CHAMPCAR/CART: Arciero-Wells Tests Drivers

ARCIERO-WELLS/TOYOTA CART TEAM REWARDS TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPION LEE BENTHAM WITH A SPIN IN A CHAMP CAR RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif., (November 17, 1998) - On November 23, Toyota and the MCI WorldCom/Arciero-Wells Championship Auto Racing ...

ARCIERO-WELLS/TOYOTA CART TEAM REWARDS TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPION LEE BENTHAM WITH A SPIN IN A CHAMP CAR

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif., (November 17, 1998) - On November 23, Toyota and the MCI WorldCom/Arciero-Wells Championship Auto Racing Team will reward 1998 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship series champion Lee Bentham with a spin around the track in the number 25 MCI WorldCom-sponsored Toyota-powered Champ Car at Buttonwillow, Calif. Toyota provides this opportunity, in conjunction with Arciero-Wells, to the annual KOOL/Toyota Atlantic drivers' champion.

"We have been very fortunate to participate in this worthwhile program with Toyota, CART and the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship series the past three years," said Cal Wells III, Arciero-Wells team owner. "It is in the best interest for all of us to take an active role in the development of young open-wheel drivers. CART has established a clear development ladder, with both the Atlantic series and the PPG Dayton Indy Lights series serving as proving grounds for young drivers, many of whom have moved on to CART. The Atlantic series has promoted such talents as Michael Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Jimmy Vasser, Richie Hearn, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Barron and Jacques Villenueve, and we may well see Lee Bentham join that group in the not-too-distant future."

"Toyota Motorsports and Toyota Racing Development [TRD, U.S.A.] are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with Arciero-Wells and provide this opportunity for our outstanding 1998 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic drivers' champion," said Les Unger, national motorsports manager for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.

"This test is a great opportunity to showcase the up-and-coming talent that exists in CART's developmental series," said Andy Deas, director of MCI WorldCom Sports Marketing. "It is an example of CART's, Toyota's and PPI's [Precision Preparation, Inc.] commitment to developing drivers that can take the excitement of CART racing to the next level."

This year Bentham won two races, three poles and five podium finishes in 13 events throughout North America. In 1997, he finished fifth in the Indy Lights Championship with one win, one podium finish and posted nine top-ten finishes. Bentham, a resident of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, also finished second in the 1996 Atlantic series with seven podium finishes.

"It's really an honor to get this opportunity," said the 28-year-old Bentham. "Very, very few people on this planet will get a chance to step behind the wheel of a Champ Car. It's quite a privilege to get a ride in a PPI-prepared Champ Car.

(Having recently tested a Champ Car): "You have a preconceived notion of what a Champ Car will do, but once you've done it, even for a few laps, you understand its capabilities. I can go into this opportunity knowing full well what its capabilities are, rather than wondering. I know what to expect as far as horsepower. It's kind of odd, actually. It feels like an Atlantic car in high speed and the steering is actually lighter than an Atlantic car. And it feels like an Indy Lights car in the slow-speed parts. But once you get it rotated, it feels like a Champ Car, banging through the gears.

"I expect to do very well and to show that I do have some speed in these cars. Getting the word out is very important. I think Cal Wells as a team owner can do a lot of good by just talking with other team owners. This is a great opportunity and it's a very big deal for me and for the Atlantic series. It's a great service what Cal Wells and the rest of the PPI team are doing for the series."

Additionally, on November 23, The MCI WorldCom/PPI Atlantic Racing Team will test David Besnard, the 1998 U.S. F2000 national champion and Jeff Simmons, the 1998 Barber Dodge champion at Buttonwillow, Calif.

"Both David and Jeff did an outstanding job this year in their respective series. We're excited to do this test on behalf of the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic series and we always enjoy working with up-and-coming talent," said Nick Harvey, MCI WorldCom Atlantic Team manager.

Scoring a record 363 points, Besnard won eight races and eight poles in 14 events this year. The 21-year-old Australian native was also the Australian Formula Ford 1600 champion in 1996. Jeff Simmons, the 1998 Barber Dodge Pro Series champion, earned three wins, three poles, four second-place podiums , four third-place podiums and four fastest laps. He also received the Rookie of the Year award, which makes him the second person to ever win the championship as a rookie.

LEE BENTHAM CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Full Name:                              Lee Bentham
Birth Date:                             July 27, 1970
Residence:                              Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
Birthplace:                             Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
Height:                        5'9"
Weight:                        142 lbs.
Marital Status:                        Married; Sandra

1998 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, Player's Atlantic Team. Won championship, winning two races, three poles and five podium finishes in 13 events.

