LAZZARO SLIPS UP, COMES BACK TO WIN AT GRAND PRIX PLAYER'S DE TROIS-RIVIERES TROIS-RIVIERES, Que., Canada, Aug. 1, 1999 -- Pole-sitter Anthony Lazzaro gave up the lead twice, then stormed back on Sunday to earn his third KOOL/Toyota ...
LAZZARO SLIPS UP, COMES BACK TO WIN AT GRAND PRIX PLAYER'S DE TROIS-RIVIERES
TROIS-RIVIERES, Que., Canada, Aug. 1, 1999 -- Pole-sitter Anthony Lazzaro gave up the lead twice, then stormed back on Sunday to earn his third KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship victory of the season at the Grand Prix Player's de Trois-Rivieres.
Lazzaro, of Acworth, Ga., took the lead for the final time, slipping past Player's-Forsythe driver Alex Tagliani on lap 39 of the 45-lap race. Lazzaro, in the PPI/MCI WorldCom Swift, went on to win by 1.516 seconds over second-place Kenny Wilden, of Burlington, Ont. Nicolas Rondet, of San Diego, Calif., earned his first podium finish of the season, coming in third.
Lazzaro, who earned his eighth Atlantic Championship victory, leads the championship with 119 points. Tagliani, who won the previous two races at Trois-Rivieres and finished fourth in this year's race, remained in second place with 84 points. Wilden's strong showing moved him into third in the points with 75, one point ahead of Lynx Racing's Buddy Rice at 74.
"Atlantic racing is huge up here in Trois-Rivieres, and in Quebec. This circuit is the oldest circuit in North America and has so much history. To win here in front of all these people just makes it an awesome, awesome day. I am so happy," said Lazzaro, who also earned the $1,000 Toyota Pole Award for the fourth time this season. "This could well be the pivotal race of the season for us, with Buddy Rice going out early and Alex finishing fourth. To enter into the next stretch of races with this lead is huge for us, and gives us a tremendous amount of confidence."
Lazzaro held the lead on the initial start as Rice moved his Lynx Racing Swift around the outside to take over second from Tagliani. Rice, of Phoenix, Ariz., took over the lead on lap 8, diving low under braking to cleanly move past Lazzaro. But Lazzaro responded on lap 15, retaking the lead for the next 19 laps before sliding wide at the first turn following a restart on lap 34. Rice was running second on lap 30 before mechanical problems led to contact with the tire wall at Turn 8, ending his day. Rice entered the race with three straight podium finishes, including two straight second-place finishes.
With just six laps left, Lazzaro moved underneath Tagliani at Turn 6 for the final lead change. Lazzaro earned the $1,000 "Yokohama Now You've Got Control Award" for the bold pass. Wilden also passed Tagliani on the same lap at Turn 9, and on the next lap, Tagliani lost the final podium spot to Rondet. "I had some good battles and passes with Tag," said Wilden, who earned second place for the third time this season in his Michael Shank Racing/Newcourt-TrizecHahn Swift. "I got under him at the sidewalk turn where he was quite loose. I decided to take a really tight line at the exit and got up beside him and that was it. To finish second is great. We're now up to third in the points and there's still quite a ways to go. I can't wait to get to Mid-Ohio."
Rondet, driving the World Speed Motorsports/Harmony Schools-Martini Sunglasses Swift, had toyed with podium finishes at Long Beach and Road America, then finally pulled it off with his late-race pass of Tagliani. "This is my first podium in the Atlantic series and it feels great. After I passed Tagliani I knew I had it. The guys did a great job this weekend. We really needed this after our misfortune at Road America [where Rondet finished 25th after an early mechanical retirement]. I am very happy with this podium finish."
Tagliani ran hard all day, leading from laps 34-38, and appeared up to the challenge of winning on his 'home turf,' before giving way on laps 39-40. Andrew Bordin, who won the previous race at Road America, finished fifth in his PPI/Thyssen-Player's/Millennium Data Swift, after starting eighth, while William Langhorne, in the Active Motorsports/National MS Society-Crossland Medical Services Swift, finished a career-high sixth. Reigning series champion Lee Bentham had contact with another car on the opening lap and had to retire with suspension problems, after starting fifth. Bentham fell to sixth in the championship with 49 points.
Lazzaro also posted the fastest race lap in record time at 1:01.726/88.708 miles an hour to earn the $1,000 "MCI Fast Pace" award. Lazzaro now has five podium finishes, never placing worse than fifth all year.
ESPN2 will televise Sunday's KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship race at Trois-Rivieres on Sunday, Aug. 8, at 12 p.m., with repeat broadcasts on Wednesday, Aug. 11, at 2:30 a.m., and on Thursday, Aug. 12, at 4:30 a.m. The French-speaking RDS Canadian network ran the race live, and will re-broadcast it on Monday, Aug. 2, at 9 a.m. ESPN International will televise the race on Sunday, Aug. 8, at 12 p.m. All times are Eastern. Canadian broadcaster CTV SportsNet is airing the race on Tuesday, Aug. 10, at 8 p.m. in all local markets.
The KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship continues Sunday, Aug. 15, at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.