As the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship begins its second half of the season this weekend at the Molson Indy Toronto, the chase for the Championship trophy is still up in the air. The top seven drivers in the battle are separated by a mere 19 ...
As the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship begins its second half of the season this weekend at the Molson Indy Toronto, the chase for the Championship trophy is still up in the air. The top seven drivers in the battle are separated by a mere 19 points along with 30 points covering the top 10.
Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) leads the Championship by one point over Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) heading into the Round 7 event at the 1.755-mile track at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Since joining the CART Toyota Atlantic schedule in 1990, the Toronto race has become a tradition; and is regarded as one of the most favorite stops during the season. The Toronto race is also the first of three events to be held in Canada this year. August will see the Championship return for events in Trois-Rivieres and Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
With the Championship in such a close battle, each race from here on out will be critical to a team's Championship hopes. Dorricott Racing's prior knowledge of some circuits run during the first half of the season has worked to its advantage, placing all three of their drivers in the top seven spots in the Championship standings. Although races at Monterrey, Mexico and Portland were new to the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship this season, Dorricott Racing had competed at these venues before while running in the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship. It is not surprising that both of Dorricott's wins this season car on those two tracks. The remaining four tracks raced during the first-half of the season were also stops on the Indy Lights tour in years past. However, the second-half of this season won't hold the same advantage. Toronto will be the last familiar track that Dorricott Racing will see for the remainder of the season. Events in Cleveland, Trois-Rivieres, Road America, Montreal, and Denver will all be new circuits for the 2001 Dayton Indy Lights Championship team.
Lynx Racing won in Toronto last year with Canadian driver, David Rutledge. In fact, Canadian drivers have posted wins the three past races on the streets of Toronto. Before Rutledge's win here in 2001, fellow Canadians, Andrew Bordin and Alex Tagliani captured victories. This year's favorite to keep the Canadian streak alive should be Lynx Racing's Michael Valiante, who finished sixth here last year. That result could have been better for him and Martin Basso, but the two made contact with each other late in the race knocking them both out of contention for the win. Local driver, Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Swift/Miller Genuine Draft/Battlefield Equipment Rentals Swift 014.a) has been knocking on the door for a victory since he joined the series last year. At the mid-point of the season, Macri stands ninth in the Championship with 47 points, 27 behind Fogarty and has posted two podium finishes this year including his runner-up finish at Portland three weeks ago. Stephan C. Roy (BBGP Racing/Playstation 2/Betonusa.net/Stereo Plus Swift 014.a) is the third Canadian hope to continue the winning streak.
Following the Round 2 event at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Hylton Motorsports duo of Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Medlock Ames Winery/Autobytel/U.S. Print Swift 014.a) and Roger Yasukawa (Hylton Motorsports/Autobacs/U.S. Print Swift 014.a) were nowhere to be seen in the top 10 in points. Yasukawa missed the season opener in Monterrey, Mexico; and first lap incidents in both of the first two races left Hunter-Reay with zero points. Things have changed drastically since that point for the 2001 Championship team. Yasukawa took the checkered flag at Milwaukee while Hunter-Reay became the first driver to gain multiple wins this season with victories at Laguna Seca and Chicago. The pair are now in the thick of the Championship battle with Yasukawa in third place with 67 points, 7 behind Fogarty, and Hunter-Reay in fifth with 59 points, 15 behind Fogarty.
Fogarty not only has to worry about the chase from other teams, but his own teammates as well. Mexico's Luis Diaz (Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a) moved up to fourth place following the Chicago race and now stands with 60 points in the Championship. Diaz won his first career Atlantic race at Portland which propelled him up to fifth place at that point. A solid 6th place run at Chicago last week has kept him in the hunt. Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a) holds seventh in the Championship with 55 points and is the only driver on the team that has raced on some of the tracks on the upcoming schedule. Gurney raced in the Atlantic Championship in 1999 and 2000 before moving to Europe to test his metal there. Gurney's knowledge of upcoming tracks could prove valuable to Dorricott's Championship effort.
Rocky Moran Jr. (Sigma Autosport Swift 014.a) remains in contention tied with Hunter-Reay at 59 points. The 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic All-Star is the highest point holder in the Championship without a win this season. The pressure to win is mounting for Moran Jr. and the rest of the drivers who are trailing the lead five in points.
Michael Shank Racing has two drivers in the top ten in points, and like Moran Jr., they need some solid results in the next few races to stay in contention for the Championship. Both drivers have posted runner-up finishes this season and are looking to give their owner his first win since Martin Basso won at the Milwaukee Mile in 2000. Mexico's Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona/Modelo Swift 014.a) holds eighth in the Championship with 50 points posting his runner-up finish on the oval in Milwaukee. Scotland's Ryan Dalziel (Michael Shank Racing Swift 014.a) nearly swiped the season opening Mexico win from Fogarty and currently stands tenth in the Championship with 44 points.
The Scuadra Fortia team will enter the second half of the season with some momentum on their side after Waldemar Coronas (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa/Royse/Maizoro/Millenio Swift 014.a) stormed through the field from his 16th place start spot and posted the teams first career top five finish last week in Chicago. It was a huge result for the team considering that they had no equipment or cars six weeks before the season started and neither of the drivers had ever raced on an oval before. The downside for Coronas and his teammate, Eduardo Figueroa (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa/Royse/Maizoro/Millenio Swift 014.a), is that they are on a unfamiliar city street circuit this week and will have to learn the track quickly to keep the momentum going.
Joey Hand entered the 2002 season as one of the favorites to take the Championship. The season started with a podium finish in Montrerry, Mexico and a pole at Long Beach. However, those hopes faded after injuries sustained in a testing accident at Milwaukee sidelined Hand until August. Owner, Dede Rogers tapped 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Champion, Buddy Rice (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a) to fill the seat for DSTP, but the team has failed to regain the form that earned them the 2000 Championship. Things looked like they were turning around in Chicago when Rice qualified fourth, but a failing battery on the car during the race knocked Rice out of a top ten finish. Both Toronto and Cleveland are tracks that Rice and DSTP Motorsports have had success on in the past, so it would not be surprising to find them back on the podium in the next two races.
Joining the Atlantic Championship this weekend will be Kyle Krisiloff (21st Century Technology/U.S. Grand Prix/Patrick Racing Swift 014.a) from Indianapolis, Indiana. Krisiloff, 18, is the son of Steve Krisiloff, who raced in CART Champcars and is now Director of Operations for Patrick Racing.
Jon Fogarty leads the Rookie of the Year battle 74-67 over Roger Yasukawa
Fogarty is attempting to become the first driver to win the season opening race and go on to win a Championship since Mark Dismore did it in 1990.
Fogarty and Valiante are tied at 50 in road course Championship points. Fogarty leads the oval points by one via his pole in Chicago. Next highest in road course points is Rocky Moran Jr. with 48.
Ryan Hunter-Reay owns three $1000 WorldCom Fast Pace Awards this season. (Long Beach, Milwaukee, & Chicago)
Valiante and Rodolfo Lavin are the only two drivers to complete every lap run so far this season (266)
Six of the top eight drivers in laps completed are veterans to the Atlantic Championship.
Rookies have won five of the first six races. Also five of six poles belong to rookie drivers.
Hunter-Reay has led the most laps this season. (128) Diaz is second. (40)
P-1 Racing's David Cutler made his 50th career Atlantic start last weekend in Chicago.
Last year's race at Toronto set an Atlantic record in shortest race time. 43:36.256 which was won by David Rutledge.
The longest Toronto race was in 1992 at 60:38.472 won by David Empringham.