THE KOOL/TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP Round 11, Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Weekend, Laguna Seca Racway Sept. 10-12, 1999, Monterey, Calif. EVENT: Round 11 of the 12-event KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, held on the scenic 2.238-mile road...
THE KOOL/TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 11, Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Weekend, Laguna Seca Racway Sept. 10-12, 1999, Monterey, Calif.
EVENT: Round 11 of the 12-event KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, held on the scenic 2.238-mile road course, as the Saturday feature race during the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Featuring the Texaco/Havoline 300 weekend. Saturday's Atlantic race will be 24th time the Atlantics have raced at Laguna Seca.
SERIES: The CART-sanctioned KOOL /Toyota Atlantic Championship is a key rung on CART's "Ladder System" and is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic series are CART Champ Car stars Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Richie Hearn, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Barron, and Memo Gidley, former Champ Car stars Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan, as well as 1997 FIA Formula One Champion, Jacques Villeneuve.
ATLANTIC SCHEDULE AT LAGUNA SECA: Friday, Sept. 10: Practice 8:45 a.m. - 9:15 a.m. Qualifying 1:45 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11: Qualifying 11:15 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. RACE 3:30 p.m. 30 laps
LAZZARO CLOSE TO CLINCHING: Anthony Lazzaro (PPI-MCI WorldCom) has led the drivers' championship since his victory at Nazareth in the second round, and can clinch his first Atlantic title if he can drive away from this weekend's race with a 23-point lead heading into the final race at Houston (Sept. 26). With a 158-126 points lead over second-place Kenny Wilden (Shank Racing-Newcourt/Trizec-Hahn), Lazzaro needs to score 13 or more points at Laguna to clinch the title, regardless of Wilden's finishing position. A podium finish by Lazzaro would do the trick, as would several other scenarios, having built such a big lead with just two races left.
WILDEN CLOSING IN: Wilden, however, has been on fire of late, scoring four straight podium finishes, seven straight top-five finishes, including a victory at Mid-Ohio, to keep his championship hope alive. Alex Tagliani (Player's-Forsythe) dropped out of title contention last Sunday at Vancouver with his 11th-place finish. But it is Lazzaro, with three victories and seven podium finishes, who has been the most consistent driver all year, and appears poised to take the 1999 Atlantic title. Since winning round seven at Trois-Rivieres, Lazzaro and his PPI team have been playing a tactical points-earning game for the last three races, clearly avoiding any serious risks, especially at the last two events. His sixth-place finish last Sunday at Vancouver was a season-low.
HOT ROOKIE BATTLE: This year's rookie class in Atlantics has been one of the strongest in recent years, and with two races left, four first-year drivers still have a shot at the coveted Rookie-of-the-Year honor. The last two Atlantic victors - William Langhorne and Sam Hornish, Jr. - have stood out at the last two events, but J.-F. Veilleux and Nicolas Rondet remain in the hunt. Hornish, Jr., leads the standings with 56 points, including a victory at Chicago. Langhorne, who won last Sunday at Vancouver, and Veilleux, with a fifth-place just last Sunday, are tied for second at 46 points. Rondet, who has missed the last two events, still could take the title with strong finishes at Laguna Seca and Houston.
1999 ATLANTIC RACE WINNERS: Rnd 1, Long Beach: Alex Tagliani Rnd 6, Road America: Andrew Bordin Rnd 2, Nazareth: Anthony Lazzaro Rnd 7, Trois-Rivieres: Anthony Lazzaro Rnd 3, Gateway: Anthony Lazzaro Rnd 8, Mid-Ohio: Kenny Wilden Rnd 4, Milwaukee: Lee Bentham Rnd 9, Chicago: Sam Hornish, Jr. Rnd 5, Montreal: Alex Tagliani Rnd 10, Vancouver: William Langhorne
1999 TOYOTA POLE WINNERS: Rnd 1, Long Beach: Kenny Wilden Rnd 6, Road America: Alex Tagliani Rnd 2, Nazareth: Anthony Lazzaro Rnd 7, Trois-Rivieres: Anthony Lazzaro Rnd 3, Gateway: Anthony Lazzaro Rnd 8, Mid-Ohio: Kenny Wilden Rnd 4, Milwaukee: Anthony Lazzaro Rnd 9, Chicago: Andrew Bordin Rnd 5, Montreal: Alex Tagliani Rnd 10, Vancouver: Alex Tagliani
LAST SEASON AT LAGUNA SECA: Anthony Lazzaro, of Acworth, Ga., drove a nearly flawless race, passing race leader Lee Bentham at the top of the famed 'corkscrew' turn to position himself for the victory, but it was Bentham's second-place finish that stole the show. Bentham clinched the 1998 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Drivers' Championship at Round 12 of the 13-race Silver Anniversary season. Kenny Wilden kept pace with the leaders throughout the race, but some mechanical ailments kept him from seriously threatening for the victory. Wilden's third-place finish was his fourth podium finish in last seven races.
ATLANTIC HISTORY AT LAGUNA SECA: The KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship has raced at Laguna Seca 23 times heading into Saturday's race, going back to 1976. Previous Atlantic race winners at Laguna Seca were: Gilles Villeneuve (1976), Price Cobb (1976), John David Briggs (1984), John David Briggs (1985), Ted Prappas (1986), Tom Phillips (1986), Johnny O'Connell (1987), Jim Vasser (1987), Mitch Thieman (1988), Mark Dismore (1990), Mark Dismore (1990), Mark Dismore (1990), John Tanner (1991), Jim Vasser (1991), Mark Dismore (1992), Mark Dismore (1992), Jacques Villeneuve (1993), Jacques Villeneuve (1993), Richie Hearn (1994), Case Montgomery (1995), Patrick Carpentier (1996), Alex Barron (1997), and Anthony Lazzaro (1998).
TELEVISION BROADCASTS: ESPN2 will televise Saturday's KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship race at Laguna Seca on Saturday, Sept. 18, at 4:30 p.m., with repeat broadcasts on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 4 a.m., and on Saturday, Sept. 25, at 4 a.m. The French-speaking RDS Canadian network will broadcast the race on Sunday, Sept. 26. Check local listing for the RDS time. ESPN International will televise the Vancouver race on Saturday, Sept. 18, at 4:30 p.m. All times are Eastern. Canadian broadcaster CTV SportsNet is airing the race on Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 8 p.m. in all local markets.
NEXT ATLANTIC RACE: The 26th season of the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship concludes with round 12 at the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, on Sunday, Sept. 26.