Milwaukee Preview


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: James Hyneman


WEST ALLIS, Wis. (May 26) - - The 1997 KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship has seen three different drivers win in its first three races of the year so it may be said that "unpredictability" may be the best "predictor" when the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds famed "Milwaukee Mile" hosts round four of the 12-race SCCA Pro Racing sanctioned series on Saturday, May 31. Midwest racing fans will enjoy their first look in 1997 of North America's richest and longest running open-wheel development series (24 years) when the 60-lap/60-mile sprint takes the green flag at 4:15 p.m. (CT), setting the stage for the featured PPG CART World Series Miller 200 Grand Prix the following afternoon. An anticipated field of over 30 cars will be led by series points leader Alexandre Tagliani, of Lachenaie, Que., Canada. Tagliani is coming off impressive back-to-back podium showings for the Player's Forsythe Racing Team including a victory at Long Beach and a third-place finish in round three at Nazareth Speedway (Pa.). Tagliani holds a five-point margin over his next closest challenger, Case Montgomery, of Salinas, Calif., 43-38. Defending Milwaukee Atlantic race winner Anthony Lazzaro, of Acworth, Ga., is also on the title trail, and alone in third place with 36 points. Tagliani's ascent to the top of the leader board was prefaced with a shaky eighth place finish in the season opener at the Grand Prix of Miami, presented by Toyota, at Homestead Motorsports Complex. He started and finished eighth in last year's Milwaukee race. Montgomery has kept pace with Tagliani by also scoring two podium finishes to date including a third place showing at Homestead and second place at Nazareth one race ago. His only season blemish has been 10th place at Long Beach after starting from the pole. Montgomery started sixth at Milwaukee last year, but he steadily climbed through the 22-car field and challenged for the lead in the closing laps of the 60-lap sprint before finishing in second place. Lazzaro thrilled Milwaukee fans in last year's Atlantic chase when he qualified fourth, and then made a daring lead-taking squeeze past eventual series champion Patrick Carpentier on lap 24. Lazzaro's move past Carpentier was especially bold in that he attempted his race-winning pass when the track was three-cars abreast at the start-finish line. Lazzaro dived low while entering turn one and nearly contacted the pit wall before jumping ahead of the field. Late race challenges by Montgomery and Lee Bentham proved futile as he took the checkered flag ahead of Montgomery by 0.273-seconds. His victory in a Ralt RT-40 was made even more gratifying when he revealed that he had used the same tires he previously raced at Nazareth on the left side because he did not have the money to purchase new tires. 1996 U.S. Formula Ford 2000 National Champion Steve Knapp, of Salem, Wis., is coming off a fourth-place finish at Nazareth that moved him into fourth place in the Atlantic championship with 33 points. Knapp, who has also benefited from his fifth-place showing at Long Beach, is driving under the guidance of veteran Atlantic team owner Bill Fickling and P-1 Racing. Knapp 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. First-year Atlantic driver Joao Barbosa, of Valongo, Portugal, surprised series veterans and followers alike when he scored back-to-back fourth place finishes in the opening two races this year. The 1995 Italian Formula Europa Boxer National Champion started and finished 12th place at Nazareth, but his point production has been enough to move him into fifth place in the Atlantic standings with 28 points. New to the Atlantic mix at Milwaukee is Lynx Racing's Memo Gidley, of San Rafael, Calif., and former karting and FF2000 standout Alex Barron, of Vista, Calif. The 27-year-old Gidley hasnt surprised anyone with his ability to race with the front-runners. Gidley stepped into the shoes of 1996 Atlantic champion Carpentier and immediately paid a handsome dividend with a second-place finish at Homestead in his first career Atlantic race. He finished seventh at Long Beach, and started on the outside pole at Nazareth before having to retire from the race in 26th place due to an accident on lap 33 with Lazzaro. His racing past is loaded with podium moxie that includes bicycles, motorcycles and karts, as well as the USAC Russell Championship Series, Shelby Pro Series, Formula Ford 2000 and Barber Dodge Pro Series. Gidley is alone in sixth place with 25 points. Barron, 26, signed with Lynx Racing to drive the teams second Atlantic car last December. After two horrendous starts at Homestead and Long Beach, Barron purged the podium gremlins with a flag-to-flag triumph at Nazareth. A former regional, state and national karting champion, Barron has jumped into eighth place with 22 points. A trio of second-year Atlantic drivers are poised to move back into championship form, but none provide as touching a story as the return of Wisconsin native Tony Ave to professional racing. It is a tale of courage over fear and ambition over obstacles. The veteran Trans-Am driver and 1996 Homestead Atlantic winner from Indianapolis, Ind., was severely injured in a crash during the SCCA June Sprints at Road America (Wis.) on June 23, 1996, and suffered from injuries that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. In fact, there was quiet speculation that his injuries could be career threatening or worse. For Ave, however, the thought of never racing again was never an issue. Ave is back and looking to win at Milwaukee in the No. 25 Olsson Engineering prepared-Ralt RT-41. Jeret Schroeder, of Vineland, N.J., has joined the newly formed Precision Preparation Inc.'s (PPI) MCI Atlantic Team, of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. Schroeder, who started from the outside pole position last year at Milwaukee, finished fifth place in the '96 Atlantic championship with 77 points. His best finishes were second-place showings at Montreal and Mid-Ohio, and third place at Laguna Seca. Schroeder is teamed with Leo Parente, of Redondo Beach, Calif. Chuck West, of Sonoma, Calif., only ran a five-race schedule in 1996 but five top-10 finishes including three podium stops were enough to persuade him to take it full time in 1997. West, who is currently 12th in the standings with 11 points, has never raced at Milwaukee but his track prowess was enough to win the pole at Homestead this year, and finish sixth place at Long Beach. He has also expanded his World Speed Motorsports program to include a second car for rookie driver Mark Tague, of Laguna Hills, Calif. Other drivers expect to make a difference at Milwaukee include Eric Lang, of New York City, who is in ninth place with 19 points; Bertrand Godin, of St. Hyacinthe, Que.; Michael David, of Corona, Calif.; Sergei Szortyka (pronounced SURJ zor TEE kuh), of Sinking Spring, Pa.; David Cutler, of Medina, Wash.; Stuart Crow, of Dallas, Texas; and David Pook, of Long Beach, Calif. ESPN2 will broadcast round four of the KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship on Saturday, June 7, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET (1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. PT).

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Memo Gidley , Jeret Schroeder , Patrick Carpentier , Tony Ave , Alex Barron , Anthony Lazzaro , Steve Knapp , Joao Barbosa , David Cutler , Bertrand Godin , Sergei Szortyka , Eric Lang , Lee Bentham