Canadian Michael Valiante returns to the site of his first career Toyota Atlantic triumph this weekend, as the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship makes its 20th appearance at the famed Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Valiante, who opened his 2003 season with victory for Lynx Racing in the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix on 23 March, heads the field for the Argent Mortgage Company Toyota Atlantic Race on Sunday, and enters the weekend looking to extend Lynx Racing's winning streak at Long Beach to three, dating to a victory by David Rutledge in 2001. Last year, Valiante started third and claimed the lead from Dorricott Racing driver Alex Gurney with nine laps remaining and sped off to a 2.812-second victory.

The win proved to be a catalyst for Valiante's season, as he went on to record two additional victories en route to second place in the final 2002 championship standings. By virtue of his success at Long Beach last year and his 2003 season-opening victory, Valiante clearly rates among the favourites this weekend.

Among the drivers who will push the Canadian for victory this weekend will be third-year Toyota Atlantic competitor Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports). Last year, Hand took his second career Toyota Atlantic pole position at Long Beach, but did not lead a lap and retired after ten laps due to contact. He was also strong throughout the 2003
season-opening weekend in Monterrey, claiming the provisional pole and dominating the time charts before a mechanical failure eliminated him from the race after nine laps. Nevertheless, Hand's showing in Monterrey served notice that he will be a force to be reckoned with throughout the 2003 championship.

After finishing second to Valiante in Monterrey, Canadian Jonathan Macri (Polestar) will also be among the favourites in Long Beach. Macri will be looking to collect his first career Toyota Atlantic race winner's paycheck after finishing second four times in his career.

Likewise, the third-place finisher in Monterrey, Danica Patrick (Team Rahal) enters Long Beach with extra incentive to win as the sponsor on her car is also the title sponsor of the race. Patrick already has one victory on the streets of Long Beach under her belt, as she took the Pro Division of the Toyota pro-celebrity race in 2002.

Two drivers who showed blazing speed in Monterrey but did not get the results they had hoped for were Dorricott Racing driver Luis Diaz and rookie AJ Allmendinger (RuSPORT). Diaz took his second consecutive Monterrey pole position, but was eliminated from contention for the victory shortly after the green flag dropped on the race due to contact from behind by Allmendinger, who started third.

After being forced to pit with a punctured tyre, Diaz responded by turning the race's fastest lap late in the running en route to a tenth place result. Allmendinger, meanwhile, suffered a damaged front wing and battled the car to an eighth place result. Both drivers enter Long Beach looking to put the Monterrey disappointment behind them.

Others to watch this weekend will be Scotland's Ryan Dalziel (Sierra Sierra Racing), Aaron Justus (RuSPORT), and Santa Barbara's Alex Figge (Pacific Coast Motorsports/Patrick Racing).

Dalziel comes into the Long Beach weekend riding a three-race streak in which he has finished inside the top four positions and includes his first career Toyota Atlantic pole position, which he achieved at the 2002 season finale in Denver. The Scot finished fourth in the 2003 season opener in Monterrey. Justus finished a Toyota Atlantic career best of fifth in Monterrey and has finished inside the top-ten in three of his four career starts in the series. Figge, meanwhile, qualified third on the provisional starting grid in Monterrey before slipping to eighth after final qualifying. He rebounded to equal his career best Toyota Atlantic performance with a sixth place showing.

This weekend will see the return of long-time Toyota Atlantic competitors P-1 Racing to the series with Trois-Rivieres native Stephan Roy in the cockpit. Roy has made three previous appearances at Long Beach, earning a best finish of sixth last year. Others with previous Long Beach experience in the field are owner/driver Eric Jensen Team Jensen), who earned his first career Toyota Atlantic points in Monterrey; and Alex Garcia (Transnet Racing), who finished 15th in his inaugural Long Beach event last year.

Through an agreement with Polestar Atlantic, Dan Selznick makes his CART Toyota Atlantic Championship debut this weekend, bringing with him previous experience in SCCA Formula Atlantic competition.

Others making their first Long Beach appearance will be Canadian Marc DeVellis (Sierra Sierra Racing), who earned championship points for the third time in four career series starts with a seventh place run in the Monterrey season opener; Philip Fayer (Team Jensen), who finished 13th in his series debut in Monterrey last month; and Kyle Krisiloff (Cameron Motorsports), who owns points-paying finishes in three of seven career Toyota Atlantic starts.

Officials from the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach announced last week that Argent Mortgage Company has signed-on to be the title sponsor of the second round of the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship.

This weekend's Argent Mortgage Company Toyota Atlantic race marks the 20th time that the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship has raced at the glamorous street circuit. The first race for the series at Long Beach was held in conjunction with the F1 event in 1978 and was won by future Champ Car competitor Howdy Holmes. Other notable winners of Atlantic events at Long Beach include Tom Gloy (1979-80), who went on to become a champion in Trans-Am, future Champ Car driver and IMSA GTP champion Geoff Brabham (1981-82), and future Champ Car competitors Hiro Matsushita (1989), '96 Champ Car champion Jimmy Vasser (1991), Richie Hearn (1994), Alex Tagliani (1997 and '99), and Memo Gidley (1998).

Among the drivers who have won pole positions for Atlantic events at Long Beach are three-time Champ Car champion Bobby Rahal (1978), eventual Champ Car race winner Kevin Cogan (1979), future Champ Car competitors and IMSA champions Brabham (1981) and Willy T Ribbs (1982), two-time Champ Car race winner Scott Goodyear (1989), Vasser (1991), 1995 Champ Car titleist and '97 Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve (1993), '99 Indy Racing League champion Greg Ray (1994), and eventual Champ Car driver Hearn (1995).