SCCA PRO RACING 1995 PLAYER'S LTD./TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP EMPRINGHAM VICTORY FORCES SHOWDOWN AT LAGUNA SECA FINALE by Robert Heathcote, for SpeedNet VANCOUVER (Sept. 2, 1995) -- SpeedNet -- David Empringham of Toronto collected his ...
SCCA PRO RACING 1995 PLAYER'S LTD./TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP
EMPRINGHAM VICTORY FORCES SHOWDOWN AT LAGUNA SECA FINALE by Robert Heathcote, for SpeedNet
VANCOUVER (Sept. 2, 1995) -- SpeedNet -- David Empringham of Toronto collected his second-consecutive Player's Ltd./Toyota Atlantic Championship victory at the Molson Indy Vancouver Saturday, and moved to within two points of standings leader Richie Hearn of Canyon Country, Calif., with just one race remaining in the 12-race series.
Empringham started from the pole position and led all 32 laps of the race. He completed the time-limited race in one-hour, one minute, 17.441-seconds at an average speed of 53.348 miles per hour.
Hearn, who qualified third on the 21-car grid, finished 5.65-seconds behind Empringham for second place and Case Montgomery of Salinas, Calif., was third. Patrick Carpentier of Joliette, Que., twice a winner in 1995, finished fourth after starting from the back of the grid when a clutch problem prevented him from taking his front-row starting position next to Empringham.
The race was marred by three caution periods, and ended under caution. Stan Wattles of Stuart, Fla., was transported to a local hospital after a crash that brought out the second caution, but was release after precautionary x-rays were negative.
Empringham had only one little problem in the race: "I lost my radio mid-way through! I was pushing hard, but I was leaving a margin at every exit and every apex, so I wasn't going to be foolish and push hard, and knock myself out of the race. I knew I had a fairly comfortable lead, but I didn't know if second place was chipping away at the lead and gaining confidence from that. I just wanted to get in a fast pace and something I felt comfortable with and yet not really take too many chances."
"We're not too disappointed with second," said Hearn. "We didn't have the fastest car this weekend and we still came away with a second place. This track is basically three chicanes with a couple of drag strips, so we could never really get a good (car) set-up. I can't wait to get to Laguna Seca, where I can let the car go and I can really drive the course."
Richie Hearn has reason to look forward to Laguna Seca because he won the race there last year in convincing style. The former Pilote Elf Competition winner scored four victories in that his rookie season and finished just two points behind 1994 Player's Ltd./Toyota Atlantic Champion David Empringham, in the closest final point standings in the history of Atlantic racing.
Empringham, who also won the 1993 Player's Ltd./Atlantic championship, won his sixth race of 1995 Saturday, and the 11th of his career. Hearn has won just three times this year, with consistent finishes keeping him at the top of the points. That will almost certainly have to change next Saturday at Laguna Seca if he is to win the championship.
The Player's Ltd./Toyota Atlantic Championship point system is much like IndyCar, paying 20 points for a win, 16 points for second and zone bonus point awarded to the driver leading most laps and one point to the pole sitter.
Hearn has 185 points, Empringham 183, with Carpentier in a solid third with 123 points - 37 ahead of series rookie Case Montgomery.
With Hearn and Empringham winning 9 out of 11 races this year, one is sure to win at Laguna Seca and, the one who does will be crowned champion of the the $1.25 million 1995 Player's Ltd./Toyota Atlantic Championship.
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