1997 Indy Lights Championship. Finished fifth in series posting one win, one podium finish and nine top-ten finishes in 13 races.

1996 Player's/Toyota Atlantic Championship. Finished second in championship with one pole and eight podium finishes.

1995 Player's/Toyota Atlantic Championship. Finished eighth overall in championship competing in seven of the 12 races. Earned five top-five finishes.

1994 Canadian Michelin Enduroseries. Finished 17th overall.

Canadian Valvoline Touring Car Championship. Collected two pole positions and a second-place finish.

1993 Ontario Regional Endurance Championship. Leading contender.

1992 Canadian Sprint Grandnationals. Won.

SKC Annual Challenge Cup. Won.

SKC Mondial Series. Won Formula "A" karting series.

1991 NTN Kart Series. Champion in Formula "A" class.

1992-81 Multiple Kart Series. Won 19 championships with a record 224 wins and 310 podium finishes.

Federation International Karting. Competed in five world championships.

DAVID BESNARD CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Full Name:                              David Besnard
Birth Date:                             January 21, 1977
Residence:                              St. Petersburg, Fla.
Birthplace:                             Sydney, Australia
Height:                        5'11"
Weight:                        170 lbs.
Marital Status:                        Single

1998 U.S. F2000 National Championship, Primus Racing Team. Won championship. Claiming eight wins, eight poles, 11 podium finishes and 13 top-five finishes in 14 races.

United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC). Finished fifth at Watkins Glen in a Riley & Scott Ford.

SportsCar. Finished second in the Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta in a factory GT3 BMW M3.

1997 U.S. F2000 National Championship, Primus Racing Team. Competed in five events finishing second at Phoenix.

1996 Australian Formula Ford 1600 Championship. Won championship. Seven wins and five poles in ten races.

1995 Formula Ford. Won first two races before injury in accident.

1994 Federation International Karting. Factory top-kart driver in Europe, Asia and the United States. Won the Australian International Kart Prix.

1993 Federation International Karting. Drove for Italian Tibi Kart factory in Europe, Asia and the United States.

1992 European Junior Karting Championship. Won championship. Australian Junior Karting Championship. Won championship.

1991 Australian Junior Karting Championship. Won championship.

1990 Australian Junior Karting Championship. Won championship.

1989-85 Australian Junior Karting Championship. Won 80 percent of the races entered in Australia.

JEFF SIMMONS CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Full Name:                              Jeff Simmons
Birth Date:                             August 5, 1976
Residence:                              East Granby, Conn.
Birthplace:                             Hartford, Conn.
Height:                        5'10"
Weight:                        160 lbs.
Marital Status:                        Single

1998 Barber Dodge Pro Series. Won championship earning three wins, three poles, four second-place podiums , one third-place podium and four fastest laps. Received Rookie of the Year award.

1997 Barber Dodge Pro Series. Competed in three races.

U.S. Pro Formula 2000. Participated in three races finishing twice in the top ten.

SCCA Formula 2000. Finished first at Watkins Glen.

1996 Skip Barber Formula Dodge. Competed in winter series finishing second in championship. Won seven of the 14 races. Voted Most Improved Driver.

Skip Barber Formula Dodge. Competed in a partial season of the eastern series. Received Rookie of the Year award.

1994 Skip Barber Formula Dodge. Competed in four races accumulating two second-place podium finishes and two fourth-place finishes.

1993 SOTARE Motorsports. Involved in maintenance and preparation for the USAC Formula 2000 Pro Series Championship winning car.

1992 SOTARE Motorsports. Involved in maintenance and preparation for the USAC Formula 2000 Pro Series Championship winning car.

1991 SOTARE Motorsports. Involved in preparation of SCCA Runoffs winning Sports 2000 car.

Quarter Midgets. Competed in and won all four races.

1990 Quarter Midgets of America. Won regional championship.

1989 Quarter Midgets of America. Won regional championship.

1988 Quarter Midgets of America. Won regional championship.

1987 Quarter Midgets of America. Won regional championship.

1986 Quarter Midgets of America. Won regional championship. Won national championship in Advanced Modified class.

1985 Quarter Midgets of America. Won regional championship.

1984 Quarter Midgets of America. Won regional championship.

1983 Quarter Midgets of America. Won regional championship.

1982 Quarter Midgets of America. Won regional championship.

1981 Quarter Midgets of America. Won regional championship and national championship in Novice class.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bobby Rahal , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , David Besnard , Skip Barber , Jeff Simmons , Lee Bentham
Teams Toyota Racing