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Atlantic series gears up for Road America doubleheader
INDIANAPOLIS – With just 23 points separating first from fifth in the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, it’s still anybody’s race as the series heads to historic Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. for the second and final doubleheader of the 11-race season this weekend on Saturday, August 9 and Sunday, August 10.

Leading the way, as he also did heading into Round 3 at Mont-Tremblant in June, is Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe in the No. 3 Indeck/Tire Rack/NOCO machine for Forsythe/Pettit Racing. Topped by a victory in Round 2 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May and back-to-back third-place results in the doubleheader at Edmonton last month, Hinchcliffe has finished all five races this season inside the top 10 and hasn’t finished worse than fourth in any of the last four races. As a result, he leads Finnish rookie Markus Niemela by five points, 118-113.

Niemela returns to the cockpit of the No. 8 Mr. Jones Bar & Kitchen/Rauma Town/Turku Karting machine for Brooks Associates Racing this weekend still looking for his first career Atlantic victory, but well within sight of the championship lead and with plenty of time to make his move. Like Hinchcliffe, Niemela has also finished inside the top 10 in every race this season—in fact, he hasn’t finished worse than seventh this year—and he owns a pair of second-place results.

American rookie Jonathan Summerton has established himself as another strong contender for championship honors, especially with a dominating victory in the second race of the Edmonton doubleheader two weeks ago. He trails Hinchcliffe by 17 points and Niemela—who leads the Rookie of the Year championship—by 12 markers, but another strong doubleheader in the No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing entry this weekend will close that gap even more.

Another American driver, Jonathan Bomarito, charged back into the championship fight in a big way thanks to a great weekend in Edmonton. Bomarito brought Mathiasen Motorsports its first-ever victory in Atlantic competition in Race #1 of the doubleheader and finished fourth in Race #2 to take over fourth in the standings. He is just 19 points behind Hinchcliffe as the series heads to Road America, where he recorded his first career Atlantic victory in 2006. He will drive the No. 26 Del Taco/Stone Brewing/Discount Tire/RLM Investments machine,

Rounding out the top five in the point standings is Dutch racer Junior Strous in the No. 6 NEM/Shell/HTP/Muermans Group/Red, White & Bluezz machine for Condor Motorsports/Team Holland. Strous knows just how quickly the championship lead can change hands in an Atlantic doubleheader, as he went into the Edmonton weekend as the points leader and came out in fifth. However, Strous dominated the weekend at Mont-Tremblant in June en route to his first career Atlantic victory and Road America’s similar characteristics could vault Strous back toward the head of the points table this weekend.

One of the fastest drivers throughout the season has been American Carl Skerlong in the No. 14 King Taco entry from Pacific Coast Motorsports. Skerlong hasn’t qualified worse than fourth all season and scored his first career Atlantic pole position for Race #2 at Edmonton. He has also finished three of the first five races of the season on the podium but finished 19th or worse in the other two races, putting him sixth in the point standings heading into this weekend. He finished third in last year’s Atlantic race at Road America and could pick up his first career Atlantic victory in one of the two races.

Rookie Dane Cameron is another American rookie who has come on strong of late, finishing each of the last three races inside the top five in the No. 19 MAZDASPEED/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing machine for Genoa Racing. The 2007 Star Mazda champion also started from the front row for the first time in his Atlantic career with a second-place qualifying performance for Race #2 at Edmonton. He currently stands seventh in the overall championship and third in the Rookie of the Year standings.

Canadian racer Kevin Lacroix is another driver who has been quick virtually throughout the season but who has suffered from some bad luck in the No. 25 Uni-Select/Deans Knight/Wasteco entry from Walker Racing. Lacroix opened the year with a third-place performance in Long Beach and after two races outside the top 10, scored back-to-back seventh-place results in Edmonton. He heads to Road America standing eighth in the championship and looking for the second victory of his Atlantic career.

Mexican driver David Garza, who is currently ranked ninth in the championship standings, will not be competing in this weekend’s doubleheader at Road America due to a training injury and will be replaced by his countryman, David Martinez, in the No. 7 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa entry for Forsythe/Pettit Racing. Martinez is no stranger to Atlantic competition with back-to-back fifth-place performances in the 2005 and 2006 Atlantic standings, and he finished third in the Atlantic event at Road America in 2005.

The only woman in the Atlantic field, Swiss driver Simona De Silvestro is 10th in the championship heading into this weekend’s doubleheader. She opened the year with a popular victory in Long Beach and has finished inside the top 10 in four of her five starts this season. She will drive the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine for Newman Wachs Racing.

