Nigel Mansell: “This is one of the best new circuits I've been to." New Jersey Motorsports Park hosted another diverse racing event this past weekend, as the Mazda Formula X tour. Race events included the storied Atlantic Championship, Formula Mazda and Redline Time Attack attracting hundreds of participants, ranging from teenage racing sensations, urban racing and tuning enthusiasts, not to mention the sons of one of the world’s most famous racing drivers.
Providing perhaps the most memorable quote about NJMP since Chris Economaki remarked “Now I can die a happy man” when referring to NJMP’s opening, former Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell said, “This is one of the best new circuits I've been to, and I've been all over the world." The former Williams and Ferrari driver won the F1 World Championship in 1992 and has been nurturing the racing careers of his sons Leo and Greg, both of whom raced in the Atlantic Championship race. Greg Mansell finished 7th, capturing his best result of the season, while Leo finished 12th. "This is the first track I've visited in a long time with zero Mickey Mouse corners," Mansell continued, referring to gimmicky, tight, low-speed turns many tracks feature as a means to slow cars down. "To have a circuit like this from the get-go that has what I call 'quality corners' is a great achievement."
Atlantic Championship Race
Carl Skerlong claimed his first career win in the Cooper Tires Presents the Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda victory in the inaugural Mazda Formula X. Skerlong turned in a dominant performance throughout the weekend, leading every session, earning maximum championship points for leading both qualifying sessions, turning the fast lap of the race, and for winning the race by 2.464 seconds.
"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."
Formula Mazda Races
The weekend saw two exciting Formula Mazda races, and the competition was largely dominated by two drivers: John Edwards, who claimed his third victory of the season, and Irishman Peter Dempsey, who leads the Championship with two races to go and who has now won four of the last five races. Edwards won Saturday’s feature race, round 9 of the 2008 Atlantic Championship, and claimed the pole for Sunday’s Round 10 event.
Edwards snapped Dempsey’s 3-race winning streak with a win from the outside of the front row in Race 1 / Round 9 of the 2008 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear at New Jersey Motorsports Park. This is the third win this season for Edwards, who drives the #7 AIM Autosport Mobil 1 Mazda. He won from the pole in his first-ever Star Mazda Championship race at Miller Motorsports Park and followed that up with a win in Race 2 /Round 5 at the Mazda Grand Prix of Portland.
Dempsey, quickly earning the nickname 'the Irish Steamroller,' rolled to his fourth victory in the last five races with a lucky but dominant win in Race 2 / Round 10 of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The driver of the #21 Andersen Racing / LotusWorks /Quayside.ie / Allied Building Products Mazda previously won three races back-to-back at Road America, Trois Rivières and Mosport.
Finishing second after battling through a weekend informed almost exclusively by bad luck was Lafayette, Louisiana racer Alex Ardoin, driving the #51 Mundill Racing / Oral & Facial Surgery Center / Twister Trailer Mazda. Coming home third, despite fighting a bad cold that saw him collapse on the podium, was the winner of Saturday's Round 1 / Race 9, American John Edwards in the #7 AIM Autosport / Mobil1 Mazda.
"I didn't have quite the pace to win the race, but I could run with the leaders," said Dempsey, who started from third on the grid on Sunday and cruised to 14.659-second margin of victory. "I had a bit of luck when Joel Miller spun and dropped back a couple of places, and another bit when a car spun in front of Edwards and he had to swerve off track to avoid contact. That put me through into first and from there on it was just taking care of the tires and not making any mistakes.”