A clash between Michael Valiante and points leader A.J. Allmendinger on the first green flag lap left Allmendinger out of the ninth round of the 2003 Toyota Atlantic Championship, while Valiante was able to continue and lead the remainder of the race en route to his second win of the season and the fifth win of his Toyota Atlantic career in the Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio.

After a yellow start due to improper field alignment, the field took the green flag on Lap 2 and Allmendinger, who started from the pole, led cleanly into the first turn. Meanwhile, Valiante got the jump on third place starter Ryan Dalziel and outside polesitter Aaron Justus to move into second in the first turn and closed in on Allmendinger heading into the second turn.

Valiante moved to the inside of Allmendinger in the turn and his right front wing and tire made contact with the left rear of Allmendinger's car, sending the RuSPORT machine off course and into the tire barrier. Valiante was able to continue in the lead despite the contact, but Allmendinger's car was terminally damaged and he was out of the race almost as soon as it began. Allmendinger was not injured in the incident.

From that point on, Valiante maintained at least a half-second gap over Dalziel, who assumed second position after the second lap scrum, and went on to take a 0.672-second victory over the Scot. It was Valiante's first win since taking the season-opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. It was also his second consecutive podium finish after a third place performance at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres last weekend, and was his seventh top-four result in eight starts this season.

The Canadian born Lynx Racing driver did not compete in the Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in June due to an illness, a situation that has prevented him from mounting an effective title challenge to the previously rampant Allmendinger.

"I was able to get a really good start on Aaron (Justus) and A.J. (Allmendinger), and going into Turn 1, I got along the outside of I think it was maybe Ryan (Dalziel) and A.J., because Ryan was beside me," explained Valiante. "We went through the first turn side-by-side, and I thought for sure that A.J. knew I was on the inside of him because we started going up the hill.

"A.J. and I have raced really clean in the last few races, and we went up the hill and I don't think he actually saw me. He started to come down, and I didn't have anywhere to go and we touched. Obviously, it was disappointing, because I think our cars were great in the race, and I think we would have had a good battle. Unfortunately, that's racing. We touched, I was on the inside and he was on the outside. Aside from that, the race was great.

"We've been working really hard all year long and been improving the car at each race. My team did a great job, and I really have to give it to them. It's been difficult because A.J. and Aaron and the RuSPORT team have been really competitive every single weekend. It makes it tough, but like Ryan said, our cars were great in the race, and I think we could have mounted a challenge on both of them."

With a second place finish, Dalziel gained considerably in the chase for the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. After coming into the race trailing Allmendinger by 36 points, Dalziel is now just 20 points in arrears of the rookie points leader with three races remaining on the schedule. It was Dalziel's second consecutive second place finish, and was his sixth podium finish of the season. It was also his sixth podium in the past seven races and his 10th top-five result in the past 11 races dating to the Montreal event in 2002.

In order to keep his second place result, however, Dalziel was forced to hold off a hard charging Justus over the closing laps. On a few occasions, Justus took a look to Dalziel's inside but was unable to complete the pass every time. As a result, Justus settled for a third place trophy and took his second podium finish in the past three races.

"I think looking back at Toronto, like Aaron (Justus) said, we checked a lot of the field on what we'd try for the race, and Michael (Valiante) and I had the same strategy today," stated Dalziel, who revived his flagging Championship hopes with a fifth podium finish this season. "I think it was clear that whoever was going to get in the lead between the two us, I think, would have stayed there. I think our car early on was very strong, but unfortunately Michael and I were running such similar aero set-ups that it was pretty impossible for me to get a run on him.

"On the whole, I think second is really, really important for me. A.J. (Allmendinger), obviously, coming off in the first lap has narrowed the gap down to, I believe, 20 points now. We always said we're not going to give up the fight and I think we proved that today. We fought hard and I think, even if A.J. had come on, Michael and I had a better strategy in the race, and I'm pretty sure the outcome would have been similar."

While Justus was breathing down the backside of Dalziel, Joey Hand closed in on the battle for second toward the end of the race. Like Justus, however, Hand was unable to make a move and picked up his second straight fourth place finish, and his third top-five result of the season.

"I was concerned that (the start) was going to be a problem," continued Justus. "I haven't started here at Mid-Ohio since '99, and definitely haven't started here in one of these cars. After watching Toronto and some of the other races, I felt a little vulnerable being on the front row. The first start came by and I thought maybe A.J. (Allmendinger) and I would go a little early. I think it was pretty clear. I went way early. Once I realized that happened I had to just carry it out or I would have been in big trouble.

"At the start, the draft was huge and A.J. and I were punching a big hole in the air, and everybody went around. It was inevitable. The result wasn't as bad as it was looking. Unfortunately, the incident with A.J. took him out, but we maintained that position. The cars between myself, Michael (Valiante) and Ryan (Dalziel), we were so close. Any time I'd get up behind him, the aero push was tremendous. It was very difficult to have to find the right gap that you could still get an adequate run, but have enough air over the wings to handle properly. That's the way the race shaped up. I noticed Ryan's car was fading a little bit, and we were staying pretty solid, but the opportunity was still difficult to take."

Canadian Jonathan Macri turned the fastest lap in the race at 1:16.405 (106.391 mph) en route to a fifth place finish. It was Macri's seventh top five result in nine starts this season, and he has not failed to finish outside the top-eight positions this season. He and second-year competitor Alex Garcia are the only two drivers to have been running at the finish of every Toyota Atlantic event so far in 2003.

Getting back to Allmendinger, the early incident and the 17th place result ended his winning streak at three consecutive races. Despite the fact that Allmendinger was not running at the finish, only the top five drivers in the point standings remain in contention heading into the final three events of the season. Hand, Danica Patrick, and Alex Figge were mathematically eliminated from the championship following Sunday's race, and Luis Diaz was eliminated from the championship after Allmendinger swept both bonus points for being the fastest qualifier in both of the weekend's qualifying sessions.

Bryan Sellers enjoyed the best weekend of his young CART Toyota Atlantic Championship career, as he started and finished a career-best sixth. Sellers has established career-best finishes in each of his first four Toyota Atlantic starts. Diaz came home with a seventh place result after qualifying eighth, and was followed across the stripe by Figge in eighth position. Kyle Krisiloff was ninth, and Patrick took her seventh top-10 result in nine races this season with a 10th place performance.