THE KOOL/TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON OPENER - Round 1, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach April 16-18, 1999, Long Beach, Calif. THE RACE: Round 1 of the 12-event KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, held on the temporary street circuit at...
THE KOOL/TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP
SEASON OPENER - Round 1, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach April 16-18, 1999, Long Beach, Calif.
THE RACE: Round 1 of the 12-event KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, held on the temporary street circuit at Long Beach. Saturday's KOOL /Toyota Atlantic Championship race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will mark the 17th time since 1978 the series has competed here.
THE 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 and Alex Barron, former Champ Car stars Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan, as well as 1997 FIA Formula One Champion, Jacques Villeneuve.
RACE SCHEDULE Friday, April 16: Practice 8:00 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. Qualifying 4:45 p.m. - 5:15 p.m. Saturday, April 17: Qualifying 12:00 p.m.- 12:30 p.m. RACE 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. 37 laps, 68.45 miles
TOP DRIVERS: Reigning 1998 KOOL /Toyota Atlantic champion Lee Bentham (Player's-Forsythe Racing), of Newmarket, Ont., leads one of the series' all-time strongest line-ups, and will be looking to become the first repeat Atlantic champion since David Empringham took back-to-back titles in 1993-94. Some of the top drivers looking to unseat Bentham will be his teammate Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., Anthony Lazzaro (PPI-MCI Worldcom) of Acworth, Ga., Buddy Rice (Lynx Racing) of Phoenix, Ariz., Andrew Bordin (PPI) of Woodbridge, Ont., Kenny Wilden (Shank Racing) of Burlington, Ont., and David Rutledge (Forsythe Racing) of W. Vancouver, B.C.
TOP ROOKIES: One of the best rookie crops in Atlantic history will be unveiled at Long Beach, including Nicolas Rondet (WorldSpeed Motorsports) of San Diego, Calif., Alex Gurney (Team KOOL Green) of Newport Beach, Calif., David Besnard (Hylton Motorsports) of Sydney, Australia, Elton Julian (PDR Enterprises) of Los Angeles, and Sam Hornish, Jr. (Mike Shank Racing) of Defiance, Ohio.
ATLANTIC HISTORY AT LONG BEACH: The KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship has raced at Long Beach 16 times, dating back to the 1978 season. Here are the previous Atlantic winners at Long Beach: Howdy Holmes (1978), Tom Gloy (1979, 1980), Geoff Brabham (1981, 1982), Hiro Matsushita (1989), Jim Vasser (1991), Mark Dismore (1992), Claude Bourbonnais (1993), Richie Hearn (1994), David Empringham (1995), Case Montgomery (1996), Alex Tagliani (1997), and Memo Gidley (1998).
LAST YEAR AT LONG BEACH: Lynx Racing rookie Buddy Rice surprised the field, taking the pole position and leading early, but it was teammate Memo Gidley who came on to win the 1998 Atlantic season opener under overcast skies and unusual threatening rains. Andrew Bordin, now with PPI, placed second. Rice slid while leading and finished 14th.
TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise Saturday's KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship race at Long Beach on Saturday, April 24, at 4 p.m., with repeat broadcasts on Sunday, May 2, at 8:30 a.m., and Thursday, May 6, at 2 a.m. ESPN International will telecast the race on Saturday, April 24, at 4 p.m. Canadian broadcaster CTV's airing is TBA. All times are Eastern.
NEXT RACE: Round 2 of the 1999 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held Saturday, May 1, at the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota, in Nazareth, Pa.