Rookie Bremer Looking to Protect Toyota Atlantic Championship Points Lead as Series Heads to Portland for First Weekend Doubleheader Since 2000 INDIANAPOLIS (June 15, 2004) -- The race fans of Portland, Oregon will certainly get their money's ...
Rookie Bremer Looking to Protect Toyota Atlantic Championship Points Lead as Series Heads to Portland for First Weekend Doubleheader Since 2000
INDIANAPOLIS (June 15, 2004) -- The race fans of Portland, Oregon will certainly get their money's worth from the Toyota Atlantic Championship this weekend as the series advances to Portland International Raceway for Rounds 4 and 5 of the 2004 Atlantic series, June 19-20.
Doubleheader weekends are certainly not unprecedented in Atlantic competition. The series last ran a double dip in 2000, starting off the season with two races at Homestead-Miami Speedway on opening weekend.
With a very tight championship race -- just 14 points separate the top six drivers in the title hunt -- and plenty of points up for grabs with two races on tap for the weekend, Portland could prove to be a pivotal stop on the tour as the season unfolds.
A dominant performance by Jon Fogarty (#96 Pacific Coast Motorsports) and a late-race crash in Milwaukee two weeks ago served to tighten up an already interesting battle at the top of the season point standings. After setting a new course record in qualifying to take the pole, Fogarty led wire-to-wire for his third career victory at the lone oval course on the season schedule.
The driver who led the championship entering Milwaukee, Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works), looked as if he'd bring home second place behind Fogarty and retain the points lead, but for the second consecutive race Dalziel saw points slip away as he became involved in an accident in Turn 2 just four laps from the checkered flag that ended his day.
Consistency over the long haul of the season is likely to be the key to the championship and that's certainly been the case early on as well with the top three drivers in the series emerging as the only ones to complete all 133 laps run in the first three rounds of competition.
Rookie Ronnie Bremer (#10 portacoolracing.com) of Brooks Associates Racing enters this weekend with the series points lead after an Atlantics career-best finish of second in Milwaukee. Bremer has used the consistency theory to his advantage early on coming up with three top-four finishes to start the season and grab the championship lead. The biggest challenge for Bremer has been off the track where the young Danish driver has struggled to find sponsorship to complete the 2004 campaign. He's been working diligently to continue in the series and the team was hopeful that Bremer would continue his early-season success in Portland.
Riding a streak of three straight top-five finishes to start the season (and five consecutive top-five efforts dating back to last year) has put Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) in a position to seize the championship reigns with a good weekend in Portland. She currently trails Bremer by just four points heading into the weekend and she'll be looking to improve on her sixth-place finish at PIR last year.
Rocky Moran Jr. (#4 Healthcareprivileges.com/PaySystems)) has quietly started the season strong for Polestar Racing Group and he sits third in the championship, just nine points behind the leader. With a fifth-place finish on his resume in his only other Atlantic start at Portland, Moran also feels the top spot is within his reach with a good weekend.
Dalziel returns as the defending champion in Portland. Last season, he led all 35 laps and cruised a 14-second victory and he'd love to see a repeat performance, especially after his recent struggles. After starting this season with a win in Long Beach, the 22-year-old Scot has run into problems on race day in the last two events. He was knocked back in the field in Turn 1 after starting from the pole in Monterrey, Mexico and his late-race crash in Milwaukee leaves him fourth in the points, 10 markers behind Bremer.
Dalziel's teammate at Sierra Sierra Enterprises, talented freshman pilot Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Charmin/Mr. Clean/Snugabye), bounced back from a disappointing result in Monterrey to finish third in Milwaukee for his second
podium of the season. Ranger is just 12 points off the pace in fifth position in championship and he'll be looking for his first Atlantic win this weekend on the 1.969-mile permanent road course at PIR.
After the near perfect weekend at Milwaukee, Fogarty raised his point total to 59 for the season, 14 points behind the pacesetter. The 2002 Toyota Atlantic Champion would love to make it two-, or even three-in-a-row at Portland and he has the history to do it. Fogarty qualified on the outside of the front row in his only other Atlantic start here during his championship season of 2002 and he finished third in the race, proving that he knows how to get up front and stay there at this track.
After an early-race crash in Milwaukee, Alex Figge ((#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports) will try to get back on the right track this weekend. Figge, winner of Round 2 in Monterrey, has two previous starts at Portland, including a seventh-place finish one year ago.
Bryan Sellers (#19 Lynx Racing) also has a top-10 effort in Portland to his credit, finishing 10th as a rookie last year in only his second Atlantic race and he hopes for some strong results this weekend along with Alex Garcia (#9 Dixien/Omnisource), who finished 13th last year in his only start in Portland.
Several Atlantic rookies will be making their first series starts at PIR this weekend. Jonathan Bomarito (#8 Dixien/Omnisource) of Transnet Racing, Chris Festa (#25 SpacePak/CareCentric) of Rahal-Letterman Racing and Josh Hunt (#15 Wright/Patton/Shakespeare/Atkinson Core Group) of Lynx Racing are all hoping for solid efforts doing double duty in the Rose City.
Philip Fayer (#3 PaySystems) returns to the car for Polestar Racing Group this weekend after missing the Milwaukee event and two drivers who saw their first Atlantic action at Long Beach -- Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil) and Tony Loniewski (#34 Margay) also return to the cockpit this weekend.
The Toyota Atlantic Championship also welcomes another highly-touted young driver to the field in Portland. Chris Dyson (#16 Dyson Racing Team), the 26-year-old 2003 American Le Mans Series LMP675 champion, announced last week that he would be participating in several Atlantic events this season as a supplement to his full-season commitment to the ALMS series in 2004. After competing last weekend at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Dyson will make his Atlantic debut at Portland.
All cars in the field this weekend are Swift chassis powered by 240-horsepower Toyota 4A-GE engines capable of speeds in excess of 165 mph. All cars will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks.
This weekend's busy schedule calls for the Atlantic cars to hit the track at PIR for the first time on Friday morning with practice from 9-9:45 a.m. PT. Qualifying for race #1 will go from 1:15-1:45 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, the Toyota engines will roar to life for race #2 qualifying from 8-8:45 a.m. Race #1 of the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Championship of Portland Presented by Yokohama then gets underway at 12:15 p.m. The race is scheduled for 35 laps (68.915 miles) or 50 minutes.
Atlantic warm-up is scheduled for 8-8:15 a.m. Sunday morning and race #2 of the weekend will take the green flag at 10 a.m. with the same race distance and time limit in effect.
SPEED Channel will provide tape-delayed television coverage of race #1 of the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Championship of Portland Presented by Yokohama at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 26. Race #2 of the weekend will be broadcast on tape-delay on SPEED Channel at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 3. Both races will also air to U.S. service men and women in 77 countries around the world through the American Forces Radio & Television Service. For additional information, visit the series' official web site, www.toyotaatlantic.com.