Portland: Lynx Racing preview

Lynx Racing drivers Bryan Sellers and Josh Hunt in the Toyota Atlantic support race at the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, June 18 - 20. - The winner of this year's Indy 500 - from the pole - is Lynx Racing graduate Buddy Rice. Lynx began ...

Lynx Racing drivers Bryan Sellers and Josh Hunt in the Toyota Atlantic support race at the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, June 18 - 20.

- The winner of this year's Indy 500 - from the pole - is Lynx Racing graduate Buddy Rice. Lynx began sponsoring Rice in 1997 in the U.S. Formula Ford 2000 series, and then for two years in Toyota Atlantic.

- Owned by two women, Lynx Racing is a unique combination of championship-winning racing team and driver development program. Graduates include such noted open-wheel drivers as Champ Car driver Patrick Carpentier, Buddy Rice and 2002 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Alex Barron.

- This year's Lynx Racing drivers are 21 year-old American Bryan Sellers and 19 year-old Australian Josh Hunt. Both drivers are prime candidates to win the race, and are on the fast track to move up to Champ Cars in 2005. Lynx scored a podium finish in this event last year with Canadian driver Michael Valiante.

Sometimes racing feels like luck run amok -- you focus like a laser, you work like a dog and you sacrifice it all to a single goal... and then Lady Luck saunters up and it's even money whether she's going to give you a big smooch or slap you silly.

Not that it's ever all luck - or all skill, for that matter - in racing, but for drivers in Champ Car's stepping-stone Toyota Atlantic championship, this weekend at Portland international Raceway will be a true test of both.

Why? Several reasons, actually; first and foremost, there will be two Atlantic races this weekend, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, so the team that hits the right setup early and dominates the weekend will emerge with sling-shot momentum toward the championship.

Second, the track itself is very changeable; from day to day, from session to session during the course of the day, sunlight and shade, temperature and the possibility of rain - all these things play a role at any track, but somehow even more so at PIR. And still more for Atlantics, where carrying speed through the long-duration corners at either end of the track is crucial.

Third, PIR has a reputation as a track where 'things happen,' often in the Festival Chicane on the first lap, but also just generally during the course of the race. Unlikely teams step up and do well, top teams suffer uncharacteristic problems and the podium is reliably populated with unfamiliar faces - like last year when the three top finishers in the Atlantic race all came from teams owned by women... a first in the long history of open-wheel racing.

Add to that the fact that the Champ Car World Series continues to grow stronger with every event, and drivers the caliber of those produced by Lynx Racing are likely to be much in demand next season -- and the Atlantic race at PIR takes on the aspects of a complex recipe coming to a slow boil.

"Without a doubt, the key to Portland is to expect the unexpected, and be able to adapt quickly," says Lynx Racing driver Bryan Sellers, who finished on the podium in the first Atlantic race of the year at Long Beach. "You try and minimize the luck aspect with extensive preparation, and we've done that. I also raced here last year, which is a big advantage in that I don't have to learn the track and can go right into tuning the car. This is a track that you have to really attack, and at our most recent test we worked on developing a car that can accept that level of aggression, so I'm feeling good about our chances this weekend."

Sellers, a 21 year-old from Centerville, Ohio, climbed up the open-wheel ladder through karting and the Skip Barber and Formula Ford Zetec series, winning championships in all three. He won the prestigious Valvoline Team USA scholarship to race a season in New Zealand, and has tested a Champ Car with the Newman-Haas team. Ask around the Champ Car paddock and his name will come up often on the 'short list' of drivers to watch.

Seller's Lynx teammate this season is Josh Hunt, a 19 year-old Australian karting champion who has lived and raced in both Europe and the U.S. He comes to the Atlantic series on a steep learning curve, with a total of just seven car races (four Zetec races last year, and three Atlantic races so far this year) on his resume. His season with Lynx Racing in the Atlantic series is designed to get him ready for his debut as a Champ Car driver in a third car from the PKV Racing team at his home event, the Gold Coast Lexmark Indy 300 in November.

"We had a good test here after Long Beach in April and I like this track the best of all the U.S. tracks that I've been on so far," says Hunt, who has finished in the top-10 at every Atlantic race so far. "I'm really new to all this, and my situation is different from Bryan, so my focus this weekend is on accelerating my learning curve and developing more efficient communication with my engineer Like any driver, I want to win, but I know that first I have to learn, and that's one of the really good things about the Lynx team; it's as much a driver development program as it is a racing team, and there's a real emphasis on education and letting the results flow from that."

Sellers, who finished on the podium in the first Atlantic race of the season at Long Beach, is currently tied for 7th in the championship with 55 points. Hunt, with three top-10 finishes, is 12th with 37 points. Currently leading is leading is Danish F3 star Ronnie Bremer with 73. Atlantic awards 31 points for a race with, and with nine races still left on the schedule, the battle for the 2004 Toyota Atlantic championship is still wide open.

Both drivers will benefit from Lynx Racing's past successes at PIR, including a podium finish by the team's most recent graduate, Michael Valiante. The Vancouver, B.C. native will be on hand this weekend to work with the team and drivers, and to meet with various Champ Car team owners.

2004 marks the 14th anniversary of Lynx Racing, one of the most unique and successful combinations of championship-winning race team and driver development program in auto racing today. Created and owned by two women, Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty, the Lynx mission is to seek out young drivers with the desire and potential to become champions at the highest level of the sport and provide them with funding, equipment and training that focuses on their mental and spiritual development as well as their on-track skills - a process the team calls 'Destiny by Design.'

The 'scholarship' provided by the team is worth $2.5 million over two years. Graduates of the Lynx Racing program include such open-wheel racing stars as this year's Indy 500 winner, Buddy Rice and Champ Car veteran Patrick Carpentier, currently second in the championship.

The Toyota Atlantic series, now in its 31st year, is the triple-A baseball of open-wheel auto racing (or as Busch is to NASCAR)-- a place where the stars of tomorrow hone their skills at 160 mph in front of the Champ Car team owners who are their potential future employers. Atlantic series graduates include Indy 500 winners (Bobby Rahal), Champ Car Champions (Michael Andretti) and Formula One World Champions (Jacques Villeneuve). Atlantic cars are 'spec' race cars, placing a premium on driver skill and team preparation. The 1260-pound, single seat race cars are powered by 1.6-liter, 250 horsepower Toyota engines that produce a top speed of 160 mph and 0 to 60 mph acceleration of 2.8 seconds.

Practice for the two Toyota Atlantic races at PIR begins Friday morning at 9:00 a.m., with 35-lap races scheduled for 12:15 pm Saturday and 10:00 am Sunday. Both races will air on the Speed Channel; Race #1 on Saturday, June 26 at 2:00 pm ET, and Race #2 on Saturday, July 3 at 2:00 pm ET..

Portland is the 4th and 5th of 12 races on the 2004 Atlantic schedule, which includes eight races in the U.S. and three in Canada. The next event on the Atlantic schedule is at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland on Saturday, July 3.


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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Michael Andretti , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Michael Valiante , Buddy Rice , Skip Barber , Bryan Sellers , Josh Hunt