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Atlantic Championship Notebook – December 23, 2008
Since winning the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda title at Road Atlanta in October, Finnish driver Markus Niemela has been busy working on a program for 2009.

Immediately after the Atlantic season finale, Niemela returned to Europe for a GP2 test and an end-of-season fan party. Within a few days, Niemela was called back to the United States for Indy Lights tests at Putnam Park near Indianapolis and also at Kentucky Speedway. Niemela then joined Mercedes for a DTM (German Touring Car) test at Italy’s Mugello circuit. Niemela has now returned to Finland for the holiday season.

“I’ve never driven so many different cars in such a short time,” Niemela said. “It has been busy and great to get to drive all these cars, especially as all of the tests went very well. My next year is still quite open and no decisions have been made, but there are some interesting opportunities. We are still evaluating different options and waiting for all the cards to be on the table before making any decisions.”

Earlier this month, Newman Wachs Racing returned to the testing trail at Sebring International Raceway with 2008 Star Mazda champion John Edwards and Kristjan Einar from Iceland. Edwards was recently announced as the driver of NWR’s No. 36 MAZDASPEED/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy machine for the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, while Einar got his first taste of the Atlantic race car.

The team reported that Edwards and engineer Nick Harvey, who worked together in the 2007 Atlantic Championship with Forsythe Racing, worked through several setup changes and getting him reacquainted with the Atlantic car. Einar, who competed in British F3 last year with Carlin Motorsports, spent his time learning the Atlantic car, which has considerably more horsepower than what he has experienced previously. Times during the test were not released.

“We accomplished everything at this test that we came here to do,” said Newman Wachs Racing Team Manager Brian Halahan. “We were equally impressed with John, as he has not been in the Swift 016 for some time, and with Kristjan, who not only has never sat in the Atlantic car, but has never been around Sebring. With the changes at our team that occurred over the off-season, it was important for all of us to quickly get up to speed and working together in an efficient manner and we accomplished that with flying colors. We will have more testing sessions after the first of the year and are eager to get the 2009 season started!”

NWR has tests scheduled for January 28 at Palm Beach International Raceway and January 31 at Sebring.

Finnish driver Henri Karjalainen made a good impression on Genoa Racing in a two-day Atlantic Championship test session at Sebring International Raceway earlier this month. It was Karjalainen’s first time back in an Atlantic car since the penultimate round of the 2008 season at Miller Motorsports Park in September.

Karjalainen made 10 Atlantic starts during his rookie season this year with Jensen MotorSport, earning a best result of 10th at Trois-Rivières. Genoa Racing feels it can help him improve upon those results and offered specific suggestions on what he can work on during the off-season.

“We were impressed with Henri, both in and out of the car,” said Genoa Racing Team Manager and Chief Engineer Thomas Knapp. “He never put a wheel wrong and was responsive to our direction. He hadn’t driven at Sebring previously and met our performance targets over the two days. We would like to complete a deal for the season and develop him into a consistent threat for the 2009 Atlantic Championship.”

The dramatic conclusion to the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda will air on SPEED this Sunday with the final two races at Miller Motorsports Park and Road Atlanta to be televised beginning at 5:00 p.m. ET.

At 5:00 p.m. the penultimate round of the season from Miller Motorsports Park—in which Finnish rookie Markus Niemela claimed his first career Atlantic victory—hits the SPEED airwaves. At 5:30 p.m., catch the thrilling season finale from Road Atlanta, which Niemela, Atlantic veteran Jonathan Bomarito and American rookie Jonathan Summerton all entered in mathematical contention for the championship.
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