Danica fifth in Toyota chase

Roscoe native Danica Patrick, who turned 22 last month, started sixth and finished in the season-opening Toyota Atlantic Championship race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Driving the Argent Mortgage entry for Team Rahal, she was second fastest in the morning warm-up, but couldn’t overcome her third-row starting spot. She finished only 6.635 seconds behind race winner Ryan Dalziel, who started on the pole.

Dalziel, of Scotland, led every lap and beat rookie teammate Andrew Ranger by 2.009 seconds to claim his third, career victory. American Bryan Sellers finished third and Danish rookie Ronnie Bremer was fourth.

Al Unser, son of two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser Jr., was involved in an opening-lap crash with rookie Tom Nastasi. Neither was injured.

Danica finished sixth in 2003 season points, with a best finish of second at Miami. She became the first woman in Toyota Atlantic history to finish on the podium with a third-place performance at Monterrey, Mexico.

Last year at Long Beach, Patrick qualified 10th and finished 14th after crashing in Turn 1 on lap 19. She won the Pro Division of the Toyota Pro-Celebrity race at Long Beach in 2002.

Danica’s new teammate, 18-year-old Chris Festa, was 11th, one lap down. Both will run the full season for Team Rahal.

All cars are Swifts, and all teams competing for the overall series title must use Toyota 4A-GE engines prepared by Hasselgren Engineering Inc. of Berkeley, Calif. Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc. and the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama have agreed to extend their title sponsorship deal through the end of the 2005 season.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!