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Atlantic teams and drivers collect awards
Following a thrilling conclusion to the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda last Friday at Road Atlanta, the drivers, teams, partners and officials gathered at the posh Chateau Élan in Braselton, Ga. to pay tribute to the 2008 season at the annual Awards Banquet.

After wrapping up the title earlier in the day with his second victory of the season, Finnish rookie Markus Niemela and his Brooks Associates Racing teammates were the evening’s biggest winners. Niemela claimed the $250,000 champion’s prize and an additional $2,500 award from Coast Fabrication, as well as a special painting commissioned by Mazda from renowned motorsports artist Jim Swintal. Niemela earned a total of $364,000 in prize money during the 2008 season.

Earlier in the evening, Niemela claimed series Rookie of the Year honors and a $1,000 prize, while the Brooks Associates Racing team was presented with its choice of a full year of brake pads or four car sets of discs/peg drive assemblies for fielding the Rookie of the Year courtesy of Performance Friction Corporation. Nick Harvey, who claimed the 2008 Engineer of the Year Award, and championship-winning Chief Mechanic Duarte Fidalgo, who earned the Top Wrench Award, also represented the Brooks team on stage.

After finishing second in the championship standings, American driver Jonathan Bomarito was honored with a $150,000 prize and trophy, with his 2008 winnings totaling $261,500. Bomarito’s Mathiasen Motorsports owners Ray and Leslie Mathiasen were also honored with the prestigious Team Owner of the Year Award.

Rookie Jonathan Summerton finished third in the championship and was presented with a $100,000 prize as part of $204,000 in total earnings from the season. Summerton also won the Michael Rosen Award, which was instituted by long-time Atlantic fan and patron, Arlene Rosen in honor of her late son, Michael, a former Atlantic competitor. The award recognized Summerton as a driver with both dedication and perseverance, as well as the desire to succeed against all odds. Summerton’s Newman Wachs Racing teammate, Brian Halahan, was also honored as the Lincoln Welders Mechanic of the Year, earning a Lincoln Welders Precision TIG 225 Welding Package.

The drivers who finished in positions four through 10 were also honored, and all drivers in attendance were presented with specially designed class rings courtesy of Cooper Tires and Mazda. Taking home fourth place was James Hinchcliffe of Forsythe/Pettit Racing, with fifth place going to Junior Strous of Condor Motorsports/Team Holland. Strous also earned the Gilles Villeneuve Award, which was instituted in 1989 by Atlantic champion Steve Shelton to recognize the driver who possesses extraordinary ability and special star quality, and who has distinguished himself through sportsmanship, dedication and perseverance in the face of disappointment.

Taking sixth in the championship was Pacific Coast Motorsports driver Carl Skerlong, who also earned the BBS Rising Star Award, honoring the driver who has performance in a most competitive fashion and is a star of the future. The award included a $4,500 check and a specially designed coffee table incorporating a BBS wheel and Cooper Tire etched with Skerlong’s name and award.

Rookie Dane Cameron took seventh in the championship with Genoa Racing, followed by Newman Wachs Racing driver Simona De Silvestro in eighth and Kevin Lacroix of Walker Racing in ninth. Lacroix’s Walker Racing teammate, rookie Greg Mansell completed the top 10.

Second-year Atlantic competitor Frankie Muniz was also honored at the banquet with the coveted Jovy Marcelo Sportsmanship Award. The award was named after the 1991 Atlantic champion who was a true sportsman, family man and great racer and friend to his fellow drivers.

The 2008 Atlantic Championship Awards Banquet featured a brand new award with the presentation of the first-ever Team Manager of the Year Award. John Brunner of Forsythe/Pettit Racing earned the inaugural prize for his many years of working with not only his own team to ensure its success, but with all of the teams to ensure the series’ overall success.

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