LAZZARO POSTS SECOND-STRAIGHT WIRE-TO-WIRE VICTORY AT GATEWAY'S MOTOROLA 300 WEEKEND MADISON, Ill., May 29, 1999 -- Anthony Lazzaro dominated his second straight oval Saturday at Round 3 of the KOOL/Toyota ...
LAZZARO POSTS SECOND-STRAIGHT WIRE-TO-WIRE VICTORY AT GATEWAY'S MOTOROLA 300 WEEKEND
MADISON, Ill., May 29, 1999 -- Anthony Lazzaro dominated his second straight oval Saturday at Round 3 of the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship at Gateway International Raceway, but it was the race-long fight for second place that kept the fans on their feet. Eventually, David Rutledge drafted past Alex Tagliani, then Sam Hornish, Jr., to score his highest Atlantic finish.
For Lazzaro, the Acworth, Ga., driver of the #25 PPI-MCI WorldCom Swift, it was his seventh Atlantic career victory and it increased his early lead in the driver's championship to 25 points. Lazzaro now leads Tagliani by a 60-35 points margin. Lazzaro beat Rutledge by 1.762 seconds en route to his fifth Atlantic victory in the last seven outings, stretching back to last season.
Tagliani, in the Player's-Forsythe/Indeck Swift, battled Hornish, Jr., the Michael Shank Racing-APC/Hornish Bros. rookie driver, for most of the race's 50 laps, while Rutledge, of W. Vancouver, B.C., settled back in fourth position.
"During the first part of the race, we fell back as far as eighth, but we were then able to make it up to fourth right before a yellow flag was brought out, due to an accident in turn two," said Rutledge, who picked up the $1,000 "Yokohama Now You've Got Control" award. "After the yellow, I hooked up with the two cars in front of me, Hornish and Tagliani. With four laps to go, the two cars in front of me were fighting it out, causing them to slow down exiting corner four. With this opportunity, I slung-shot by both cars going into turn one."
Hornish, Jr., ran as high as second for 12 of the 50 laps before finishing his series' high fourth. Nicolas Rondet, in the WorldSpeed Motorsports-Red Line Oil/Martini Sunglasses Swift, picked up an Atlantic career best fifth.
"It's too early in the championship to talk about dominating the season, but it's great to be leading," said Lazzaro, who also earned his fourth Toyota Pole Award and it's $1,000 bonus. "My goal in the race was to get out in the lead early and build an advantage in the first laps. I was aware of the gap between me and the rest of the field, so I kept my pace up to maintain the gap. My race pace was 30.7 seconds, so I tried to keep it consistent and just cruise at that pace, lap after lap."
Mike Conte, the Seattle driver in the Lynx Racing-Black and White Design Swift, had an up-and-down weekend, but managed to finish eighth after starting at the back of the pack. In Friday's practice, Conte hit the wall after posting the second-fastest time of the session, and was unable to qualify.
Perhaps reigning champion Lee Bentham suffered the worst luck during the weekend, though. Bentham, who qualified fourth, had contact with David Besnard in Saturday's noon warm-up, ruining his and Besnard's cars for the weekend. Bentham attempted to start from the back of the pack, using Cam Binder's back-up car, and managed to roll out from the grid, but never made it through the initial pace lap. Electrical problems ended Bentham's day before his race started. Consequently, Bentham slipped to seventh in the championship.
Andrew Bordin, in the PPI-Player's/Thyssen/Millennium Data Swift, started second and held the position for the first 25 laps, but overheating problems slowly dropped him to a seventh-place finish.
Rutledge, who moved into a third-place tie with Buddy Rice in the points chase at 28, matched Lazzaro's top race-lap speed at 30.320 seconds (150.792 mph), giving both Rutledge and Lazzaro co-ownership of the MCI WorldCom "Fast Pace Award."
ESPN2 will televise Saturday's KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship race at Gateway on Saturday, June 5, at 3 p.m., with repeat broadcasts on Tuesday, June 8, at 5 a.m., and Friday, June 11, at 4 a.m. ESPN International will telecast the race on Saturday, June 5, at 3 p.m. The Canadian French-speaking RDS network will broadcast the Gateway race on Saturday, June 5. All times are Eastern. Canadian broadcaster CTV is airing the race on Tuesday, June 8, at 8 p.m. in all local markets.
Round 4 of the 1999 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held Saturday, June 5, at the Miller Lite 225 at the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis.