HOUSTON, Texas - Lee Bentham, the 1998 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Drivers' Champion, and the other top series drivers were honored at the year-end awards banquet that celebrated the 25th anniversary season of the richest open-wheel development...
HOUSTON, Texas - Lee Bentham, the 1998 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Drivers' Champion, and the other top series drivers were honored at the year-end awards banquet that celebrated the 25th anniversary season of the richest open-wheel development series in North America.
Andrew Craig, chairman and CEO of Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (CART), provided the opening remarks and was among those presenting awards honoring the Silver Anniversary season at the banquet, emceed by noted racing broadcaster Bob Varsha and series PA announcer Greg Creamer.
The top 10 drivers in the final KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship points standings were honored, along with 12 special awards, including:
KOOL ROOKIE CHALLENGE: To Andrew Bordin, of B.D.J.S., presented by Bert Kremer, sponsorship manager of Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, in recognition of the rookie scoring the most series championship points, along with $15,000. MID-OHIO SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: To Memo Gidley, of Lynx Racing, presented by Chris Kneifel, chief instructor at the Mid-Ohio School, based on racecraft, sportsmanship, on-track decision-making ability, the desire to improve, technical understanding, along with consistency and off-track professionalism.
GILLES VILLENEUVE AWARD: To Buddy Rice, of Lynx Racing, presented by series chief steward K.C. Van Niman, to the driver who possesses extraordinary ability and has that special star quality who has distinguished himself through sportsmanship, dedication and perseverance in the face of disappointment.
MECHANIC OF THE YEAR: To Dale Wise, of Mike Shank Racing, presented by Jim Freudenberg of MCI, honoring the driver's most important ally during a race weekend.
TEAM OWNER OF THE YEAR: To Carlos Bobeda, of Condor Motorsports, presented by series chief registrar Sandy Nix, recognizing the team owner whose interest and efforts benefited the entire series as much as their individual team.
BBS RISING STAR AWARD: To Matt Sielsky, of D&L Racing, presented by John Slagle, motorsport manager of BBS of America, Inc., honoring a new driver who has come on to the Atlantic scene and performed in a most-competitive fashion and is a star of the future, along with $3,500.
MICHAEL ROSEN TROPHY: To Kenny Wilden, of Mike Shank Racing, presented by assistant series chief steward John Bornholdt, recognizing both dedication and perseverance, as well as the desire to succeed.
TRD ENGINE BUILDER OF THE YEAR: To Paul Hasselgren, presented by Jim Aust, president of Toyota Racing Development and vice president of Toyota Motorsports, recognizing the engine-builder that scores the most championship points.
ENGINEER OF THE YEAR: To Gerald Tyler, of PPI Racing, presented by series chief technical administrator Greg Schick, in recognition to the driver's engineer who best utilizes his knowledge of the series, its technology and the sophistication of the car's set-up.
SNAP-ON/CAM TOP WRENCH AWARD: To Jason Weatherford, of Player's-Forsythe Racing, presented by Barry Brooks, vice president of Championship Association of Mechanics (CAM), and Jim Phillips, of Snap-On Tools, to the man in charge of blending all the different elements that combine to make a championship team. A $2,500 gift certificate awarded, along with a tool box, provided by Snap-On.
JOVY MARCELO SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD: To Anthony Lazzaro, of PPI Racing, presented by Eddie Marcelo, given to the driver whose sportsmanship exemplifies one of the series finest champions.
KOOL RACING CHALLENGE: To Lee Bentham, of Player's-Forsythe Racing, presented by Bert Kremer, sponsorship manager of Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, presented to the highest-placing non-rookie in the final points standings, along with $15,000.
PLAYER'S CHALLENGE AWARDS: To the top-three overall finishers and top-three Canadian finishers in the four Canadian races (same drivers), presented by Don Dugas, marketing communications manager of Player's. Third place, and $10,000, to Andrew Bordin, of B.D.J.S.; second place, and $12,000, to Alex Tagliani, of Player's-Forsythe Racing; and first place, and $15,000, to Lee Bentham, of Player's-Forsythe Racing.
TOP-10 DRIVERS: Competitors finishing in the top 10 in the final championship points standings were honored, with Rob MacDonald of P-1 Racing, placing 10th, David Rutledge of Binder Racing/TTF Racing, finishing 9th, Kenny Wilden of Mike Shank Racing, finishing 8th; Buddy Rice of Lynx Racing, finishing 7th, Matt Sielsky of D&L Racing, finishing 6th, Alex Tagliani of Player's-Forsythe Racing, finishing 5th, Anthony Lazzaro of PPI/MCI, finishing 4th, Memo Gidley of Lynx Racing, finishing 3rd (presented by Les Unger, national motorsports manager of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc.), Andrew Bordin of B.D.J.S., placing 2nd (presented by Bert Kremer), and 1998 series champion Lee Bentham (presented by Andrew Craig). Bentham's awards also included the $10,000 KOOL Cup Award, the use of a new Toyota RAV 4 for one year, and a test drive in an Arciero-Wells Champ car.
The well-attended year-end awards banquet formally concluded the 13-race KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship silver anniversary season. The CART-sanctioned $1.35 million KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship is noted for its long history of graduating its stars directly into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic series are CART stars Michael Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Jimmy Vasser, Richie Hearn, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Barron, as well as 1997 FIA Formula One Champion, Jacques Villeneuve.