DETROIT (March 13, 2002) - The CART Driver
Development Ladder System got off to an exciting start to the 2002
racing season under its newly-established alignment this past weekend,
with CART Toyota Atlantic Championship action in Fundidora Park in
Monterrey, Mexico and a double race weekend for the Formula Dodge
National Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.
In CART Toyota Atlantic action from Monterrey, American Jon Fogarty
earned his first career Atlantic win on a rain soaked track Saturday,
capping a remarkable first weekend of CART Toyota Atlantic Competition
for both Fogarty and Dorricott Racing. Both the team and the driver
moved to Atlantic after competing in the Dayton Indy Lights
Championship. Fogarty fought past Mexican crowd favorite and teammate
Luis Diaz on the sixth lap and built a substantial lead.
However, when Fogarty encountered traffic late in the race, Scottish
driver Ryan Dalziel lopped off several seconds and closed right up to
Fogarty's gearbox as the race reached its conclusion. In the end,
Dalziel came up just short, and Fogarty emerged with a 0.884-second
victory. While Fogarty and Dorricott Racing took their first Atlantic
win on this day, Dalziel acquitted himself well in his first race with
Atlantic stalwarts Michael Shank Racing.
"I really enjoyed the wet," commented Fogarty, who's last professional
win came with the Barber Dodge Pro Series at Mid-Ohio in 2000. "It's
kind of an improvisational game in wet weather with looking for grip and
adapting to changing conditions. You're racing more by feel than
anything else at times. Early, it was slippery everywhere but once it
began to dry, certain portions were better than others."
"The rain didn't bother me so much," added Dalziel. "It rains every day
in Scotland, so maybe I had an advantage. (Team owner) Mike (Shank) gave
me a car that was very good."
Joey Hand-the 2001 Atlantic Rookie of the Year and one of the favorites
to win the 2002 title--finished third despite several incidents,
including contact with other drivers and trips off track through the
Fundidora Park grass. Hand's adventure began early with first lap
contact between himself and rookie (and former Barber Dodge Pro Series
standout) Ryan Hunter Reay. After several other off-course excursions,
Hand and Alex Gurney came together on Lap 20, which resulted in a
severely bent left front wing. Nevertheless, Hand persevered and was
rewarded with a podium result.
Canadian Michael Valiante followed up a strong 2001 partial season run
with a fourth place finish. Polesitter Diaz finished fifth but gathered
two valuable bonus points for being the fastest in both qualifying
Showing the effectiveness and strength of the CART Ladder System, 11 of
the 24 drivers in Saturday's race are graduates of the Barber Dodge Pro
In Monterey, Calif., meanwhile, a set of maiden victories was the story
of the weekend during Rounds 1 and 2 of the Formula Dodge National
Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. With a large number of
rookies in the field, Grant Maiman and Burt Frisselle--two of the most
experienced drivers--were able to fight changing track conditions and an
extremely competitive field to capture their first wins.
Frisselle, whose father is 1975 IMSA GTU Champion and 1977 12 Hours of
Sebring Champion Brad Frisselle, qualified on the pole position for
Saturday's Round 1, and held the lead on the opening lap, with Maiman
and 2001 CART Stars of Tomorrow Champion Scott Speed following closely.
Friselle held the point until Lap 2 when a miscue heading into the
famous Corkscrew turn allowed Maiman to sneak past.
Frisselle then battled to keep Speed at bay for the next few laps,
before Speed squeezed by in a daring wheel-to-wheel move in Turn 2.
Despite a last lap effort by Speed and Frisselle, Maiman was able to
hold on for his first victory. As they took the checkered flag, the top
three were separated by only 3 tenths of a second. San Clemente, Calif.
native Justin Blower and Al Unser, whose father is two-time Indy 500
winner and CART FedEx Championship Series champion Al Unser, Jr.,
battled hard to round out the top five.
Round 2 on Sunday brought a bit of a mystery. Qualifying in the morning
was conducted during a rain shower and with visibility hampered and
track conditions being slick, an adventurous, 30-minute qualifying
session ensued. At the end, with many drivers spending time in the Mazda
Raceway Laguna Seca grass and gravel pits, Frisselle once again captured
the pole position.
Whatever comfort the drivers gained during qualifying was lost when the
green flag dropped for the second 17-lap race. While rain had been the
story during qualifying, the skies had since cleared to make way for the
sun and a quickly drying race track. Drivers were forced to abandon
their previous rain setups and make a judgment call as to what would
allow them to be fast in the combined wet and dry conditions.
Frisselle and Unser were able to make those changes work to their
advantage. Frisselle dominated from the point and unlike the previous
day, he had no intention of giving up the lead. Unser charged up from
his fifth place starting position to challenge Maiman for second place,
and he succeeded in securing it on lap 12. The battle for second allowed
Frisselle to pull away and easily score his first career FNDC victory.
Unser finished second, with Saturday's winner Maiman finishing third.
Californian Robbie Montinola and Canadian Barber CART Karting
Scholarship winner Ward Imrie rounded out the top five. While Frisselle
scored an uncharacteristic wide margin of victory, Unser, Maiman and
Montinola were separated by less than a second at the line.
Frisselle and Maiman both earned first and third place finishes during
the weekend but Frisselle left Monterey with the points lead by virtue
of his two pole positions.
"I definitely think my past experience helped here this weekend,"
commented Frisselle, a San Diego University student. "Like everyone
else, I wanted to make certain we started the season strong and having a
fair amount of seat time at Laguna gave me an extra edge. I wouldn't
want to be in any other spot (than in the points lead). Obviously, there
is a little bit of pressure since I am now the guy everyone wants beat
but I plan on keeping the lead."
"I absolutely believe this is a good omen for 2002," added Maiman, a
Wisconsin native who now calls Daytona Beach, Fla. home. "It doesn't get
a whole lot better. Certainly, I would have liked to have won both
races, but this puts me in a good position for the season. Now, I am
just looking forward to Fontana and equally positive results."
The Barber Dodge Pro Series, the "Official Entry Level Professional
Series of CART," kicks off its 17th season of competition this weekend
at the prestigious 50th Annual 12 Hours of Sebring. The Pro Series cars
will take to the track on Wednesday for initial practice, with 1st and
2nd round qualifying on Thursday and Friday. The BDPS field will take
the green flag on Saturday morning, just prior to the start of the
American LeMans Series 12 Hour Race.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will race next as part of the
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 12-14. 2001 Toyota Atlantic
Champion Hoover Orsi is the defending winner while Joey Hand is the top
returning driver from last year's Long Beach race.
Rounds 3 and 4 of the Formula Dodge National Championship will be at
California Speedway, April 11-13, in conjunction with the Champ Car
weekend at Long Beach. It is an inaugural event.
Toyota Atlantic Championship Formula Dodge National Championship
(Through Round 1 of 12) (Through Round 2 of 13)
1. Jon Fogarty 21 points 1. Burt Fisselle 36 points
2. Ryan Dalziel 16 points 2. Grant Maiman 34 points
3. Joey Hand 14 points 3. Al Unser 27 points
4. Luis Diaz 13 points 4. Scott Speed 25 points
5. Michael Valiante 12 points 5. Robbie Montinola 21 points
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