Rice deserves a shot at a Champ Car ride
Autocourse CART Yearbook 1999-2000
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Others by Mark
This guy is good and he showed it again last Sunday! 24-year old American Buddy Rice literally dominated the sixth round of the 12-race 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship at the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland, the featured support event of the CART FedEx Championship weekend. Rice took the lead from his third place starting position on the first turn of the one-lap-delayed start and never looked back, leading a total of 31 out of 32 laps and setting a new course record.
In fact Rice has pretty much dominated this year's Toyota Atlantic series leading 161 of the 201 laps he has completed. In his 6 starts he has 3 wins, 1 pole and 2 fastest race laps, He sits atop the points standings. He won in Homestead in March, he won by a wide margin in Long Beach, and did so again in Cleveland last weekend.
I met Buddy for the first time this weekend in Cleveland and immediately I noticed how confident and sure of himself this young man is. All the great drivers seem to exhibit that quality. And while sometimes these great drivers may seem a bit aloof, that was not the case with Buddy. He is a sponsors dream, friendly, personable, and a very good communicator. And he's aggressive.....behind the wheel where it counts.
His goal is to drive Champ cars and you can sense he knows he can do it. He's just waiting for the chance to prove himself. I asked him if he felt he needed to take the next step up the ladder to Indy Lights first. Almost before I could finish asking the question he was saying "no, from what I have learned in Atlantics, I'm ready now." I've been in Toyota Atlantics for three years and guys like Tagliani, Alex Barron and Memo Gidley have proven that you can move up from Atlantics to Champ cars and run well.
He met success in racing right from the start. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, his racing roots began in go-karts at age 11 where he won multiple championships including two IKF Grand National and seven regional titles. From there, with the help of family, friends, and baseball Hall of Famer Robin Yount, Buddy stepped up to the US F2000 National Championship in 1996, and captured the attention of Lynx Racing after putting his 6-year old car on the front row for his first professional race.
Buddy joined with DSTP Motorsports for the 1997 US F2000 season in a Lynx Racing supported entry scoring one win, five podiums and two pole poles en route to fourth in the championship. In 1998 he moved up to the Lynx Racing Toyota Atlantic team and in his first year captured one win, two poles, four podiums and was seventh overall despite missing the final race due to an emergency appendectomy. In the 1999 Atlantic season he finished 5th overall despite a series of mid-season mishaps and mechanical failures that took him out of contention for the championship. His goal is to keep on improving by winning the championship this year with the new DSTP team.
Buddy's on track performance has led to special off track recognition including the 1997 Valvoline Team USA Scholarship where he represented the USA in Europe's prestigious Nation's Cup, as well as the Gilles Villeneuve (1998) and Michael Rosen Memorial (1999) awards, presented by the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship.
Last year he almost left for Europe to compete in F3000. Instead people talked him into staying in the USA to show what he can do. This young American has all the right tools to be a winning driver in Champ Cars. Now all he needs is that chance for a test to show people what he can do. CART Champ Car owners - don't let this one get away!
To listen to our interview with Buddy Rice (Real Audio format) click here. It was recorded just before he went out and won the race in Cleveland.
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