Canadian rookie Daniel Morad will once again pilot the No. 70 Metro Directories of Georgia/Grapeking machine this weekend and the 2007 Formula BMW USA champion is looking to build upon three top-10 results from the first five races. He is joined on the two-car Eurointernational team by Venezuelan rookie Luis Schiavo in the No. 46 Constructora Iriaca/Astaltatora Maracay/Transporte Jumbo/Energy Freight System machine. Schiavo scored his best result of the season in Race #2 at Edmonton with a 14th-place performance.

Dutch rookie Dominick Muermans will be looking to return to the top 10 this weekend in the No. 9 Hugenholz Property Group/Jumbo Supermarkten/Muermans Group machine for Condor Motorsports/Team Holland. He earned a career-best result of fifth in May’s Monterey Festival of Speed and also finished 10th at Mont-Tremblant in June. He is teamed with Strous and Brazilian rookie Douglas Soares on the three-car Condor Motorsports operation. Soares took an Atlantic career-best result of 12th in Race #2 at Edmonton aboard the No. 11 Banco BMG machine.

Second-year Atlantic racer Frankie Muniz returns for his second Atlantic start at Road America having finished inside the top 15 in every race this season. The actor-turned-racer hasn’t finished lower than 13th in the last four races aboard the No. 41 PCM/USRT machine alongside teammate Skerlong with Pacific Coast Motorsports.

Rookies Greg and Leo Mansell will be making their first Atlantic appearances this weekend at Road America with Walker Racing. Greg picked up the best result of his Atlantic career with a ninth-place run in the No. 5 Sunseeker entry in Race #1 at Edmonton, while Leo’s best run to date was an 11th-place performance at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May. The brothers are the sons of 1992 Formula 1 World Champion and 1993 IndyCar champion Nigel Mansell.

Finnish rookie Henri Karjalainen had his best Atlantic weekend to date at Edmonton with runs of 14th and 11th and will be looking to bring that momentum with him to Road America. He drives the No. 2 GNLD machine for Jensen MotorSport. American Tom Sutherland, meanwhile, is back for another weekend of Atlantic competition in the No. 88 Brooks Associates Racing entry as a teammate to Karjalainen’s countryman, Niemela. Sutherland finished 10th in his first Atlantic race of the season in Race #1 of the Edmonton doubleheader.

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.

The weekend schedule for the Atlantic Championship gets underway on Friday, August 8 with a 45-minute practice session beginning at 9:00 a.m. Central Time, followed by qualifying for Race #1 from 1:00 to 1:35 p.m. and an all-driver autograph session at the Cooper Tire display from 4:00 to 4:45 p.m.

On Saturday, the Atlantic machines return to the track at 8:45 a.m. CT for a 35-minute qualifying session for Race #2, followed by the first race of the weekend for Atlantic on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Sunday’s schedule calls for a warm-up from 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. with Race #2 slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. Both races will be 45 minutes in length and will feature standing starts.

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.

•    Five for Five: The first five races of the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season have been won by five different drivers. Simona De Silvestro (No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy) won the season-opening race in Long Beach, while James Hinchcliffe (No. 3 Indeck/Tire Rack/NOCO) took Round 2 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Junior Strous (No. 6 NEM/Shell/Muermans Group/Red, White & Bluezz) won Round 3 at Mont-Tremblant. Jonathan Bomarito (No. 26 Del Taco/Stone Brewing/Discount Tire/RLM Investments) won Round 4, which was Race #1 of a doubleheader at Edmonton, while rookie Jonathan Summerton (No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing) took Round 5 of the season and Race #2 of the Edmonton weekend.

•    Doubling Up:  This weekend features the second of two consecutive doubleheader race weekends for the Atlantic Championship.  This weekend’s Rounds 6 and 7 at Road America were preceded by Rounds 4 and 5 at the Rexall Edmonton Indy two weeks ago. While a month or more separated each of the first four races on the schedule, the final eight races will be contested in a span of 12 weeks.

