ALEX BARRON LOOKS TO CLINCH ATLANTIC TITLE AT VANCOUVER VANCOUVER, B.C.. (Aug. 27) - - Four drivers remain in contention for the prestigious KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, but only Alex Barron could walk away with the ...
ALEX BARRON LOOKS TO CLINCH ATLANTIC TITLE AT VANCOUVER
VANCOUVER, B.C.. (Aug. 27) - - Four drivers remain in contention for the prestigious KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, but only Alex Barron could walk away with the championship when round 11 of the 12-race 1997 series unfolds through the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia, Saturday, August 30. The 38-lap, 64.714-mile Atlantic sprint around Vancouver's twisting 1.703-mile/2.74-km street circuit is scheduled to begin at 3:25 p.m. PT and will set the stage for the featured PPG CART World Series Molson Indy Vancouver race the following day. Series leader and four-time winner Barron holds a commanding 28-point cushion over his closest challenger and teammate, Memo Gidley, of San Rafael, Calif., 142-114. Both drivers run under the Lynx Racing banner. Any combination of finishes at Vancouver in which Barron emerges with a 22 point lead or more will eliminate Gidley from title contention and possibly bestow the 1997 KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship on the first year driver from Vista, Calif. Barron has series leading victories at Nazareth in April, Milwaukee in June, and back-to-back wins at Mid-Ohio and Road America during the past three weeks. His runner-up showings at Montreal and Cleveland complemented his third place outing at Trois-Rivieres. The truly amazing aspect of Barron's season is he didn't score a single point until the third round win at Nazareth. He opened the season with ill fortune and racer's bad luck when he finished 24th at Homestead, and then 25th place at Long Beach. Gidley has remained the most consistent driver in the scoring points throughout the season behind Barron, which includes the proverbial "cloud nine" victory in round seven at Toronto. Gidley scored back-to-back third-place outings at Milwaukee and Montreal, and also visited the podium in his Atlantic debut at Homestead. His racing resume includes bicycles, motorcycles and karts, as well as the USAC Russell Championship Series, Shelby Pro Series, Formula Ford 2000 and Barber Dodge Pro Series. Player's Forsythe Racing Team rookie sensation Bertrand Godin holds third place with 110 points. The St. Hyacinthe, Que., native jumped into the Atlantic championship picture following back-to-back wins at Montreal and Cleveland, but he also helped his cause with second place at Mid-Ohio and fourth place one race ago at Road America. Although mathematically in contention, Godin's title hopes revolve around Barron faltering such that Godin starts the season finale at Laguna Seca Raceway within 22 points of the leader.
Two-time winner Alexandre Tagliani, of Lachenaie, Que., has had an "up and down" season but he is hoping that his final two races will be on the "up" side for the Player's Forsythe Racing Ralt RT-40 that he pilots. Like Gidley and Godin, Tagliani remains in title contention but his chances for a championship shot depend upon him being within 22 points of Barron entering Laguna Seca. Tagliani won at Long Beach but didn't taste victory again until Trois-Rivieres. His fourth place 107 points makes him a definite "dark horse," but stranger outcomes have happened in racing past.
First-year Atlantic driver Joao Barbosa, of Valongo, Portugal, has been a pleasant and competitive surprise in Atlantic. Back-to-back fourth place finishes in the opening two races, fourth place at Toronto, and runner-up outings at Trois-Rivieres and Road America have solidified his position as a front-runner. The 1995 Italian Formula Europa Boxer National Champion is not in title contention, but his fifth place 94 points and subsequent gains to be made by higher finishes anoint Barbosa as a tough customer to slow down if he gets on a podium pace in his RDS Motorsport-Agip/Toyota of Portugal/Caetano Buses Ralt RT-41.
Case Montgomery, of Salinas, Calif., was the hard luck kid at Montreal where combined mechanical problems and a trackside incident contributed to a 25th place finish. Rather than becoming discouraged, he bounced back at Cleveland where he finished in second place and jump started his Atlantic crown hunt with a third place showing at Toronto. "Monty," who drives the Binder Racing-prepared Microsoft/Wall Data/Tandem/ Compaq Ralt RT-41, is sixth in the driver's championship with 88 points. 1996 U.S. Formula Ford 2000 National Champion Steve Knapp, of Salem, Wis., has shown that he can "shake and bake" around Atlantic circuits and a season best third place at Road America as proven that he could be an ultimate "spoiler" for front-running championship candidates. Knapp, who stands in seventh place with 83 points in the P1 Racing/NTN Bearings Ralt RT-41, was a four-time race winner in the 1996 U.S. Formula Ford National Championship with victories at Richmond (Va.), Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, and Las Vegas. The presence of Anthony Lazzaro, of Acworth, Ga., has lifted front running contenders to a higher level especially after the second year Atlantic driver of the Phillips Motorsports-Platinum Sound/BG Products/Budget Ralt RT-41 won at Homestead in the season opener. Accidents at Nazareth and Toronto slowed his progress, and a rain slick track at Road America kept him out of the points. Regardless, Lazzaro still stands in eighth place with 82 points. David Rutledge, of Vancouver, B.C., made his Atlantic debut at Road America and quickly impressed series observers. Rutledge qualified his B.D.J.S.-Fleming Financial/Keg Caesar's Ralt RT-41 in sixth place, and finished 11th. The "hometown" favorite would like nothing more than to notch his first Atlantic podium before friends and family. Vancouver is round four of the Player's Challenge for the KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship. A total prize fund of $70,000 (US) has been set aside for the 1997 Player's Challenge. The prize fund consists of $60,000, which will be distributed among the top-15 points leaders following races at Montreal, Toronto, Trois-Rivieres, and Vancouver, and includes a $10,000 bonus to the winner of the Player's Challenge. An additional $10,000 has been set aside for the three highest finishing Canadian drivers competing in the Canadian Atlantic races. Gidley holds the Player's Challenge lead after three rounds with 45 points. Barron is next in line with 42 points, and Tagliani is third with 38 points. Other contenders expected at the Player's Challenge for the KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship at Vancouver include Kenny Wilden, of Burlington, Ont.; Cam Binder, of Calgary, Alta.; Chris Smith, of Redondo Beach, Calif.; Jeret Schroeder, of Vineland, N.J.; Frank Allers of Coquitlam, B.C.; John Rutherford, of Fort Worth, Texas; and Michael David, of Corona, Calif. ESPN2 will broadcast the Player's Challenge for the KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship at Vancouver on Sunday, Sept. 7 from 11:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. ET. RDS (French) will telecast the race Friday, Sept. 5, at 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET. CTV will telecast the race on Saturday, Sept. 13, at 4:00 p.m. ET.