Road America: Round nine preview

Dalziel Puts Heat on Fogarty as Toyota Atlantic Series Returns To Road America INDIANAPOLIS (August 3, 2004) -- With four races remaining in the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama, series point leader Jon Fogarty ( ...

Dalziel Puts Heat on Fogarty as Toyota Atlantic Series Returns To Road America

INDIANAPOLIS (August 3, 2004) -- With four races remaining in the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama, series point leader Jon Fogarty (#96 Pacific Coast Motorsports) has to be feeling a little heat behind him.

As the series returns to the one of the World's classic road courses -- Wisconsin's 4.048-mile Road America circuit -- this weekend for the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Championship of Road America Presented by Yokohama (tape-delayed on SPEED Channel, Sunday, Aug. 8 - 1 p.m. ET), Fogarty knows that he's hitting the home stretch in what could be another impressive Atlantic championship campaign. The 2002 series title-winner also knows that if doesn't close the deal, he could be watching someone else hoisting the championship trophy in September.

Despite showing consistent speed and good results over the past few weeks, Fogarty hasn't been able to pull away from the other championship contenders. In fact, with Scottish race ace Ryan Dalziel (#28 ProWorks) winning two of the last three events, including the latest offering on the Atlantic schedule two weeks ago in Vancouver, Fogarty has seen his lead in the championship shrink to 13 points over Dalziel (212-199) entering this weekend.

The battle between Fogarty and Dalziel has been a fun one to watch all season and it looks like it might get even more intense as the season hits its twilight. Either one driver or the other has won the last six rounds of competition with Fogarty holding the slight season edge in victories (4-3) and Dalziel pocketing a slim advantage in pole positions (4-3). With each driver possessing previous podium finishes at three of the final four races remaining in the season, the championship literally could come down to the wire.

It will be interesting to see who can gain the upper hand this weekend as the Atlantic cars stretch their collective legs at Road America for the first time since 2002. Fogarty has experienced his share of success at the track, capturing the pole and earning a second-place finish there in his championship season in 2002. Dalziel finished ninth as a rookie that year, but he's been on a roll of late and the road circuit seems suited to his European racing background.

Trailing Fogarty by just 27 points and Dalziel by a mere 14 markers for third place in the point standings, Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) also hopes to have a say in both the championship run and in Sunday's 17-lap race (68.816 miles). Patrick enjoyed one of the more remarkable drives of the season in Vancouver, rallying to finish fourth after sustaining heavy suspension damage and a cut tire early in the race. She'll be looking to take the next step up on the podium this weekend.

The series' top two rookies will also be jockeying for position on the track and in the championship at Road America. Ronnie Bremer (#4 PaySystems) currently leads the BG Products Rookie of the Year standings and trails Fogarty by 42 points in the season rundown. The Danish driver posted back-to-back podium results in the last two races and he's aiming at extending that streak. Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Charmin/Mr. Clean/Snugabye), who trails Bremer by just seven points for the top rookie honor, will be looking to bounce back from a seventh-place effort in Vancouver.

Also hoping to rebound from a hard-luck race day north of the border is 21-year-old Bryan Sellers (#19 Lynx Racing), who sits sixth in the championship. After qualifying third in Vancouver, Sellers battled mechanical demons on race day and had to retire early. He'll be anxious to turn things around in his maiden Atlantic voyage at the Road America circuit.

Coming off a fifth-place effort in Vancouver, Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports) is hoping to build on that and improve his eighth-place position in the current season standings.

Rookies Chris Festa (#25 SpacePak/CareCentric) and Josh Hunt (#15 Wright/Patton/Shakespeare/Atkinson Gore Group), who tangled with each other in Turn 1 in Vancouver and were both forced to exit early, will be looking a for a clean start Sunday and a good result at the checkered flag.

Canadian Philip Fayer (#3 PaySystems) enjoyed his best qualifying effort and scored his best Atlantic finish of sixth two weeks ago in Vancouver. He hopes the momentum carries over this week in Road America.

Also looking to build on his Vancouver result will be veteran Canadian pilot Eric Jensen (#2 Penn Capital/Konica Minolta). As a late entry, Jensen earned his top starting position of the year and tied his career-best finish of eighth last round. He'll be making his first start at Road America since 2000 this weekend.

Talented young racer Al Unser (#10 Brooks Associates Racing), son of racing legend Al Unser Jr., will also be making his first Toyota Atlantic appearance this weekend since running the season opener at Long Beach.

Rookie Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK ind./TMI/Redline Oil) will be returning to the car for Brooks Associates Racing this weekend for the first time since Round 6 in Cleveland. The Estonian first-year driver posted his best result of the season in ninth place at his last event so he also will be hoping to keep it rolling.

Another first year driver will be making his return to the track this weekend as Tony Loniewski (#34 Margay) will see his first action since running at Portland earlier this year. Loniewski will run in a C2 entry this weekend.

After racing in Vancouver for his first Atlantic competition of the season, veteran Cam Binder (#65 Avmax/Western Avionics) returns to Road America for his fifth career Atlantic start at the venue. Binder will also compete in the C2 class this weekend.

All of the Toyota Atlantic cars that will battle it out on the Road America track 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 schedule calls for the Atlantic cars to hit the track for the first time on Friday morning with practice from 9:15-9:45 a.m. CT. First-round qualifying is set for 3:15-3:45 p.m. Friday afternoon. On Saturday, the Toyota engines will roar to life for a 30-minute practice session from 9:15-9:45 a.m. The final round of qualifying will take place Saturday from 3-3:30 p.m. On race day, warm-up is scheduled for 8-8:15 a.m. Sunday morning and Round 9 of the series -- the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Championship of Road America Presented by Yokohama -- will take the green flag at 11 a.m. CT. The race is scheduled for 17 laps (68.816 miles) or 45 minutes.

SPEED Channel will provide same-day, tape-delayed television coverage of the Road America Toyota Atlantic race at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 8. The race 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.

Fast Facts

WHAT: Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Championship of Road America Presented by Yokohama

WHERE:  Road America -- Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

WHEN: Friday-Sunday, August 6-8

SCHEDULE:

Friday, Aug. 6, 2004
9:15 a.m. - 9:45 a.m. Atlantic Practice
3:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. Atlantic Qualifying

Saturday, Aug. 7, 2004
9:15 a.m. - 9:45 a.m. Atlantic Practice
3:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Atlantic Qualifying

Sunday, Aug. 8, 2004
8:00 a.m. - 8:15 a.m. Atlantic Warmup
11:00 a.m. - 11:50 a.m. Atlantic Race

2003 CHAMPION: None (first time competing at the venue since 2002)
2003 POLESITTER: None

TRACK LAYOUT:  4.048-mile permanent road course

RACE LENGTH: 17 laps (68.816 miles) or 45 minutes

TRACK RECORDS:
Qualifying (one lap) -- 2002, Jon Fogarty, 119.145 mph (2:01.110).
Race -- (one lap) 2001, Jonathan Macri, 118.779 mph (2:02.688); (17 laps) 1999, Andrew Bordin, 115.877 mph (35:37.944).

RACE ROUND: 9 of 12 in the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

NEXT EVENT: August 15, Grand Prix of Denver -- Denver, Colorado

-ccws-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Al Unser Jr. , Jon Fogarty , Tony Loniewski , Jonathan Macri , Al Unser Sr. , Alex Figge , Eric Jensen , Andrew Bordin , Ronnie Bremer , Bryan Sellers , Andrew Ranger , Philip Fayer , Chris Festa , Tonis Kasemets , Josh Hunt , Danica Patrick