PORTLAND, Ore. (June 21, 2003) - For the second time in three races, Sierra Sierra Enterprises driver Ryan Dalziel ( ...
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 21, 2003) - For the second time in three races, Sierra Sierra Enterprises driver Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record) led flag-to-flag en route to victory in Saturday's G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway (SPEED Channel, June 23, 1:00 p.m. ET).
After retaining the pole position in the morning's final qualifying session, Dalziel was never challenged throughout the 35 laps, and cruised to a 14.420-second victory over Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports/BG Products). In the process, the Scot became the second driver in as many weeks to sweep all 23 available championship points, joining last week's Grand Prix of Monterey winner A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT), and also managed to close the gap to Allmendinger in the point standings, as he now trails the American by just six points (79-73) heading into the halfway point of the season.
It was Dalziel's third straight top-two finish, as he took his first Toyota Atlantic win three weeks ago at The Milwaukee Mile, and finished second last weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. In addition, Dalziel has now managed to finish in the top four in six of the last seven races, dating to a third place run in the second-to-last race of 2002 at Montreal.
Allmendinger qualified second on the grid, but with off and on rainshowers throughout the afternoon leading up to the race, the team originally elected to start the race on grooved rain tires. That decision ultimately proved to cost him any chance at the victory, as most of the other drivers in the field started on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks, and Allmendinger was forced to start at the rear of the grid after pitting for slicks at the conclusion of the parade lap.
Nevertheless, after a yellow flag for improper field alignment delayed the start to Lap 2, the rookie sliced from 13th to fifth in Turn 1 on the first green flag lap, taking advantage of light contact between Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings) and Alex Figge (#69 Make-A-Wish Foundation) that forced both cars to spin. On the next lap, he claimed fourth from teammate Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT), but Allmendinger would not advance any further and settled for fourth. The result snapped his streak of top three finishes at three, but he has finished inside the top four in each of the past four races.
While Dalziel disappeared into the sunset, Hand, Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) and Allmendinger ran nose-to-tail throughout the 35-lap contest, although none of the drivers were able to improve their positions. With a second place result, Hand claimed his best finish of the season, eclipsing a previous best of seventh at Long Beach. It was also his first podium finish in Toyota Atlantic competition since finishing third in the 2002 season opener at Monterrey, Mexico and was his best finish since taking second in the 2001 season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He also gained three positions in the point standings, moving from 10th to seventh.
After missing last weekend's Grand Prix of Monterey due to an illness, Valiante claimed his best finish since winning the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix to open the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Last year's championship runner-up also moved himself back inside the top five in the championship standings, and currently stands fifth.
Justus claimed fifth place, and remains the only driver in the series to have finished inside the top five in every event this season. Finishing sixth was Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company), giving the rookie three top-six results in five career Toyota Atlantic starts. Figge rebounded from the opening lap spin to come home seventh, and he and Justus are the only two drivers to have finished in the top seven positions in each of the series' first five races of 2003.
Macri claimed eighth on the final box score, snapping his streak of consecutive top-four finishes at four races. The result also dropped him from second to third in the point standings, and he now trails Allmendinger by 15 points and Dalziel by nine markers. Another streak that came to an end was Dorricott Racing's four-race pole and win streak at Portland International Raceway, as the team's top performer was Mexican Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing), who finished ninth after starting fourth. Lynx Racing rookie Bryan Sellers (#17 Lynx Racing/3Dimensional Services/Drive4USA) picked up a Toyota Atlantic career best result of 10th in his second start in the series, and was also the final driver to finish on the lead lap.
Aside from the yellow start, the race was run without a caution flag, allowing Dalziel to complete the 68.915-mile distance at an average speed of 102.367 mph, marking the second straight year that the average speed of the race was over 100 miles per hour.
Television coverage of the G.I. Joe's 200 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship event can be seen in the United States and Canada on a tape-delayed basis beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET on Monday, June 23. After taking next weekend off, the series returns to action on Independence Day weekend for U.S. Bank Presents The Cleveland Grand Prix on Saturday, July 5. That race can also be seen on SPEED Channel at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 6.
Quotes from the day's top three finishers follow below:
* RYAN DALZIEL (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record): "I think from my point-of-view it was an absolutely perfect day. Everything went to plan. We rolled out of the truck yesterday morning and we didn't have the best practice session, but I can't give enough credit to the engineering staff and the rest of the guys at Sierra Sierra (Enterprises). We rolled the car into qualifying and took pole from both qualifying sessions, and took the lead at the start and pretty much controlled the race. I mean, I backed off, probably, after about 15 laps and just kind of coasted from there. The car was awesome and it was a pleasure to drive it."
* JOEY HAND (#27 DSTP Motorsports/BG Products): "It feels right. It's where I want to be, and where the team deserves to be. That's the biggest thing. This team gives me a good race car every week, and I'm fortunate to be here because of (owner) Dede Rogers and DSTP. We just go after it. We've had some bad races since my crash at Milwaukee (in testing) last year. We've pulled through, the team's stayed very strong, and we've been looking to get back on the podiums. We knew we'd work our way up. This is, I think, just the start for a good run for us. As far as this weekend goes, we came out of the trailer a little quicker than most really knew, because we didn't get a good run in the practice session as far as lap time goes. We were pretty good. I think that the race went pretty good. We kind of thought it might rain a little more in the race, so we went with kind of a medium rain/dry setup as far as the shocks and stuff go. It didn't really rain as much, so I struggled a little bit in the race. I just worked on the sway bars in the car and all of the adjustments in the car to make the car as fast as I could at that time. Even not being totally up to par, the car was fast enough to get second. I'm pretty happy with that."
* MICHAEL VALIANTE (#19 Lynx Racing): "The race was pretty interesting. We didn't know whether to go on wets or drys, and we opted to go on drys. Joey (Hand) and Ryan (Dalziel) did as well. I was confident that I had a car that could move up in the race, because I didn't think we qualified as well as we should have. In the race, really, I didn't have that great of a start, and I got stuck on the outside going into Turn 1. I was able to get by (Aaron) Justus, and then I ran by Joey. Keeping A.J. (Allmendinger) wasn't too big of a deal, he didn't put on too much of a challenge. It was more just trying to get by Joey, and it was really hard to stay behind him on the high speed sections because I would just lose downforce off the front of my wing. The first race back after missing one, it's great to have a podium. I think we've just got to build on these results."