Summerton wins in Edmonton, Hinchcliffe takes point lead
It was a good weekend to be named “Jonathan” in the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda at the Rexall Edmonton Indy, as Jonathan Summerton became the second driver with that first name and the fifth different driver in five races this season to win in Saturday’s second half of a doubleheader weekend north of the border.
Driving the No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing machine, Summerton got a great jump on the standing start from third on the grid to take the lead from polesitter Carl Skerlong entering Turn 1. From that point on, Summerton kept Skerlong and the rest of the field in his mirrors as he led every lap on his way to a 2.222-second victory over Skerlong.
“It feels awesome to win a race the fifth race in,” Summerton said. “I’m real happy. We had a couple of races before where we should have been up there, but it didn’t come our way. Now, we’ve put it together. The team did a great job. (Team owner) Eddie Wachs supports me very well. I’d like to just thank the team for doing such a great job all weekend, consistently running the car and keeping the car out there, and putting the car together all the time.”
The 20-year-old from Kissimmee, Fla. became the first rookie to win in Atlantic competition this season and was the first rookie since Franck Perera to win an Atlantic race. Perera claimed his first victory last year at Mont-Tremblant. The performance also vaulted Summerton into third place in the championship standings with six races still remaining on the schedule.
After starting from the pole position, Skerlong finished second in the No. 14 King Taco entry from Pacific Coast Motorsports. It was the third podium result in the past four races for Skerlong and was vindication of sorts for the Mukilteo, Wash. driver who finished 19th in Friday’s first half of the Rexall Edmonton Indy doubleheader. Skerlong also earned a bonus point for running the race’s fastest lap at 1:06.020 (107.586 mph) on Lap 29 of the 36-lap race.
“On the start, we just didn’t have it,” Skerlong said. “We didn’t have a horrible start, just not as good as Jonathan did. For the most part this year, it’s been if we finish, we can finish on the podium. It’s just been actually getting to the checkered flag that’s been our struggle so far. We’ve had a good car. There’s been maybe two sessions all year that we’ve been out of the top five. If we can keep that going and just get a little more consistent and have luck go our way a little bit, I think we’ll definitely be pretty good for the rest of the season and finally be able to be on the top of the podium one of these times.”
As he also did in Friday’s first race of the doubleheader, Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe finished third in the No. 3 Indeck/Tire Rack/NOCO entry from Forsythe/Pettit Racing and moved back to the top of the championship standings. With five of 11 races now in the books, Hinchcliffe holds a five-point advantage over Markus Niemela, 118-113. Hinchcliffe has finished inside the top 10 in every race this season and it was his fourth straight top-four result.
“It wasn’t all bad, I guess,” Hinchcliffe said. “When you manage to improve on your starting position, it’s usually a good day. I still don’t think we quite had the car this weekend. It was a little bit off pace and you could see that in the race. The car was pretty strong early on. I managed to get a good start and move up into third position. Carl actually tapped the wall. I thought, ‘Oh yeah, this time I’ve got him,’ and he just kept going. I don’t know how he does it. I don’t know what they made his car out of. He hit it and I backed off, because I thought he was going to slow down, but he didn’t so I actually lost his draft.
“That’s when I started losing touch with the top two. From there, I was just controlling my pace, and again, I had my mirrors full of this yellow and black car (Jonathan Bomarito), which I’m really getting tired of. Hopefully, when we get to the next race, we can start up front and pull away from everyone, so there’s nobody in the mirrors. That’d be nice, but two podiums in Edmonton is a great result. The Forsythe/Pettit team was pretty good all weekend long and gave me a great car. Now, we’re back in the championship lead, but it’s still ridiculously close.”
One day after taking his first victory of the season, Bomarito took home a fourth-place result in the No. 26 Del Taco/Stone Brewing/Rockview Builders/RLM Investments entry for Mathiasen Motorsports. It was Bomarito’s fourth top-six performance in five starts. Bomarito entered the weekend seventh in the point standings, 29 points out of the lead, but will return home from Canada standing fourth in the championship, just 19 points out of the lead.
Rookie Dane Cameron made it four Americans in the top five with a fifth-place performance in the No. 19 MAZDASPEED/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing machine for Genoa Racing. It was Cameron’s third straight top-five performance.
• Niemela’s reign atop the Atlantic point standings lasted just one night, as the Finn fell to second with a sixth-place performance after starting ninth in Race #2 at the Rexall Edmonton Indy aboard the No. 8 Mr. Jones Bar & Kitchen/Rauma Town/Turku Karting machine for Brooks Associates Racing. However, Niemela continues to lead the Rookie of the Year point standings by 12 points, 113-101, over Summerton.
• Canadian racer Daniel Morad picked up his third top-10 result of the season with an eighth-place performance in the No. 70 Metro Directories of Georgia machine for Eurointernational. Morad also finished ninth in Round 2 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May and his Atlantic career-best result of sixth came in April’s season-opener in Long Beach.
• Dutch driver Junior Strous came into the weekend as the series points leader but now finds himself fifth in the point standings. He finished ninth in Saturday’s race in the No. 6 NEM/Shell/HTP/Muermans Group/Red, White & Bluezz machine.
• Finnish rookie Henri Karjalainen took the bonus point for improving the most positions in the race, charging from 16th to 11th in the No. 2 GNLD machine for Jensen MotorSport. It was an Atlantic career-best performance for Karjalainen, eclipsing previous best runs of 14th yesterday and at Long Beach.