ELKHART LAKE, Wis., (August 17, 2001) -- With four races left, David Rutledge (Lynx Racing Swift) served notice that he aims to get back in this Championship fight. On a beautiful Wisconsin afternoon, Rutledge set a new track record of 2:02.635...
ELKHART LAKE, Wis., (August 17, 2001) -- With four races left, David Rutledge (Lynx Racing Swift) served notice that he aims to get back in this Championship fight. On a beautiful Wisconsin afternoon, Rutledge set a new track record of 2:02.635 seconds (118.831 mph) on his way to a provisional pole heading into tomorrow's final qualifying session.
If Rutledge can secure the pole tomorrow, he will then attempt to win his fifth race in a row after starting from the first position. Dating back to last year, all four of Rutledge's career wins have come from the pole. Rutledge's lap broke the one year old record held by Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/3b Engine Valves Swift) at 2:02.734 seconds (118.735 mph).
"Because the track is so long, every lap is critical, even your out lap from the pits," said provisional pole sitter, David Rutledge. "We've been working on that, and obviously it's paid off with a provisional pole and a new track record, and I did it alone, without a draft. We've worked incredibly hard to make sure we rolled off the trailer fast here, and since there's a chance of rain tomorrow, this preliminary qualifying session was very important."
Basso ran off course into the tire wall midway through the session in Turn 3 after having contact with rookie, Jason LaPoint (Lynx Racing/Infinity Motorsports Swift), bringing out the session's first red flag. Despite being eliminated from the session with a damaged car, Basso's time of 2:03.008 seconds (118.470 mph) was good enough for fourth on the provisional grid.
The second red flag came when series point leader, Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift) ran off course in Turn 3 getting stuck in the gravel trap. With only four minutes remaining in the session, race control called for the checkered flag allowing nobody to knock Rutledge off of the top spot for the day. Orsi's time of 2:03.148 seconds (118.336 mph) puts him seventh on the provisional grid.
First year driver, Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift) currently sits second on the grid with a time of 2:02.838 seconds (118.634 mph) heading into tomorrow afternoon's 12:15 p.m. qualifying session that will set the field for Sunday's 17-lap race. Hand, who leads a tight Rookie of the Year battle, was the fastest Atlantic Freshman followed by Grant Ryley (Worldspeed Motorsports/Northwest Speedwerx Swift) who was fifth overall with a time of 2:03.077 seconds (118.404 mph).
"We're real happy with our time," said DSTP rookie, Joey Hand. "We set it by ourselves and drafting is such a big factor here. I wish the session wouldn't have ended early under the red because there is definitely more speed in the car. Once again, DSTP gave me great car today. It's always the car to beat and it seems that all I have to do is get in and drive it. Buddy Rice has also been a great help this weekend and we hope to move up one more spot in qualifying tomorrow."
Buddy Rice won the 2000 race at Road America on his way to DSTP Motorsports' first ever Atlantic Championship.
Home track driver, Tony Ave (P-1 Racing/Miller Genuine Draft Swift) rounded out the top-3 with a time of 2:02.985 seconds (118.492 mph). Ave is the only driver other than Orsi and Rutledge to win a race this year with the sole victory coming at Nazareth. Ave's best road course start to date came at Cleveland where he took the green flag from his fourth starting position.
Ave is happy with the effort so far this weekend, but knows there is still much work to do. "It used to be a big advantage to be familiar with a race track as I am here with Road America," said Ave. "I could come here with bad equipment and still run up front. But that's not the case anymore with how competitive the series has become." Ave continues. "We were really quick on the ovals and I always like running those. At Cleveland, we had one of the cars to beat, but I got caught up in a traffic jam there. I need to win more races if I'm going to move up and this would be a good place to start."
The CART Toyota Atlantic teams are back on track on Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. CST for another 40 minute practice session with final qualifying starting later that same day at 12:15 p.m. CST.