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Portland: Doubleheader preview

Portland: Doubleheader preview
Jun 15, 2005, 11:37 PM

TOYOTA ATLANTIC SEASON REVS INTO HIGH GEAR AS SERIES HEADS TO PORTLAND FOR ROSE CITY DOUBLEHEADER INDIANAPOLIS (June 15, 2005) -- It's safe to say that it's time to get down to business in the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by ...


INDIANAPOLIS (June 15, 2005) -- It's safe to say that it's time to get down to business in the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

As the top open-wheel racing development series in North America prepares for Rounds 3 and 4 this weekend at Portland International Raceway with the G.I. Joe's Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Atlantic Doubleheader, June 18-19 (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel - Saturday, June 25 beginning at 2 p.m. ET), it wouldn't seem to be a crucial point in the season this early on in the Atlantic calendar. But with a pair of back-to-back doubleheader race weekends on the horizon and one of the toughest stretches in series history that features six races in five weeks, it's pretty much put up or shut up time for those pursuing the '05 Atlantic crown.

It's no coincidence that former series racer Jon Fogarty asserted himself at this exact point in the schedule one year ago. Fogarty swept both ends of last year's Portland double dip, assuming control of the series title chase by conquering the challenging 10-turn, 1.969-mile PIR road circuit, and he never surrendered the lead again as he captured his second Toyota Atlantic title. That's not to say that a champion will be crowned this weekend, but the opportunity to seize the reigns of what promises to be a 12-round dogfight is certainly out there for the driver and team that's ready to step up. There's also the 66 possible championship points that will be on the table this weekend and the over $200,000 in prize money that will serve as some extra incentive.

After back-to-back podium finishes, including his first series win in Monterrey, Mexico in Round 2, rookie phenom Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) has certainly been the driver who's come top the forefront early on this season. The 26-year-old native of the Netherlands has proven to be a bit of a slow starter early on in his first two race weekends, but he's also shown that he can close with the best of them as he earned a third-place finish coming from the back of the field at Long Beach and led every lap while claiming victory from the pole in Monterrey. The "Driving Dutchman" carries the series championship lead heading into this weekend's action. Even though he hasn't raced in Portland before, Zwolsman has emerged as a quick study as well. His first two dynamic series finishes also came on tracks where he had no experience.

The productive pairing of Polestar Racing Group rookie teammates Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) and Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) has also been strong early on this season. Each driver has two top-five finishes to their credit in the first two events and they're tied in the championship standings, just six points behind Zwolsman entering this weekend. While Legge followed up her historic victory in Long Beach with a fifth-place finish in Monterrey, Bessette has been rock steady chasing a runner-up finish in Round 1 with a fourth-place result south of the border. Both drivers will also be seeing their first Atlantic action at Portland and each is hoping to take away some good memories from the long weekend.

Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil) has been showing signs of asserting himself in the early season title hunt as well. He recovered from a disappointing finish in Long Beach to post his best-ever series finish of second place in the second event of '05. Kasemets is one of two drivers in this weekend's field that has experienced two Atlantic races in two days at the Portland circuit. He finished 11th and 12th, respectively, last season at the venue, but he's expecting bigger and better results this time around competing for Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis.

One of the quiet surprises so far in '05 has been the steady performance of rookie Kyle Kelley (#24 UP Christy). A pair of top-eight finishes to start the season has been impressive for the 19-year-old McAtee Motorsports driver, but he's hoping to break into the top five or better as he prepares for his first Atlantic start in Portland.

Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors) hasn't enjoyed the success he was looking for in his first Atlantic season, but the 2004 Formula BMW USA champion knows it's a long year and this could be the weekend he turns his fortunes around. He improved from 17th in his first race to an eighth-place finish in Monterrey and he's demonstrated the ability to run up front and qualify well. The talented German driver now turns his focus to producing solid race results and he'll get two good chances to do just that this weekend.

Wirth welcomes a new teammate to the Brooks Associates Racing stable this weekend as Al Unser III (#10 Racing) makes his full-time return to the Toyota Atlantic Championship at a familiar place. Unser, who ran in three events for the Brooks team in 2004, rejoins the squad with two new sponsors and a determined attitude to succeed at the track where his father, Al Unser Jr., earned his first Champ Car win in 1984. "Just Al" does have some on-track experience at PIR as he finished eighth on the circuit in the 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series race.

Another driver who competed in that event is also looking to make a splash this weekend. David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/Aviacsa/RocaAcero/Multigama/Martiga) finished second in the '03 Barber Dodge event and he hopes to call on that experience of running at the front of the field this weekend when he makes his second start for the US RaceTronics team. After making his season debut in spectacular fashion, earning his first series podium in front of his hometown fans with a third-place finish at Monterrey in Round 2, the rising Mexican star wants to build on that momentum in Portland.

