Bomarito Scores First Victory of Season in First Race of Edmonton Doubleheader

26.07.2008: Bomarito Scores First Victory of Season in First Race of Edmonton Doubleheader

Jonathan Bomarito became the fourth different winner in four races for the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda in the first race of the Rexall Edmonton Indy doubleheader on Friday evening.

Driving the No. 26 Del Taco/Stone Brewing/Rockview Builders/RLM Investments machine for Mathiasen Motorsports, Bomarito stalked polesitter James Hinchcliffe throughout the race before making his move in Turn 1 with eight laps remaining to take the lead. A late full-course caution set up a one-lap shootout, but Bomarito managed to hold off a charging Markus Niemela to take the victory by 0.691 seconds.

"The race was very difficult, but smooth in the same sense," Bomarito said. "I had a decent start and from there, I was just kind of hanging onto the coattails of James, letting him tow me around the track a bit and let things pan out. I was able to develop a little bit of a gap to third.

"James had a little bit of a problem down into Turn 1. He just got a little bit wide into (Turn) 1, out in the marbles. This track seems to just have rubbered-up big time. If you get off line, you’re done. You lose a couple seconds just like that. I was able to get by and hold my position on the restart. That was a nail-biter right there at the end to see that full-course caution come out. I think I had a two-second lead with five minutes to go or something like that and it was gone just like that. Big thanks to the Mathiasen Motorsports team and (owners) Ray and Leslie (Mathiasen). I’m excited for everybody."

It was Bomarito’s first victory of the season and his third career Atlantic race victory and moved him from seventh to fourth in the championship standings. It was also the first Atlantic victory for Mathiasen Motorsports, coming in the team’s 36th series start.

Niemela charged from fifth on the grid in the No. 8 Mr. Jones Bar & Kitchen/Rauma Town/Turku Karting entry for Brooks Associates Racing to claim his second consecutive second-place result and took over the points lead. Heading into Saturday’s second race of the doubleheader, Niemela holds a one-point lead over Hinchcliffe, 94-93. The Finn also continues to lead the Rookie of the Year point standings by 24 points, 94-70, over Jonathan Summerton.

"It feels good (to lead the points)," Niemela said. "It doesn’t suck, I would say. I started fifth and we really struggled in qualifying. I wasn’t at my best, really, and I was probably misleading my engineer, Nick Harvey, with the car setup. We went through the data with Nick and I don’t know what he did for the car, but it was so good to drive. It was one of the best cars I’ve had for a long time. I got a good start and went from fifth to third and started chasing (Hinchcliffe and Bomarito). I was keeping up with them quite closely, actually, sometimes. James was making some mistakes a couple of times and was driving really on the limit.

"I was actually not so happy with James making those small mistakes, because every time he made one, Dane Cameron caught me. I was hoping James would make a proper mistake or stop doing them, so that I could have an easy third or I could move up.

Anyway, he made one little bit bigger one and Jonathan got by. Then, I was hoping for the next one, and it came, actually, a couple of laps later. I am equally thankful to the team for making a really great race car for me, and I have to thank James for handing me the second place. From there on, the gaps were quite big. Jonathan was gone already. He was clearly first and I was quite clearly second. I finished there, and I’m really happy with this. It’s good."

After leading a race-high 30 laps of the 38-lap event, Hinchcliffe settled for third place and his second podium result of the season in the No. 3 Indeck/Tire Rack/NOCO entry from Forsythe/Pettit Racing. It was the 10th podium result of Hinchcliffe’s Atlantic career and keeps him well within striking distance of the points lead with another race still remaining on the doubleheader weekend and seven more races still to be run in the 2008 season.

"First off, congratulations to Jonathan," Hinchcliffe said. "I’m really happy for those guys. They deserved that win. They pretty much had one in the bag at Long Beach and it didn’t go their way, and I can now sympathize with them. Credit to him for that. He just made my life so difficult. I have blisters on my hands like you couldn’t believe. I had a couple of moments early on and then we got side-by-side and had a little exciting battle there for a couple of corners.

