BENTHAM TAKES OVER LEAD EARLY, ROLLS TO SECOND VICTORY OF SEASON AT MID-OHIO LEXINGTON, Ohio. -- Player's-Forsythe Racing cruised to its fourth victory in the last five races Sunday at Mid-Ohio as Lee Bentham won his second straight ...
BENTHAM TAKES OVER LEAD EARLY, ROLLS TO SECOND VICTORY OF SEASON AT MID-OHIO
LEXINGTON, Ohio. -- Player's-Forsythe Racing cruised to its fourth victory in the last five races Sunday at Mid-Ohio as Lee Bentham won his second straight KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship race, increasing his lead in the championship after nine of 13 rounds.
Bentham, of Richmond Hill, Ont., was running second to teammate and polesitter Alex Tagliani after four laps but inherited the lead when Tagliani suffered mechanical problems, dropping Tagliani out of the race. Though Bentham cruised to a 9.211-second margin of victory over runner-up Buddy Rice of Lynx Racing, Bentham had to overcome the sometimes sweltering heat that aggravated his week-long head cold en route to his seventh straight top-five finish. For his effort, Bentham earned the $20,000 winner's share of the guaranteed $85,000 race purse and increased his point total to 121.
"The race seemed easy, but the fact that there were no yellow flags made it a long and trying one," said Bentham. "This cold has let up a little and I felt a little better before the race. I had to keep it consistent, then I saw Alex go off (the track), so I had to focus on Buddy. I just wanted to get as far ahead as possible in case I ran into traffic later."
Tagliani, of Lachenaie, Que., was within a point of Bentham in the championship after gaining the point for Saturday's pole position. Tagliani led the field for the first four laps before something gave way in the rear of his car, forcing him temporarily off the course and allowing Bentham into the lead. Gearbox troubles eventually led Tagliani to an early exit. Lynx Racing's Memo Gidley, of Novato, Calif., appeared on the charge early, but gearbox problems ended his day as well. Gidley was just two points behind Bentham heading into the race. Consequently, Bentham has built a 22-point cushion on Tagliani and 23 points ahead of Gidley.
Rice, however, brought a ray of sunshine to Lynx Racing, collecting his fifth top-three finish of the year, holding the second spot on the track for most of the race. Rice, along with teammate Gidley, switched to the Swift chassis at round six at Cleveland, but the tandem has struggled to keep pace with the Player's team since, which made the switch to the new Swift a few races earlier.
"We're getting fast, but we can't keep it consistent," said Rice, who bolted from fifth to third on the first turn of the race. "We had a problem with the tires midway through the race and faced a lack of grip as the race progressed." Matt Sielsky continues to rise, picking up his fifth top-four finish this season. Sielsky, in the D&L Racing-LCI International/Emerald Financial Swift 008.a, started sixth but moved into third by lap six, where he firmly held his ground for the remaining 19 laps.
"I'm really pleased to be back at the podium," Sielsky said. "About 10 laps into the race, I picked up a little misfire in the engine. Until that point, I was gaining a little on (Bentham and Rice). So after that I was just trying to hold my position."
Like Tagliani and Gidley, Anthony Lazzaro started strong only to have misfortune strike again. Lazzaro started third but ran into clutch problems on the first lap, had a car back into him a few turns later, cutting his tire, and was forced to pit after the first lap. Lazzaro dropped to 27th, but worked his way back to a ninth-place finish.
"I'm glad I got the fast lap of the race," Lazzaro said. "It just shows you how good the MCI team is. I love my team. My guys did a great pit stop. I had no radio communications to or from the pits. After that, it was difficult to make up the lost time."
Though the top three were stretched a bit, the racing was tight behind them. Rino Mastronardi, of Pistoia, Italy, continually fought off the charges of Andrew Bordin, in the B.D.J.S. - Millennium Data Services Swift 008.a, to eventually place fourth, his best finish since joining the series in Cleveland. Mastronardi, in the Condor Motorsports - Lion Share Marketing Swift 008.a started eighth. Bordin, of Woodbridge, Ont., finished right behind in fifth and has moved into a tie with Gidley for third in the points with 98.