One year ago, veteran sportscar racer Chris Dyson (#16 Thetford/Norcold) made his Atlantic debut with a doubleheader start in Portland. The Poughkeepsie, New York native knows the PIR track well from his ALMS racing experience and he'll be looking to continue his development as an open-wheel driver when he lines up this weekend.

Brian McAtee (#19 Fleet Auto Sales/Cosby Oil) will see his first action since the season-opening race as he prepares for his first Atlantic start in Portland and Pennsylvania racer Adam Pecorari (#2 Konica Minolta/Penn Capital) of Jensen Motorsport is also geared up for a strong weekend in his Portland Atlantic debut. Coming off his best career Atlantic finish of seventh in Long Beach, Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store) returns to the track this weekend for his first series racing experience at PIR.

In the battle for the Atlantic Yokohama Tire C2 Cup, Dan Cobb (#9 Camelot Construction) has gotten off to a good start in his first season. Cobb led all C2 competitors at Long Beach and finished second in the class in Round 2. He carries a four-point advantage in the C2 point standings in Portland and he leads a deep eight-car C2 lineup this weekend. Mark Ishikawa (#71 Bay TSP) is right behind Cobb in the class rankings and he's made several starts and produced a couple of wins in Portland in SCCA competition, including just last weekend. He's hoping familiarity breeds success at PIR.

Another C2 competitor who's run at the venue in regional competition is Lee Atkins (#48 Advanced Medical, Inc.). The Woodinville, Washington racer ran well in his series debut at Long Beach and he's shooting for another strong showing in Rounds 3 and 4. Veteran Bob Siska (#18 RJS Motorsports) will make his first series start at Portland in the C2 class.

There will also be some new blood in the Atlantic waters when it visits the Rose City. Mathiasen Motorsports makes its series debut this weekend with Justin Sofio (#15 RLM Investments), C2 winner of the Long Beach race the last two years, behind the wheel. Bite Racing also makes its first series starts this weekend with owner/driver Chris Souliotis (Speedway Motors) competing in the championship class and Daryl Leiski running a C2 entry. Roger Glover (#21 Custom Boat and Marine/Depoe Bay Raceway), a 30-year motorsports veteran, owns Blackjack Racing in Reno, Nevada and he'll also pilot the C2 entry in both weekend races. Canadian Tim Hauraney (#31 Enerlog Systems Inc.) will join Condor Motorsports for the doubleheader, fielding a C2 machine for the veteran Atlantic team.

All cars racing in Portland are Swift chassis powered by 240-horsepower Toyota 4A-GE engines capable of speeds in excess of 165 mph. Each entry will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks.

The twin-race schedule Atlantic schedule calls for the cars to practice for the first time Friday morning at PIR from 9:30-10 a.m. PT. Qualifying for Race #1 will be held from 1:15-1:45 p.m. Friday. The Toyota engines will roar to life Saturday with qualifying for Race #2 slated for 8:30-9 a.m., while the first race of the weekend is scheduled for 35 laps (68.915 miles) and is set to begin at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Race #2 of the weekend, Round 4 of the Toyota Atlantic Championship will get underway at 10 a.m. Sunday morning and is also scheduled for 35 laps or 45 minutes.

SPEED Channel will provide tape-delayed television coverage of both races from Portland on Saturday, June 25 beginning at 2 p.m. ET. The race will also air to U.S. service men and women in 133 countries around the world through the American Forces Radio & Television Service. For additional information, visit the series' official web site,


WHAT: The G.I. Joe's Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Toyota Atlantic Doubleheader

WHERE: Portland International Raceway -- Portland, Oregon

WHEN: Friday-Sunday, June 17-19


9:30-10 a.m., Practice
1:15-1:45 p.m., Race #1 Qualifying.

8:30-9 a.m., Qualifying Race #2
12:45-1:45 p.m., Atlantic Race #1.

10-10:50 a.m., Atlantic Race #2.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: SATURDAY, JUNE 25 -- SPEED Channel, G.I. Joe's Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Toyota Atlantic Doubleheader, 2 p.m. ET (Tape-Delay). Race #1 to begin at 2 p.m., followed immediately by Race #2 from Portland at 3 p.m.

TRACK LAYOUT: 10-turn, 1.969-mile permanent road course

RACE LENGTH: 35 laps (68.915 miles) or 50 minutes

Qualifying (one lap) -- 2003, Ryan Dalziel, 1:06.204 (107.069 mph).

Race -- (one lap) 2003, Ryan Dalziel, 1:07.062 mph (105.669 mph)

Race -- (35 laps) 2004, Jon Fogarty, 40:03.400 (103.226 mph).

RACE ROUNDS: 3 and 4 of 12 in the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

NEXT EVENTS: June 25-26, The Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank at Burke Lakefront Airport -- Cleveland, Ohio


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