FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE MILWAUKEE IS NEXT FOR PLAYER'S/TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WEST ALLIS, Wis. (May 29) - - The 1996 Player's/Toyota Atlantic Championship is far from decided but one driver is definitely holding an...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MILWAUKEE IS NEXT FOR PLAYER'S/TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (May 29) - - The 1996 Player's/Toyota Atlantic Championship is far from decided but one driver is definitely holding an advantage when the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds famed "Milwaukee Mile" hosts round four of the 12-race series on Saturday, June 1.
Midwest racing fans will enjoy their first look in 1996 of North America's richest and longest running open-wheel development series (23 years) when the 60-lap/60-mile sprint takes the green flag at 4:00 p.m. (CT), setting the stage for the featured PPG Indy Car World Series Miller 200 Grand Prix the following afternoon.
An anticipated field of over 22 cars will be highlighted by series points leader Patrick Carpentier, of Joliette, Que., Canada. Carpentier, a former international speed skating champion who won the 1984 North American Indoor Speed Skating Championship among other titles, is coming off an impressive oval track victory in round three at Nazareth Speedway (Pa.) and holds a nine point advantage over his closest challenger, Lee Bentham, of Richmond Hill, Ont., Canada, 51-42. Case Montgomery, of Salinas, Calif., is also on the title hunt, alone in third place with 41 points.
Carpentier's ascent to the top of the leader board has been gradual, steady, and podium focused. His third-place season opening showing at the Grand Prix of Miami, presented by Toyota, at Homestead Motorsports Complex, was followed by second round runner-up honors at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, in the Lynx Racing Ralt RT-41.
Carpentier thrilled Milwaukee fans in last year's Atlantic chase when he charged from 12th on the starting grid to a second place finish in a 60-lap incident free race. Carpentier had closed to within a couple of cars lengths of fellow Canadian David Empringham before Empringham narrowly captured the checkered flag. Bentham has been a solid performer all season and Milwaukee shouldn't be an exception. His season opening pole position at Homestead and subsequent second-place showing continued his torrid pace from last season, when he totaled five top-five finishes in only seven Atlantic outings. His early race, nose-to-tail challenge of Montgomery at Long Beach was only interrupted by a slower car on lap eight. Regardless, Bentham piloted the P1 Racing-NTN Bearings/TMI entry to sixth place at Long Beach. He also joined Carpentier of the Nazareth podium with a third place finish. Milwaukee will only be Bentham's second Atlantic race start on an oval.
Montgomery has either been warm or hot on the first three venues but his nose for the checkered flag has been keen and running up front has become "standard operating procedure" in the Sandy Dells Racing prepared Microsoft Ralt RT-41. The 30-year-old Russell Racing School instructor (Laguna Seca Raceway) left Homestead with a seventh-place finish, but he rebounded at Long Beach to claim his second career Atlantic victory. Entering Milwaukee, Montgomery has scored eight top-five finishes in his last 12 Atlantic starts including his checkered flag at Long Beach on April 13, and winning last year's season finale on his home track at Laguna Seca. Montgomery's penchant for the checkered flag may be tied to his qualifying efforts as both of his Atlantic victories were flag-to-flag. Second year Atlantic driver Michael David, of Corona, Calif., has surfaced as a bonafide title contender and sits fifth in the driver standings with 24 points. David finished 10th at Milwaukee last year, and scored a career best Atlantic finish of fifth place at Long Beach in April. A quartet of rookie Atlantic drivers are expected to impact Milwaukee including Paul Jasper, of Lake Forest, Ill.; Christian Vandal, of Ile Perrot, Que.; Wisconsin native Tony Ave, now of Indianapolis, Ind.; and Anthony Lazzaro, of Acworth, Ga.; who have moved into fourth, seventh, eighth, and ninth