David Pook, in the Hylton Motorsport - Budweiser/U.S. Print Swift 008.a, had a successful weekend, running as high as fourth in the race before finishing a season-best sixth. Pook, of Long Beach, Calif., started ninth.
Bordin's many challenges at Mastronardi earned him the $1,000 "KOOL Move of the Race" and the $1,000 Yokohama "Now You've Got Control" award. Sielsky's third-place showing earned him the $1,000 "KOOL Rookie Challenge" award. Lazzaro posted the fastest race lap at 1:17.819, earning the $1,000 "MCI Fast Pace" award.
ESPN2 will televise Sunday's Round 9 at Mid-Ohio on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 3:30 p.m., with repeat broadcasts on Monday, Aug. 17, at 4 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 20, at 5 a.m., and Sunday, Nov. 29, at 3 a.m. ESPN International will telecast the race on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 3:30 p.m. CTV will air it in Canada on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 4 p.m., while French Canadian network RDS will broadcast the race on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 3:30 p.m. All times are Eastern.
The KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship continues next Sunday, Aug. 16, at the Road America course in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
LEXINGTON, Ohio - Results Sunday of the 25-lap, 56.45-mile KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with finishing position, starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car, laps completed and reason out, if any. 1. (2), Lee Bentham, Richmond Hill, Ont., Swift 008.a, 25. 2. (5), Buddy Rice, Phoenix, Ariz., Swift 008.a, 25. 3. (6), Matt Sielsky, Northbrook, Ill., Swift 008.a, 25. 4. (8), Rino Mastronardi, Pistoia, Italy, Swift 008.a, 25. 5. (13), Andrew Bordin, Woodbridge, Ont., Swift 008.a, 25. 6. (9), David Pook, Long Beach, Calif., Swift 008.a, 25. 7. (12), Rob MacDonald, Keswick, Ont., Swift 008.a, 25. 8. (14), Masaoki Nagashima, Tokyo, Japan, Swift 008.a, 25. 9. (3), Anthony Lazzaro, Acworth, Ga., Swift 008.a, 25. 10. (11), Derek Hill, Costa Mesa, Calif., Swift 008.a, 25. 11. (17), John Rutherford, Ft. Worth, Texas, Swift 008.a, 25. 12. (15), David Rutledge, West Vancouver, B. C., Swift 008.a, 25. 13. (20), Robert Sollenskog, Antioch, Ill., Swift 008.a, 25. 14. (19), Michael David, Corona, Calif., Ralt RT-41, 25. 15. (22), Joe Sposato, Arcadia, Calif., Ralt RT-41, 24. 16. (23), Bob Siska, San Francisco, Calif., Ralt RT-40, 24. 17. (26), John Brooks, Tucson, Ariz., Ralt RT-40, 24. 18. (24), Sergei Szortyka, Sinking Spring, Pa., Ralt RT-41, 24. 19. (18), Michael Conte, Seattle, Wash., Swift 008.a, 23. 20. (21), Zak Brown, Indianapolis, Ind., Swift 008.a, 23. 21. (7), Cam Binder, Calgary, Alberta, Swift 008.a, 23. 22. (27), Bob Ferstl, Houston, Texas, Ralt RT-41, 23. 23. (25), George Frazier, Prospect, Ky., Ralt RT-41, 21, gearbox. 24. (16), Eric Lang, New York, N.Y., Swift 008.a, 20, mechanical. 25. (1), Alexandre Tagliani, Lachenaie, Que., Swift 008.a, 7, mechanical. 26. (4), Kenny Wilden, Burlington, Ont., Swift 008.a, 7, gearbox. 27. (10), Memo Gidley, Novato, Calif., Swift 008.a, 6, gearbox. Race Statistics: Time of race: 33 min., 3.166 sec. Winner's average speed: 102.472 mph. Margin of victory: 9.2110 sec. Lap leaders: Tagliani, 1-4; Bentham, 5-25. Fastest race lap: Lazzaro, 1:17.819 (104.457 mph). Cautions: none. Point leaders (after nine of 13 races): Bentham, 121; Tagliani, 99; Gidley, 98; Bordin, 98; Sielsky, 87; Rice, 86; Lazzaro, 70; Wilden, 61; Rutledge, 44; Pook, 44. Next race: Aug. 16, Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis.