at the same racing facility. Dorricott Racing also won at Portland in 1999 with driver Philipp Peter, of Austria; Jason Bright, of Australia, on 2000; and Damien Faulkner, of Ireland, last year - all in Dayton Indy Lights competition
Oddly enough, it wasn't the first time Dorricott Racing has laid claim to a "four-peat" at Portland. It also orchestrated four consecutive victories with Bob Dorricott Jr. in Sports 2000 in 1989, 1990, and 1991 (two races).
Diaz propelled his Telmex Swift 014.a. into the lead going by beating the 24-car field down the long front straight-away into Portland's famed Festival Corner, a tight opening corner that is actually a right-left-right series of turns, and never relinquished it. The victory jump-started Diaz into fifth place in the Toyota Atlantic Championship with 50 points
The start of the race at Portland was a major concern to all the teams since many remained sensitive to first turn crashes at Long Beach and Laguna Seca. However, two columns of two-car rows roared into the first turn and for the first time in recent memory all cars exited the Festival Corner without any incidents. The race then proceeded caution-free. Earlier in the day, Diaz captured his second career $1000 Toyota "Pole Award" with a time of 1:06.749 seconds (106.195 mph). His first Atlantic pole came in the season opener at Monterrey, Mexico.
"I was really worried about Turn One before the race," said Diaz. "All the Atlantic drivers ended up being great through that turn and nobody failed to make it through. After the Festival Corner, I had the best car of my life. I just tried to avoid any mistakes and keep the car on the track. I want to thank my team, my sponsors, the series, and the people of Portland. They are great fans. I want to keep this momentum so I can truly compete for the Atlantic championship. Perhaps I can fight Jon (Fogarty) for the championship."
For Macri, the runner-up finish was his second podium of the season but his hopes of chasing down Diaz for the win were never at issue. Diaz's pace was so sharp that it even earned him the $1,000 WorldCom "Fast Pace" award with a time of 1:07.515 seconds (104.990 mph). Both the pole and the fastest lap established new track records for the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship at Portland.
Fogarty, who qualified on the outside pole in the Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a, didn't have the opportunity to be a "spoiler," but he did have the most exciting car-to-car race within the race. Fogarty and Ryan Hunter-Reay were literally nose-to-tail during the closing laps. In fact, Hunter-Reay appeared headed for his third straight podium finish when he manipulated lapped traffic to pass Fogarty on the front straight with two laps remaining. However, Fogarty used the same tactics caused by back-marker traffic on the final lap to regain third place heading into Turn One. Fogarty then held off Hunter-Reay to earn his third podium of the season.
"The reason I had to pass Hunter-Reay on the last lap is he slipped around me on the lap prior going into the Festival Corner," said Fogarty on the battle with Hunter-Reay. "We both had a little trouble with 'backmarkers.' I had to go around the outside of a car in Turn Six. That allowed Ryan to catch me. Then another car hung me up in Turn 10. Hunter-Reay had a great run going into the Festival Corners. I decided discretion was the better move coming to the Festival Corner so I gave him enough room to slide inside me. Fortunately for me, on the next lap, we both caught more slow traffic. I was able to make the same move on him and stay in front on the lap that counted most."
"It was a matter of fortune or misfortune depending on whose side you favor," continued Fogarty. "Both passes were clean. It was good racing and it was good to race with Ryan. He must have had a good overall race because I think he started ninth. Next thing I saw was his car in my mirrors. My engineer, Burke Harrison, was reading the intervals between us throughout the race. He slowly caught me especially when I got stuck in traffic. It ended up going my way this time."
Third place was crucial for Fogarty because it moved him back into the Toyota Atlantic points lead - a lead he lost the week before at Laguna Seca to Michael Valiante. Valiante battled Roger Yasukawa for much of the race, but was not able to get past him and wound up ninth. Fogarty now holds a two point lead over Valiante in the Championship, 61-59.
Alex Gurney, of Newport Beach, Calif., started fourth in the and was looking more than hopeful for a podium finish until engine gremlins affected his car's performance. After dropping a couple of positions on the race start, Gurney was masterful in maintaining his position and bringing the Castrol/Behr Swift 014.a home to a sixth place finish and another 10 championship points. Gurney is alone in sixth place with 49 points.
"It was a good weekend for the team," said Gurney. "Getting all three cars to the finish at Portland is an achievement especially with a win. We struggled a little bit on Friday with the engine. We debated Saturday morning whether to change it or not. It appears that probably would have been the right move. Anyway, we got through the race and struggled with several things but we earned some points so we're closer to the championship now than when we started the weekend. We look to do better at Chicago."
After round five, the Atlantic Championship is the tightest in recent memory. Twelve points separate the top six and 23 points separate the top 10. Fogarty increased his margin for Atlantic Rookie-of-the-Year honors over Roger Yasukawa to eight points, 59-51. Diaz is one point away from passing Yasukawa for second place with his 50 points.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is on hiatus next weekend before returning to action the following three weeks at Chicago, Toronto, and Cleveland. Round six will be held at Chicago Motor Speedway, Sunday, June 30.