Montreal preview

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE PLAYER'S/TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP HEADS TO MONTREAL MONTREAL, Que. (June 10) - - Parity best describes the 1996 Player's/Toyota Atlantic Championship after its first four races -...



MONTREAL, Que. (June 10) - - Parity best describes the 1996 Player's/Toyota Atlantic Championship after its first four races - four different winners, and four different drivers who have led the most laps in a race. Whether round five of the 12-race series will be a return engagement to the top of the podium for one of those four race winners, or whether it will be a new beginning for another Atlantic driver will depend on who rises to the occasion when the Player's/Toyota Atlantic Championship makes its annual run at the Grand Prix Molson du Canada on Saturday, June 15.

The 27-lap/73.98-mile (118.985-km) Atlantic sprint around the 2.747-mile/4.421-km Ile Notre-Dame Gilles-Villeneuve road course is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. (ET), giving Canadian racing fans their first look in 1996 of North America's richest and longest running open-wheel development series (23 years), and setting the stage for the featured Grand Prix Molson du Canada Formula One World Championship race the following afternoon.

39 cars are expected to take the green flag with series points leader Patrick Carpentier, of Joliette, Que., as one of the favorites. Carpentier, who claimed an impressive third round oval track victory at Nazareth Speedway (Pa.) in April, returns to Montreal with a six point advantage over his closest challenger, Case Montgomery, of Salinas, Calif., 63-57. Lee Bentham, of Richmond Hill, Ont., is close behind and in third place with 56 points.

Carpentier has been a frequent visitor to the post-race Atlantic podium this season. 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. He also collared fourth-place one race ago at Milwaukee.

The 24-year-old Carpentier started from the pole in last year's Montreal race but suffered a broken clutch at the start of the race, and retired on lap nine with suspension damage resulting from contact with another car.

Montgomery has been a consistent front-runner in the Sandy Dells Racing prepared Microsoft Ralt RT-41. The 30-year-old Russell Racing School instructor (Laguna Seca Raceway) finished seventh in the season opener at Homestead, but he rebounded at Long Beach to claim his second career Atlantic victory. Entering Montreal, Montgomery has scored nine top-five finishes in his last 13 Atlantic starts including his second place showing at Milwaukee two weeks ago, a victory at Long Beach on April 13, and winning last year's season finale on his home track at Laguna Seca.

Bentham has been finding a way to the victory lane podium all season and Montreal shouldn't be an exception. In fact, it should be more like an anniversary homecoming. Bentham, who is in his second year of Atlantic competition, chose to make his Atlantic debut last year at Montreal. His presence was quickly noticed as he finished fifth place. He proceeded to claim four top-five finishes in the remaining six Atlantic races including third-place in the first of two races at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres (Que.) and a season best runner-up finish one week later at Mid-Ohio. His eighth place finish in the 1995 driver standings belies what might have been an otherwise championship contending year were he to have run a full season.

Bentham has continued his torrid pace from last season behind three top-three finishes including a season opening pole position and subsequent second-place at Miami, and third-place outings on the one-mile ovals at Nazareth and Milwaukee in the P1 Racing-NTN Bearings/TMI Racing entry.

Former Shelby Pro Series front-runner and college hockey player Paul Jasper, of Lake Forest, Ill., and Milwaukee race winner Anthony Lazzaro, of Acworth, Ga., have become the top Atlantic rookie contenders, and hold down fourth and fifth place, respectively, in the driver standings.

Jasper's two top-five finishes at Long Beach (4th) and Milwaukee (5th) have collected 39 points, including one bonus point for winning the pole at Milwaukee.

Lazzaro pulled the "shocker" of the season when he scampered to a convincing victory at Milwaukee despite being forced to run on tires which he also ran at Nazareth, and only being able to muster a couple of thousand dollars for his Milwaukee expenses. Lazzaro's background, however, rings with championship candor. In 11 years of "grass roots" racing prior to Atlantic competition, the two-time Hooter's FF2000 champion (1994-95) also claimed five World Karting Association national championships (1987-89, 1991-92); three World Karting Association world titles (1988-89, 1991); Formula Ford titlist honors in the 1993 SCCA Valvoline National Championships; and Rookie-of-the-Year in the 1993 Oldsmobile Pro Series.

A quartet of rookie Atlantic drivers are expected to impact Montreal including Christian Vandal, of Ile Perrot, Que.; Jeret Schroeder, of Vineland, N.J.; Alexandre Tagliani, of Lachenaie, Que.; and Tony Ave, of Indianapolis, Ind.

Vandal, who claimed one victory and finished fourth in the 1995 U.S. Pro Formula 2000 Championship, has maneuvered himself into title contention with three top-10 finishes at Miami (6th), Nazareth (4th), and Milwaukee (9th). Vandal is seventh in the championship with 29 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 scored his second top-10 finish this year at Milwaukee (6th) after starting on the outside pole, and sits eighth in the title hunt with 26 points.

Tagliani is ninth in the championship chase with 24 points. His two top-10 finishes include seventh place at Long Beach and eighth at Milwaukee in the P1 Racing prepared Agip/Cari-All/Logibec Ralt RT-41.

Ave, although 11th in the championship with 20 points, is a bonafide contender in each race as evidenced by his season opening win at Homestead. Ave's misfortune this season has been 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 at the start of the race. His ill tidings continued at Nazareth when early contact with an another car contributed to rear wing failure and a subsequent 21st place finish after starting seventh. He sliced through the field and into second place midway through the Milwaukee race before contact with another car ended his day.

Indy Car veteran and past Atlantic Champion (1985) Jeff Wood, of Wichita, Kan., returns to Atlantic competition at Montreal. Wood's fondest Atlantic memories date back to 1978 when he won his first professional race in the Formula Atlantic event at Montreal. Wood has won over $1.133 million (US) in over 10 years of racing in the PPG Indy Car World Series.

Other contenders expected at Montreal include 1995 Atlantic C2 titlist Bernie Schuchmann, of Montreal; Frank Allers, of Coquitlam, B.C.; Russ Bond, of Toronto, Ont.; Cam Binder and Roger McCaig, both of Calgary, Alta.; Michael David, of Corona, Calif.; and Indy Racing League (IRL) driver Stan Wattles, of Sewall's Point, Fla.

ESPN2 will broadcast the Montreal Player's/Toyota Atlantic Championship race on Sunday, June 23, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT, with an encore telecast on Wednesday, June 26, from 1:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. EDT (Tuesday, June 25, 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. PDT). # # #

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Jeret Schroeder , Tony Ave , Anthony Lazzaro , Stan Wattles , Jeff Wood , Lee Bentham