35th Anniversary Atlantic Championship All-Star Team Honored
The 10 members of the 35th Anniversary Atlantic Championship All-Star Team were honored in a media luncheon earlier today at Road Atlanta, site of Friday’s 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season finale in support of the Petit Le Mans Powered by the Totally New MAZDA6.
In attendance at the luncheon were Bill Brack, who won the first two Atlantic titles in 1974 and 1975; Claude Bourbonnais, who won 13 races in Atlantic competition; Mark Dismore, the winningest driver in Atlantic history with 15 career victories; and David Empringham, who won the 1993 and 1994 series titles. Other members of the team include A.J. Allmendinger, Patrick Carpentier, Jimmy Vasser, the late Gilles Villeneuve and his brother, Jacques Villeneuve. Allmendinger, Carpentier, Vasser and Jacques Villeneuve were not in attendance due to other business commitments, while Fogarty was unable to attend as his wife, Sara, was scheduled to give birth to the couple’s second child near their home in Bend, Ore. today.
The 10 All-Stars were chosen from an esteemed group of 25 finalists. The remaining 15 finalists were (in alphabetical order): Michael Andretti, Alex Barron, Price Cobb, Scott Goodyear, Tom Gloy, Richie Hearn, Howdy Holmes, Anthony Lazzaro, Dan Marvin, Roberto Moreno, Hoover Orsi, Bobby Rahal, Buddy Rice, Keke Rosberg and Jacques Villeneuve (son of Gilles Villeneuve).
Below are comments from several members of the 35th Anniversary All-Star Team:
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: “I’m really honored to be selected as a part of this All-Star team. “To be placed among some of the best drivers in the world in such a historic and competitive series really does mean something. I loved my time in the Atlantic series and all those who were a part of the organization, especially (Atlantic Championship President) Vicki (O’Connor). They do a great job of prepping drivers for the next steps in their careers.”
CLAUDE BOURBONNAIS: “I feel privileged and honored, because Atlantic has always been very important to me. Growing up, that’s what we looked up to, the Villeneuves and Bill (Brack) and I had some friends that raced Formula Bs as well. My goal was Formula 1 and Formula Atlantic was for sure the stepping-stone from where I came from. I enjoyed a lot of friendships and successes and met a lot of people. It’s been a lot of fun.”
BILL BRACK: “What a surprise to run into Vicki at Trois-Rivières, when she told me that I was one of the top 10 best drivers in Atlantic and that I was going to come to an event here at Road Atlanta. I was shocked! It was just the greatest thing. Of course I’d said, ‘I’ll be there for sure.’ It’s a pleasure to be here. I raced with, of course, Gilles Villeneuve, which no one can match that in terms of following him or trying to keep up with him, or him passing me or me passing him. He was just a phenomenal driver. Keke Rosberg, as well, was another star, obviously. He went onto Formula 1. Even running with Formula 1 drivers at Trois-Rivières, they used to be invited to come, and of course, that’s how Villeneuve was discovered, really, when he beat them all. There were some pretty exciting times.”
PATRICK CARPENTIER: “I just want to say how much I appreciate it. I had a great time in the Formula Atlantic series. That’s where I started and that’s where I learned a lot of stuff. That’s where my career got a good kick off. I want to thank (Lynx Racing co-owners) Jackie Doty and Peggy Haas, (former Lynx team manager) Steve Cameron, and Jim (Griffith), who was working on the car at the time. I always had a perfect car at every race for all these pole positions and wins. I just want to say that I had a really good time, enjoyed it, and thanks for the award.”
MARK DISMORE: “It’s an honor to be a part of the Atlantic series, in the first place, and it’s an honor to be named one of the top 25, let alone the top 10. I don’t feel like an old guy, but I’ll call myself an old guy, and it makes an old guy feel good when people remember you and the things you’ve done and everything. At the time, I was a middle-aged guy trying to fulfill a dream, and Atlantic was a big part of that. I obviously got a late start in the sport. It just means a lot. I appreciate everything Vicki O’Connor has done through the years. I mean she’s worked her tail off to sustain this series. Mazda has stepped up to preserve this series, and Cooper Tire. To be invited to this is very much a privilege.”
DAVID EMPRINGHAM: “For me, it’s not only a pleasure to be honored in the 25 people, but to be chosen in the 10 is just a huge accomplishment. It’s not just the brief period I spent in Atlantic as a competitor. This series has been my life, in many respects, my friends, and my family and so it’s an accomplishment that spans a lot of years in my life. I’m being recognized here for my driving, but the recognition hits home because it’s been an area where I’ve spent so much time coaching and driving. For me to be here in that elite select group, it’s hard to understand, because when I look at the 25 drivers, there are such huge names on there, from Michael Andretti to Jacques Villeneuve. It’s hard to take in. I haven’t been somebody that’s been jealous of guys that have gone from Atlantic and become World Champions or IndyCar champions. It’s just a pleasure to have know that I raced against these guys.”
JON FOGARTY: "I am truly honored to be among this special group of drivers and to be part of the 35th anniversary celebration of the Atlantic Championship. My days in Atlantic were among the most enjoyable, rewarding and competitive of my career. I not only won my first national championships, I also began many lasting friendships and relationships that continue to this day, including with my friend and current teammate Alex (Gurney), David Empringham and our Chief Engineer at GAINSCO, Kyle Brannan. (Wife) Sara and I are looking forward to our new addition, but the timing didn't really work out for the Atlantic event. Maybe we can bring the whole family to the 40th Anniversary celebration in a few years."