Ryan Dalziel maintained his lead in the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship despite being taken off on the run to turn one on the opening lap of the Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix support race on Sunday, but had to thank quick work by his pit-crew and a stirring drive through the pack.

A charging performance from the 22-year old pole-winner saw him recover to set the fastest lap of the race and take the chequered flag in eighth place, his points haul ensuring he continues to lead the series heading to round three at Milwaukee in a fortnight.

Prior to the race, Dalziel had been the class of the field, fastest throughout practice and both qualifying sessions, and was hoping for a seventh consecutive podium appearance and another win from pole to echo his Long Beach performance last month. However, it wasn't to be for last year's series runner-up as he was collected by an over-ambitious move from his fellow front-row starter Bryan Sellers under braking for the first corner.

The subsequent collision severely damaged the #28 Sierra Sierra entry, forcing Dalziel to head back to pit-road for immediate repairs. His crew worked frantically to rectify the damage, doing what they could under the caution period, including replacing the front nose and slapping a brand new set of tyres on the stricken car.

Exiting the pits well behind the pack, Dalziel's recovery drive was impressive, quickly catching up to the tail of the field and then climbing to eighth by the end of the 32-lap race. Despite the damage and resulting handling problems, the Scot broke the lap record, earning him a valuable bonus point in the process.

"I said earlier this weekend just how important being able to score points is, and I think today's a good example of this," Dalziel said after the race, "Thanks to some great team work in the pits, I was able to get back into the race and come away from the weekend still leading the championship.

"The extra point for fastest lap is another positive, as we had the quickest car throughout the event. Needless to say, I'm now looking forward to competing at The Milwaukee Mile and, as defending champion, I'm settling for nothing less than a return to the top step."

Dalziel leads the standings with 52 points, ahead of Rocky Moran Jr, Danica Patrick and Ronnie Bremer, all of whom have 46.

 

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