THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD Part 2: Qualifying and the Race Buddy Rice, Lynx Racing's latest CART FedEx hot prospect, seems to be developing an affinity for the podium, which he demonstrated yet ...
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD Part 2: Qualifying and the Race Buddy Rice, Lynx Racing's latest CART FedEx hot prospect, seems to be developing an affinity for the podium, which he demonstrated yet again at Road America with his third top-3 finish in a row. After jumping from fifth to third on the last lap of qualifying, he demonstrated yet another useful skill -- his ability to boldly overtake opponents during the instants of furious confusion that follow the waving of the green flag -- by moving from third to first during the first lap of the race. Rice took control of the race for the first eight of the scheduled 17 laps, while a pack of cars nipped furiously at his heels. Eventual winner Andrew Bordin passed Rice temporarily on the seventh lap, only to be re-passed a few corners later. But on lap 8, he was able to get by and get far enough ahead that Rice lost the draft. The duo finished that way, Bordin first, Rice second and series points leader Anthony Lazzaro third. Rice won the "MCI Fast Pace Award" for setting the fastest race lap, just 3/1,000ths shy of the track record. During a post-race meeting, it was decided by series officials that Lazzaro passed fourth-place finisher Alexandre Tagliani under a yellow flag, and the officials ordered their final finishing positions reversed. This decision did not affect Rice or his points position with respect to the leader. After six of twelve races in the 1999 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic schedule, Lazzaro is first with 97 points, Rice is second with 74 points and Tagliani is third with 72 points. In the Atlantic series, a race win is worth 20 points, with one point awarded for the pole and one point for leading the most laps. "We were competitive from the moment we unloaded from the trailer," said Rice. "We executed our plan of moving to the front as early as possible and letting them fight it out behind us. Unfortunately, as the race wore on and the tires got a little overheated, I had to slow down a bit to conserve them and that's when Andrew got by. He was quick enough to pull away so I couldn't catch his draft, which is tremendously important here, and that's the way we finished. But more important for us is that we've finally got these Swift Atlantic cars figured out, and the team is back to running at the front where we belong. We're not fighting to survive anymore, we're fighting for the championship." Rice's Lynx Racing teammate, Mike Conte, seemed to be the designated lightning rod for bad luck during the weekend. It started when he arrived at the track with a full-blown case of the flu, and struck again during the first session when a cracked wire in the electrical harness caused an electrical fire behind the dashboard. Even with so little practice time, Conte was able to qualify 15th in the 27-car field, but then, in the first turn of the first lap, he got caught up in a melee that saw him off in the gravel trap. He had the presence of mind to keep his foot in it and keep the car moving, which allowed him to get back on track and re-join the race at the back of the pack, from which he battled his way back up to finish 14th. "By the time it was all over I felt like I'd been in a 15-round prizefight," mused Conte. "It's a shame because I really like this track and had a good race here last year, but we got behind the curve early and the Lynx team worked hard all weekend to help me get caught up. They did a heroic job, but I was lucky to escape from that first-turn brawl with the car still intact, and it was good enough for me to fight my way up through the field. The team is at the point where the cars are good for every race, and we keep testing and developing at a furious pace, so the outlook for the rest of the season isexciting." The next race on the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic schedule is the Grand Prix Player's de Trois-Rivierès on August 1. Lynx Racing, owned by Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty and now entering its ninth year of operation, is both a championship-winning racing team and a unique driver development program. The team's mission is to seek out young drivers with championship potential and provide them with the training, resources and opportunity to realize that potential and make the jump to auto racing's 'major leagues.' In addition to Buddy Rice and Mike Conte in the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic series, Lynx also sponsors a car for Sara Senske, 20, of Kennewick, Washington. Senske competes in the Star Mazda Championship, driving a car fielded by Kent Stacy's S3 Racing. In 1998, her rookie year, Senske finished eighth in the series championship battle, and in 1999, with six of 13 races complete, she is tied for fifth in the points. Her most recent finish was third on the oval at Pike's Peak, and her next race is under the lights on the new short oval at the Irwindale Speedway near Los Angeles.
Road America Television Schedule (ESPN2 - EST):
Saturday, July 17 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. First broadcast ESPN2 and ESPN Intl. Monday, July 19 1:00 a.m. - 2:00 a.m. Repeat broadcast Monday, July 19 5:00 a.m. - 6:00 a.m. Repeat broadcast Tuesday, July 20 8:00 p.m. CTV (Canada) Sunday, August 1 Check local listings RDS (Canada)