Late in the race, I’d been having a little bit of a downshifting problem heading into the first corner and it didn’t want to go from fourth gear into third, so I just went in a little too deep there and by that point in the race, there were so many marbles and so much dirt and dust off-track that there was just no way I was getting the car back. Jonathan had a good, clean run up the inside. That was tough to swallow, but that’s racing.

"(Dominick Muermans) had the accident in Turn 7, and my engineer came on the radio and said, ‘Full-course caution.’ I thought, ‘All right, I’ll just back off.’ Then, Markus (Niemela) goes flying by, and I’m like, ‘Who does this guy think he is? He hasn’t got the message yet. He’s going to feel kind of silly in a minute.’ As it turns out, that’s not exactly how it was.

My engineer misheard the call on the radio, so I got past the incident, saw the green flag waving and thought, ‘Aargh.’ I got back on it, but obviously lost the position to Markus. We kind of gifted him the position and I’ve given both of them (Bomarito and Niemela) a gift now. I gave Markus that gift, and I gave Jonathan a gift by not spraying him with champagne on the podium because he only has one suit and we’ve got a race tomorrow. I’ve been in a really giving mood today."

Cameron picked up an Atlantic career-best result of fourth in the No.19 MAZDASPEED/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing machine from Genoa Racing. It was Cameron’s second straight top-five Atlantic result, as he also finished fifth in Round 3 at Mont-Tremblant last month. The result also came on the heels of Cameron qualifying a career-best second for Saturday’s second race of the doubleheader.

Also earning a career-best Atlantic result was Mexican racer David Garza, who finished fifth in the No. 7 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa entry for Forsythe/Pettit Racing. It was Garza’s third consecutive top-eight result and eclipsed his previous career best run of seventh in Round 2 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May. Garza also earned a bonus point for running the fastest lap in the race at 1:06.464 (106.867 mph) on Lap 16.

NOTEBOOK

• Earlier in the day on Friday, Carl Skerlong picked up his first career Atlantic Championship pole position for the second race of the Rexall Edmonton Indy doubleheader on Saturday afternoon. Driving the No. 14 King Taco entry for Pacific Coast Motorsports, Skerlong turned a best lap at 1:05.455 (108.514 mph). Skerlong is joined on the front row by Cameron, who posted a best lap at 1:05.521 (108.405 mph), followed by Summerton at 1:05.685 (108.134 mph). Hinchcliffe will start fourth and Bomarito fifth, while new points leader Niemela will start ninth.

• Skerlong was one of several drivers to have a rough outing in the first race of the Rexall Edmonton Indy doubleheader. After starting third, Skerlong was forced to pit lane early in the race with a mechanical problem resulting from contact. He rejoined the race, but finished three laps down in 19th place. Junior Strous also had a tough day in the No. 6 NEM/Shell/HTP/Muermans Group/Red, White & Bluezz machine for Condor Motorsports/Team Holland. Strous came into the race as the points leader but started ninth and finished 13th, dropping him to third in the championship. Strous’ teammate, Muermans, also had a tough day, which ended against the tire barrier in Turn 7. Muermans wasn’t injured, but was the only driver not running at the finish. He was credited with 20th place.

• Simona De Silvestro earned the bonus point for the most positions improved from start to finish. She drove the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine from 13th on the starting grid to an eighth-place result. She is now fifth in the championship standings.

• Greg Mansell picked up the best result of his Atlantic career with a ninth-place performance in the No. 5 Sunseeker entry for Walker Racing. Mansell’s previous best result was a 13th-place performance in April’s season-opener at Long Beach.

• Tom Sutherland also acquitted himself well in his return to Atlantic competition in the No. 88 Professional Bull Riders/Trail Tire machine for Brooks Associates Racing. Sutherland picked up an Atlantic career-best result of 10th, eclipsing a previous best run of 13th at San Jose last year. It was Sutherland’s first Atlantic start of the season.

 

- Nate Siebens -

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26.07.2008 / MaP

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