-Montreal Preview

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: James Hyneman 103735.3402@compuserve.com KOOL/TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP READIES FOR MONTREAL MONTREAL, Que. (June 10) - - There can be no question that the...


MONTREAL, Que. (June 10) - - There can be no question that the hottest driver in the KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship after its first four races is Lynx Racing’s standout rookie Alex Barron, of Vista, California. Barron has taken North America’s richest and longest running open-wheel development series by storm with consecutive flag-to-flag clinics on the one-mile ovals of Nazareth and Milwaukee. But whether round five of the 12-race SCCA Pro Racing-sanctioned series will be a return engagement for Barron at the podium will depend on whom rises to the occasion when the Player’s Challenge for the KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship unfolds at the Player’s Grand Prix du Canada on Saturday, June 14. The 27-lap/74.169-mile (119.337-km) Atlantic sprint around the 2.747-mile/4.419-km Ile Notre-Dame Gilles-Villeneuve road circuit is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. (ET), and sets the stage for the featured Player s Grand Prix du Canada Formula One World Championship race the following afternoon. 40 cars are expected to take the green flag, and although Barron has pocketed all of his season s 44 points in the last two races, Canadian Alexandre Tagliani, of Lachenaie, Que., is actually the driver in control as he returns to his native Quebec with 49 points and the series lead. Tagliani holds a slim three-point margin over his next closest challenger, Anthony Lazzaro, of Acworth, Ga. Lazzaro, who captured this year s season opener at Homestead, in turn, has also become the hunted by the predatory Barron, who is only a deuce away from second place, 46-44. 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. However, a second round victory at Long Beach and a third place showing at Nazareth Speedway (Pa.) one race later has kept the affable Player’s Forsythe Racing Team driver atop the Atlantic leader board. After starting a disappointing ninth-place in last year s Montreal race, Tagliani was further disheartened when oil pressure problems forced him to retire in 25th place on lap 16. Needless to say, he is anxious to recoup his ‘96 woes. Lazzaro followed his Homestead win with second place at Long Beach, but he was temporarily derailed at Nazareth when a mid-race incident with another driver ended his day in the turn one wall and 25th place. A sixth-place finish at Milwaukee in round four boost him back into title contention. A quartet of drivers, led by rookie Memo Gidley, of San Rafael, Calif., are in the wings and ready to pounce on any points leader who stumbles. The 27-year-old Gidley, who shares the Lynx Racing stable with Barron, has already visited the podium following runner-up honors at Homestead and third place at Milwaukee. Case Montgomery, of Salinas, Calif., has kept a steady pace by scoring podium finishes at Homestead (third) and Nazareth (second). He stands in fifth place with 38 points. 1996 U.S. Formula Ford 2000 National Champion Steve Knapp, of Salem, Wis., has shown that he can assert himself as well. Fifth and fourth-place finishes at Long Beach and Nazareth, respectively, have maneuvered him into a title fight with 37 points, and sixth place overall entering Montreal. 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 15th and finished 13th place at Milwaukee, but his point production has been enough to lift him into seventh place with 31 points. Veteran Trans-Am driver and 1996 Homestead Atlantic winner Tony Ave, of Indianapolis, Ind., is coming off fifth and fourth place finishes, respectively, at Nazareth and Milwaukee. A brush of good luck along the way and Ave could surface as a key player. Ave is in eighth place with 28 points. 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 13th in the standings with 22 points, is coming off an electrifying fifth place finish at Milwaukee after starting 18th. He opened the season by winning the pole at Homestead, and he finished sixth place at Long Beach. West expanded his World Speed Motorsports program last winter to include a second car for rookie driver Mark Tague, of Laguna Hills, Calif. Other contenders expected at Montreal include Milwaukee race runner-up David Pook of Long Beach, Calif.; Frank Allers, of Coquitlam, B.C.; Bertrand Godin, of St. Hyacinthe, Que.; Cam Binder, of Calgary, Alta.; Kenny Wilden, of Burlington, Ont.; Michael David, of Corona, Calif.; and the PPI/MCI tandem of Jeret Schroeder, of Vineland, N.J., and Leo Parente, of Redondo Beach, Calif. Two local Quebec drivers are scheduled to make their Atlantic debuts. Stephane Roy, of Saint-Sauveur, and Quebec native Marc Antoine Camirand will drive for Cogan Motorsports in Raven RVN-93’s in the C-2 division. This year s event is round one of the Player s Challenge for the KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship. The Player s Challenge will recognize the efforts of the 15 highest placing Atlantic drivers who earn the most points in the series Canadian Atlantic events. A total prize fund of $70,000 (US) has been set aside solely for the 1997 Player’s Challenge for the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship. The prize fund consists of $60,000, which will be distributed among the top-15 points leaders in the four Canadian Atlantic events run at Montreal, Toronto, Trois-Rivieres, and Vancouver, and includes $10,000 to the winner of the Player’s Challenge. An additional $10,000 has been set aside for the top three finishing Canadian drivers competing in Canadian races, and includes $5,000 being awarded to the Canadian driver who scores the most points among fellow Canadian drivers. ESPN2 will broadcast the Player’s Challenge for the KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship from Montreal on Saturday, June 21, from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. RDS will telecast the Player s Challenge on Sunday, June 22, between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. CTV has slated the race for Sunday, June 29, between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Memo Gidley , Jeret Schroeder , Tony Ave , Alex Barron , Anthony Lazzaro , Steve Knapp , Joao Barbosa