•    35 Years and Counting:
The 35th Anniversary celebration for the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda continues with this weekend’s Rexall Edmonton Indy doubleheader. Over the years, the Atlantic series has seen more than its share of legendary drivers pass through the series on their way to greatness, from Formula 1 superstars such as Gilles Villeneuve, Keke Rosberg and Jacques Villeneuve to IndyCar racing heroes such as Bobby Rahal, Jimmy Vasser, Michael Andretti, Danny Sullivan, Sam Hornish Jr., Dan Wheldon and Buddy Rice. This year, Atlantic graduates will compete for race victories and championships in top-tier North American series such as the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. Atlantic has earned the distinction of being North America’s longest-running driver development series, and also one of the best.

•    International Flair: This weekend’s race will feature drivers representing nine different countries. The United States is best represented with a total of six drivers; followed by Canada with three; Finland, England and The Netherlands with two each; and one each from Mexico, Brazil, Switzerland and Venezuela.

•    Rookies Aplenty: This weekend’s field will include nine rookies. The first-year drivers are Henri Karjalainen (No. 2 GNLD), Greg Mansell (No. 5 Sunseeker), Markus Niemela (No. 8 Mr. Jones Bar & Kitchen/Rauma Town/Turku Karting), Dominick Muermans (No. 9 Hugenholtz Property Group/Jumbo Supermarkten/Muermans Group), Douglas Soares (No. 11 Banco BMG), Leo Mansell (No. 15 Sunseeker), Dane Cameron (No. 19 MAZDASPEED/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing, Jonathan Summerton (No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing), Luis Schiavo (No. 46 Constructora Iriaca/Astaltatora Maracay/Transporte Jumbo/Energy Freight System) and Daniel Morad (No. 70 Metro Directories of Georgia/Grapeking).

•    Past Winners: The driver who wins the races at  Road America could very well be visiting Victory Circle for the first time in his Atlantic career. Only six drivers in the field have previously won Atlantic events:  James Hinchcliffe (No. 3 Indeck/TireRack.com), Kevin Lacroix (No. 25 Uni-Select/Deans Knight/Wasteco), Jonathan Bomarito (No. 26 Del Taco/RLM Investments/Stone Brewing), Simona De Silvestro (No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy), Junior Strous (No. 6 Shell/HTP/Muermans Group/Red, White & Bluezz) and Jonathan Summerton (No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing).


WHAT:       Road Race Showcase

WHERE:    Road America – Elkhart Lake, Wis.

ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND SCHEDULE (All times local, CT): FRIDAY, AUGUST 8 – 9:00 – 9:45 a.m., Practice; 1:00 – 1:35 p.m., Race #1 Qualifying; SATURDAY, AUGUST 9 – 8:45 – 9:20 a.m., Race #2 Qualifying; 1:00 – 2:00 p.m., Race #1; SUNDAY, AUGUST 10 – 8:30 – 8:45 a.m. – Warm-up; 1:30 – 2:30 p.m., Race #2

4.048-mile permanent road course

45-minute time limit for each race

TRACK RECORDS (based on current layout):
Qualifying (one lap) – 8/11/07, Franck Perera, 1:58.883, 122.581 mph
Race (full distance) – 8/12/07, Franck Perera, 50:24.548, 106.000 mph

RACE ROUNDS: Round 6 and 7 of the 11-race 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda

NEXT RACE:  Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres – Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada, August 17

ROAD AMERICA HISTORY (23 events, 1974, 1978-83, 1986-90, 1996-2002, 2004-Present)

Year        Race Winner            Pole Winner
1974        Tom Klausler            Tom Klausler
1978        Howdy Holmes        Bobby Rahal
1979        Bob Earl                  Kevin Cogan
1980        Bob Earl                  Jacques Villeneuve**
1981        Whitney Ganz          Jacques Villeneuve**
1982        John David Briggs    Tim Coconis
1983        Roberto Moreno        Michael Andretti
1986        Scott Goodyear        Scott Goodyear
1987        Ted Prappas            Ted Prappas
1988        Colin Trueman        Colin Trueman
1989        Claude Bourbonnais Jacques Villeneuve**
1990        Jimmy Vasser        Jimmy Vasser
1996        Patrick Carpentier    Patrick Carpentier
1997        Alex Barron            Chuck West
1998        Anthony Lazzaro    Anthony Lazzaro
1999        Andrew Bordin        Alex Tagliani
2000        Buddy Rice            Martin Basso
2001        Hoover Orsi            Hoover Orsi
2002        Luis Diaz              Jon Fogarty
2004        Ryan Dalziel          Ryan Dalziel
2005        Tonis Kasemets    Tonis Kasemets
2006        Jonathan Bomarito  Raphael Matos
2007        Franck Perera        Franck Perera
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