Skerlong Becomes Sixth Different Winner of Atlantic Season in New Jersey

15.09.2008: Skerlong Becomes Sixth Different Winner of Atlantic Season in New Jersey

In a dominating performance at New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Thunderbolt Raceway, Carl Skerlong claimed his first career Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda victory in the inaugural Mazda Formula X. He was the sixth different winner in nine Atlantic races this season.

Driving the No. 14 King Taco machine for Pacific Coast Motorsports, Skerlong led every session in which he participated throughout the weekend. He earned the maximum number of championship points (34) from the weekend, taking bonus points for being the fastest qualifier in both qualifying sessions and also earning a bonus point for turning the race’s fastest lap in addition to his 31 points for the victory under hot and humid conditions. He led every lap to win by 2.464 seconds ahead of rookie Markus Niemela.

"It was long, but I could have kept going for hours at that pace," Skerlong said. We had an awesome car all weekend. Lapped traffic started to play into it, but in the end, we came out on top. They weren’t throwing blue flags like they normally do. It’s a new track and new corner workers, so it’s somewhat to be expected. Going green to checkered, it was kind of surprising to me considering how practice and qualifying went. It made for a long race. It is a very physical track, but in the first time here, to take the first victory I really couldn’t ask for much more. It’s hot, I’m sweaty, but all in all, it was great."

Niemela started the race from second on the grid in the No. 8 Mr. Jones Bar & Kitchen/Rauma Town/Turku Karting entry from Brooks Associates Racing, slotted in behind Skerlong on the race’s standing start and never seriously challenged. It was the Finnish driver’s third second-place result of the season and he has finished seventh or better in eight of his nine starts. He moved into sole possession of third place in the overall championship standings, and slightly closed the gap in the Rookie of the Year standings with the performance. He now trails Rookie of the Year leader Jonathan Summerton by six points, 188-182, and is 22 points behind leader Jonathan Bomarito.

"It was hot and quite humid," Niemela said. "Last year, I was racing in Malaysia in the middle of the summer and I thought it was quite hot, but this wasn’t far from that. It was so humid and hot, but it was the same for everybody. It’s kind of fun, every once in awhile, to race in extreme conditions. This was one of those. I was happy I could do all right until the end. I didn’t make any mistakes and didn’t have any physical problems, so that was good.

"My biggest problem in the race, I lost my radio 13 minutes into the race. After that, I didn’t know what was going on. I kind of cooled off for a while, because Carl was too far in front of me. I couldn’t catch him unless he made a mistake. Then, I thought I would push for the fastest lap in the end when the car was lighter and try to get him to make a mistake, which he didn’t do. That was my motivation at the end of the race. Second place is not bad, but obviously, I have to start winning. I’m beginning to get a bit fed up with being second. It’s good, but you can never be satisfied with second."

Summerton earned his third consecutive podium result with a third-place run in the No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing machine. It was also the American’s fourth podium in the last five races and was his seventh result of sixth or better of the season. He now trails Bomarito by 16 points, 204-188, with two races remaining on the schedule.

"Coming from Florida, I guess everybody was saying that I’m used to this, but when you’re in the car and there’s not very much breeze, it gets pretty hot," Summerton said. "I’m real happy for the team. We’re going for points and we’re going for the championship. The traffic kind of cost us a little. Maybe we could have gotten up to second. This morning in qualifying, we struggled a lot. I think if we would have qualified in the top two, we could have put a fight to Carl. It didn’t happen, but we managed to pull a third out from that and I’m really happy about that."

Canadian driver Kevin Lacroix picked up his second top-four result in his past three starts with a fourth-place run in the No. 25 Uni-Select/Deans Knight/Wasteco entry for Walker Racing. Lacroix also finished fourth in Round 7 at Road America last month and the best result of his season to date was a third-place performance in April’s season-opener at Long Beach.

Dutch racer Junior Strous completed the top five in the No. 6 NEM/Shell/HTP/Muermans Group/Red, White & Bluezz machine for Condor Motorsports/Team Holland. It was the second consecutive top-five result of the year for Strous and was his fourth top five of the season overall. The result also moved him into fourth in the championship standings.

NOTEBOOK

• For the second consecutive race, Tom Sutherland earned a new career-best result in Atlantic competition. He finished sixth in the Mazda Formula X event aboard the No. 88 ClickAway Computers & Networking machine for Brooks Associates Racing, topping a previous career best of eighth in last month’s race at Trois-Rivieres.

• Greg Mansell earned the best result of his Atlantic career with a seventh-place run in the No. 5 Sunseeker entry from Walker Racing, topping previous best results of ninth in Round 4 at Edmonton and Round 8 in Trois-Rivieres. Mansell also earned a bonus point for gaining the most positions from start to finish, moving up four spots from his 11th-place starting position.

• Points leader Jonathan Bomarito finished ninth for Mathiasen Motorsports in the No. 26 Del Taco/Stone Brewing/Discount Tire/RLM Investments machine. It was Bomarito’s eighth top-10 result in nine starts this season.

• New Jersey native Frankie Muniz matched his best result of the season to date with a 10th-place outing in the No. 41 PCM/USRT entry for Pacific Coast Motorsports. Muniz also finished 10th in Round 7 at Road America last month.

• After starting the season with seven straight top-10 results, James Hinchcliffe finished outside the top 15 for the second consecutive race with a 16th-place run in the No. 3 Indeck/Tire Rack/NOCO machine for Forsythe/Pettit Racing. Hinchcliffe fell off the lead lap after spinning and making contact with the No. 19 MAZDASPEED/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing car of Dane Cameron early in the race and he ended up finishing two laps down. As a result, Hinchcliffe dropped from third to sixth in the point standings. Cameron, meanwhile, retired from the race and was credited with 19th in the final rundown.

 

- Nate Siebens -

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15.09.2008 / MaP

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