Three Atlantic Grads Finish in Top 10; Tagliani Wins Rookie of the Year at Indy 500

28.05.2009: As they have done for the past several years, graduates of the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda had stellar performances in Sunday’s 93rd Indianapolis 500, with three series graduates finishing

As they have done for the past several years, graduates of the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda had stellar performances in Sunday’s 93rd Indianapolis 500, with three series graduates finishing inside the top 10 and another taking Rookie of the Year honors.

Dan Wheldon, Danica Patrick and Paul Tracy earned top-10 results, while Alex Tagliani took the $25,000 Rookie of the Year award, marking the third consecutive year that an Atlantic graduate has won the prestigious award. It was the fourth time in five years that a former Atlantic competitor was named Rookie of the Year at Indianapolis and the 11th time overall.

Wheldon, the 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner, charged from 18th on the grid to finish second in the No. 2 machine for Panther Racing. He finished one spot ahead of Patrick, who finished third in the No. 7 Andretti Green Racing entry and made a bit more history on Sunday as the first woman to finish third in the Indianapolis 500. Patrick earned “500” Rookie of the Year honors in 2005 with a fourth-place performance.

Tracy made it three Atlantic grads inside the top 10 with a ninth-place run aboard the No. 15 KV Racing Technology machine. It was Tracy’s fifth Indianapolis 500 start and his first since 2002. At least two former Atlantic drivers were inside the top 10 positions throughout the 500-mile race and at least three ran inside the top 10 for all but 16 laps (Laps 164-179). As many as four Atlantic graduates were within the top 10 on several different occasions throughout the 200 laps.

After starting 33rd in the No. 36 Conquest Racing machine, which was qualified by Bruno Junqueira, Tagliani methodically worked his way forward for an 11th-place result in his first “500.” He was the highest-finishing rookie in the race and became the third straight former Atlantic competitor to win Rookie of the Year honors, following Ryan Hunter-Reay last year and Phil Giebler in 2007.

Atlantic graduates Raphael Matos and Graham Rahal spent significant amounts of time inside the top five and both appeared to be contenders for the victory before accidents ended their race. Driving the No. 2 Luczo Dragon Racing machine, Matos crashed after contact with Vitor Meira in Turn 1 on Lap 173. The 2007 Atlantic champion wound up 22nd in the final race standings. Rahal—the runner-up in the 2006 Atlantic Championship to Simon Pagenaud—crashed in Turn 4 on Lap 56 and was credited with 31st place in the No. 02 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing entry. Hunter-Reay’s race also ended with a crash in Turn 4 on Lap 20. He wound up 32nd in the No. 21 Vision Racing machine.

Next up for the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda is the Mazda Formula X doubleheader at New Jersey Motorsports Park on the weekend of June 13-14. John Edwards leads the championship standings by five points, 36-31, over Simona De Silvestro heading into the doubleheader, which will be Rounds 3 and 4 of the 12-race 2009 championship.

Former Atlantic Championship Drivers in 2009 Indianapolis 500

Pos.      Driver
2nd        Dan Wheldon
3rd        Danica Patrick
9th        Paul Tracy
11th      Alex Tagliani
22nd     Raphael Matos
31st      Graham Rahal
32nd     Ryan Hunter-Reay

Former Atlantic Championship Drivers Who Have Won Indianapolis 500

Year    Driver
2006    Sam Hornish Jr.
2005    Dan Wheldon
2004    Buddy Rice
1995    Jacques Villeneuve
1994    Al Unser Jr.
1992    Al Unser Jr.
1986    Bobby Rahal
1985    Danny Sullivan

Former Atlantic Championship Drivers Who Have Won Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year

Year    Driver
2009    Alex Tagliani
2008    Ryan Hunter-Reay
2007    Phil Giebler
2005    Danica Patrick
2002    Alex Barron
1998    Steve Knapp
1994    Jacques Villeneuve
1986    Randy Lanier
1984    Michael Andretti
1981    Josele Garza
1979    Howdy Holmes


- Nate Siebens -

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28.05.2009 / MaP

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