place, respectively. Ralt America's Nazareth efforts will focus around Jasper, a former Shelby Pro Series front-runner and college hockey player. The 25 year-old Jasper scored his first top-five finish (4th) in only his second Atlantic race at Long Beach , and qualified third at Nazareth before finishing seventh place. Jasper leads the Atlantic Rookie-of-the-Year points battle with 27 markers. Vandal, who claimed one victory and finished fourth in the 1995 U.S. Pro Formula 2000 Championship, has maneuvered himself into title contention with two top-10 finishes including sixth place at Homestead and fourth at Nazareth. Vandal, who is second in the Rookie-of-the-Year hunt, has 22 points. Ave's 20 points are eighth place in the driver standings, a position etched with his season opening win at Homestead. In returning to his home state of Wisconsin, Ave is looking to reverse the tide of being in the "wrong place at the wrong time." After qualifying eighth out of a 35-car field at Long Beach, he was unable to start the race due to a gearbox malfunction immediately prior to the race pace laps. Ave's misfortune continued at Nazareth when early contact with an another car contributed to rear wing failure and a subsequent 21st place finish after starting seventh. Ave, a world-class Formula One snowmobile racer who originally hails from Hurley, Wis., is in his first year of full-time Atlantic competition in the Schuler Design sponsored Olsson Engineering Ralt RT-41. 1995 Hooter's FF2000 champion Anthony Lazzaro, of Acworth, Ga., is looking to score his first podium finish in Atlantic competition after finishing fifth at Nazareth. Lazzaro came to Atlantic from a "grass roots" racing background spanning over 11 years. The two-time Hooter's FF2000 champion (1994-95) is a five-time World Karting Association national champion (1987-89, 1991-92); three World Karting Association world champion (1988-89, 1991); Formula Ford titlist in the 1993 SCCA Valvoline National Championships; and Rookie-of-the-Year in the 1993 Oldsmobile Pro Series. First year Atlantic pilots Jeret Schroeder, of Vineland, N.J.; and Alexandre Tagliani, of Lachenaie, Que., are tied for 10th with 16 points. Schroeder, a Lynx Racing teammate of Carpentier, had an auspicious first race at Homestead where he finished fourth-place. The 26-year-old 1995 U.S. Formula Ford 2000 National Champion was victimized at Long Beach when a car ahead of him spun on the first lap, forcing him to wait until the field passed before he continued with the race. He eventually ran the fastest race lap and moved as high as sixth place with two laps remaining before a "backmarker" slowed his charge, relegating him to 12th place. A burned piston at Nazareth forced an early retirement and 22nd place.
Tagliani recorded a seventh place finish at Long Beach and drives the P1 Racing prepared Agip/ATP/Cari-All/Logibec Ralt RT-41. Atlantic veteran and Indy Racing League driver Stan Wattles, of Sewall's Point, Fla., will return to Atlantic competition at Milwaukee, his first race action since he suffered injuries caused in a crash during a practice session while preparing for the Indy Racing League race at Phoenix International Raceway on March 22. Wattles scored his second-best finish of 1995 at Milwaukee with sixth-place. His best Atlantic finish in 1995 was fifth at Miami.
Other contenders expected at Milwaukee include 1995 Atlantic C2 titlist Bernie Schuchmann, of Montreal; Homestead C2 race winner and University of Florida senior Ted Sahley, of Cleveland, Ohio; Jimmy Pugliese, of Oceanside, N.Y.; Robert Sollenskog, of Antioch, Ill.; Cam Binder, of Calgary, Alta.; Mike Shank, of Columbus, Ohio; David Cutler, of Medina, Wash.; Mike Sauce, of Arlington, Texas; Eric Lang, of New York, N.Y.; and Bobby Scolo, of Elmont, N.Y. Milwaukee will mark the Atlantic race debut for Barber Dodge Pro Series driver Joe Vantreese, of Batavia, Ill.
ESPN2 will broadcast the Milwaukee Player's/Toyota Atlantic Championship race on Sunday, June 9, from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. EDT (2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. PDT). ESPN International is scheduled to broadcast the Milwaukee Atlantic race on Saturday, June 8, from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). # # #