PLAYER'S-FORSYTHE MAKES IT TWO STRAIGHT AT CANADIAN PLAYER'S CHALLENGE EVENTS AS TAGLIANI AND BENTHAM FINISH 1-2 AT MOLSON INDY TORONTO TORONTO, Ont., July 18, 1998 - Alex Tagliani jumped past Player's-Forsythe teammate and polesitter...
PLAYER'S-FORSYTHE MAKES IT TWO STRAIGHT AT CANADIAN PLAYER'S CHALLENGE EVENTS AS TAGLIANI AND BENTHAM FINISH 1-2 AT MOLSON INDY TORONTO
TORONTO, Ont., July 18, 1998 - Alex Tagliani jumped past Player's-Forsythe teammate and polesitter Lee Bentham at the first turn Saturday and held off Bentham to win the second round of the Player's Challenge for the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship at the Molson Indy Toronto.
Tagliani's first victory of the year was a reversal of fortune for him and Bentham from their earlier 1-2 finish at the first Player's Challenge event last month. At his hometown race in Montreal, it was Tagliani who appeared ready to win before Bentham made a last-second pass for the victory. Here in Bentham's hometown of Toronto, Tagliani, of Lachenaie, Que., was pushed on occasion but never relinquished the lead for his third series victory. Bentham, of nearby Richmond Hill, Ont., finished second while another local driver, Kenny Wilden of Burlington, Ont., finished third.
Bentham's second-place finish, coupled with Memo Gidley's sixth-place finish, moved Bentham into a tie for the points lead with Gidley at 86. Tagliani's victory moved him up into a tie with Andrew Bordin for third place with 76 points, and earned him $20,000 of the $85,000 purse.
"I would like to exchange this win for a Montreal victory," Tagliani said with a grin. "This win is very positive for the Player's team. Now, the others will have to run after us. Last year, I finished second under yellow; this year I finished first under yellow."
Like in Montreal, Tagliani and Bentham were a cut above the field, pulling away from third place, occupied by Anthony Lazzaro, in the MCI-PPI Swift, for the first 29 laps until his mechanical breakdown. The race was slowed by four full-course yellow cautions, but when it was green, there was strong racing behind the leaders, including great battles between Lazzaro and Buddy Rice, Wilden and Derek Hill, Rino Mastronardi and Matt Sielsky, and a host of others.
Gidley made the most of his race, starting an unusual ninth, pitting early to repair a fuel pump which dropped him to the back of the 31-car field, then using his skill, patience and several race restarts to climb back into contention and maintain at least a share of the points lead. His Lynx Racing teammate, Rice, fell out of contention after a racing incident with Wilden on lap 24.
Mastronardi, in just his second Atlantic race, started third in his Condor Motorsports Swift and ran strong all day, eventually finishing fifth, behind Sielsky, who drove the D&L Racing-Emerald Financial Swift. Another local driver, Rob MacDonald of Keswick, Ont., was seventh in his P-1 Racing - NTN Bearings Swift, his best finish of the season.
Not surprisingly, Bentham and Tagliani are tied for the Player's Challenge championship at the halfway point with 38 points each. Wilden moved into a tie with Sielsky for third with 24 points.
Bentham earned the "MCI Fast Pace Award" by posting the fastest race lap at 1:07.798, winning the $1,000 bonus. Gidley won the $1,000 "KOOL Move of the Race" and $1,000 "Yokohama Now You've Got Control" for his surge through the field. Sielsky was the top rookie finisher, earning the $1,000 "KOOL Rookie Challenge" award.
ESPN2 and ESPN International will televise Saturday's Round 7 at Toronto on Sunday, July 26, at 1 p.m., with repeat broadcasts on ESPN2 on Monday, July 27, at 4:30 a.m., on Thursday, July 30, at 3 a.m., and on Saturday, Nov. 14, at 4 a.m. CTV will carry the race on Saturday, July 25, at 4 p.m., while RDS will broadcast the race on Friday, July 24, at 7:30 p.m. All times are Eastern. Round 8 of the KOOL /Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held Sunday, Aug. 2, at the Grand Prix Player's de Trois-Rivieres in Trois-Rivieres, Que.
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