2008 Atlantic Championship Still Up for Grabs as Series Makes First Visit to Utah

18.09.2008: 2008 Atlantic Championship Still Up for Grabs as Series Makes First Visit to Utah

Six drivers are still in mathematical contention for the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda as the series makes its inaugural visit to the 4.5-mile Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City for Sunday’s SunRichGourmet.com 1000.

American Jonathan Bomarito continues to lead the season standings, but saw his lead reduced from 28 to 16 points over American rookie Jonathan Summerton at last weekend’s Mazda Formula X event at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Bomarito, who drives the No. 26 Del Taco/Stone Brewing/Discount Tire/RLM Investments machine for Mathiasen Motorsports, has finished inside the top 10 in eight of his nine starts this season and leads the series with three victories. Bomarito leads Summerton, 204-188, in the season standings.

Summerton, meanwhile, has come on strong of late in the No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing entry. The rookie from Kissimmee, Fla. has finished on the podium in his last three consecutive races and four of his last five to position himself as a legitimate championship threat with a maximum of 68 points still available. Summerton also leads the Rookie of the Year point standings by six points, 188-182, over Markus Niemela.

Driving the No. 8 Mr. Jones Bar & Kitchen/Rauma Town/Turku Karting machine for Brooks Associates Racing, Niemela heads into the weekend looking to become the seventh different driver to win a race this season, which would be one shy of the Atlantic record of eight different drivers to win in a single season in 1982. The Finnish racer has finished outside the top-seven positions only once in nine starts thus far and has finished second three times this season, including last weekend at New Jersey.

Buoyed by top-five results in his last two Atlantic starts, second-year driver Junior Strous heads to Utah sitting fourth in the season standings. The driver of the No. 6 NEM/Shell/HTP/Muermans Group/Red, White & Bluezz entry for Condor Motorsports/Team Holland earned his first career Atlantic victory in June at Mont-Tremblant and currently trails Bomarito by 38 points.

A dominating performance, which yielded his first career last weekend in New Jersey, vaulted American Carl Skerlong into fifth in the championship. Skerlong has been one of the quickest drivers in the series throughout the season in the No. 14 King Taco machine for Pacific Coast Motorsports and he has finished inside the top five in six of his nine starts this season. He is just one point behind Strous and 39 out of the lead entering the weekend.

Canadian James Hinchcliffe also remains in championship contention, 44 points in arrears of Bomarito. Hinchcliffe opened the season with top-10 results in each of his first seven starts—including a victory in Round 2 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca—before finishing 16th or worse in his last two starts. He will look to regain his early season form this weekend in the No. 3 Indeck/Tire Rack/NOCO machine for Forsythe/Pettit Racing.

Rookie Dane Cameron is the top-ranked driver to be eliminated from championship contention, but the American has been quick all year and has finished inside the top five in five of his nine starts this season. The driver of the No. 19 MAZDASPEED/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing machine for Genoa Racing is another prime candidate to join the list of race-winners this weekend.

Ditto for Canadian Kevin Lacroix in the No. 25 Uni-Select/Deans Knight/Wasteco entry for Walker Racing. Lacroix picked up his third top-five result of the season last weekend at New Jersey and has finished seventh or better in five of nine races. He has already shown his ability to win in Atlantic competition, as evidenced by his victory last year at Portland, and he heads into the weekend looking to recapture that magic.

Swiss driver Simona De Silvestro—the only woman in this weekend’s Atlantic field—was the first winner of the 2008 season when she claimed the Imperial Capital Bank Atlantic Challenge of Long Beach in April. De Silvestro returns to the cockpit of the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine for Newman Wachs Racing looking to add a second victory to her Atlantic resume.

Two drivers who joined the series in progress could also contend for the victory this weekend. Mexican racer David Martinez will make his fifth start aboard the No. 7 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa entry for Forsythe/Pettit Racing in relief of his injured countryman, David Garza.

Martinez has finished inside the top-eight spots in all four of his Atlantic starts this season. American Tom Sutherland, meanwhile, picked up a career-best Atlantic result of fifth last weekend at New Jersey and has finished inside the top 10 in three of his six starts since rejoining the series at Edmonton. Sutherland will pilot the No. 88 ClickAway Computers & Networking machine for Brooks Associates Racing.

Actor-turned-racer Frankie Muniz heads to Miller Motorsports Park carrying the momentum of his second top-10 result of the season with a 10th-place run last weekend in New Jersey. Muniz will drive the No. 41 PCM/USRT entry for Pacific Coast Motorsports looking to move into the top 10 in the championship standings.

Rookie Greg Mansell is another driver carrying some momentum this weekend after finishing a career-best seventh last weekend in the Mazda Formula X. The son of 1992 Formula 1 World Champion and 1993 IndyCar champion Nigel Mansell will drive the No. 5 Sunseeker machine for Walker Racing alongside his brother, Leo Mansell, who is entered in Walker’s No. 15 Sunseeker machine.

Dutch rookie Dominick Muermans heads to Utah looking to meet or exceed his previous best Atlantic result of fifth, which he achieved in May at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May. He will drive the No. 9 Hugenholtz Property Group/Jumbo Supermarkten/Muermans Group machine for Condor Motorsports/Team Holland.

Brazilian Douglas Soares completes a three-car entry for the Condor Motorsports operation, as he will again pilot the No. 11 Banco BMG machine. Soares is looking for the first top-10 result of his Atlantic career this weekend.

Finnish rookie Henri Karjalainen will again pilot the No. 2 Everyman/LTC Rakennus machine for Jensen MotorSport and is looking for his second top-10 result of the season. He finished 10th last month at Trois-Rivieres.

All Atlantic race cars are Swift 016.a Atlantic chassis powered by 300-horsepower Mazda-Cosworth MZR engines capable of speeds in excess of 175 mph. Each entry will ride on new Cooper Atlantic racing slicks and rain tires throughout the weekend.

After a promoter test day at Miller Motorsports Park on Thursday, the official weekend schedule for the Atlantic Championship gets underway on Friday with practice from 12:00 to 12:50 p.m. MT on Friday afternoon and First Round Qualifying from 4:20 to 4:50 p.m., with Final Qualifying schedule to run from 8:55 to 9:20 a.m. on Saturday morning.

 Sunday’s race day schedule includes a warm-up from 9:30 to 10:00 a.m., followed by Round 10 of the 11-race Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, the SunRichGourmet.com 1000, at 2:30 p.m. MT. The timed race will be 50 minutes in length and will feature a standing start.

Live Timing & Scoring data from every on-track session is available on the official web site of the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, www.atlantic-championship.com.

 

-Nate Siebens -

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/champcar-atlantic-championship-series-utha-miller-motorsports-park-sunrichgourmet-com-1000---44540.html

18.09.2008 / MaP

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