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Key Players in Atlantic Championship React to 2009 Prize Package
The announcement on Wednesday that the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda will offer a $1 million champion’s prize as part of $3 million in purse and prize money has drawn a strong response from many key players within the series. Their comments follow below:

CHRIS PANTANI, Director of Motorsports for Cooper Tire:
"This is an exciting day for the Atlantic Championship. The $1 million dollar prize is an extremely attractive award for the premier open-wheel development series.  The reality of it is that a young driver will actually walk away with a check for $1 million dollars as a series champion."

ROBERT DAVIS, Senior Vice President, Product Development and Quality, and the man responsible for Mazda’s North American motorsports operations under the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development banner: “The Atlantic Championship is the highest rung of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports open wheel ladder.  Mazda works hard to help talented drivers move from karts to Skip Barber to Star Mazda to Atlantic.  It’s great to see that the Atlantic series is making sure they can move upward as well. Mazda has already committed to offering the 2009 Atlantic champion a test drive with both our ALMS LMP2 and Grand-Am GT Mazda powered teams.  Our teams appreciate the deep talent pool such that they can promote from within the family.”

JOHN EDWARDS, Driver, No. 36 NEI/ Entergy/ MAZDASPEED/Newman Wachs Racing Swift 016:  “I was one of the few ready to go before the prize money was announced, but to hear that the champion will get a million dollars and second place $500,000 is a huge bonus. It is pretty rare and I think will attract even more drivers. Most series don’t offer anything to anyone outside of the champion, and I think this is just one more reason why the Atlantic Championship is the top series in junior open wheel.”

CARLOS BOBEDA, Owner, Condor Motorsports: “There is no doubt that this announcement is the most exciting news that team owners and drivers alike have received in a long time. As team owners, it allows us to offer a driver the best opportunity to enhance their careers, not only by participating in one of the best driver development series in the world, but also by guaranteeing them a future in years to come. It's been known that in the past, awards of this caliber had many strings attached. This time it is clear. If you win the 2009 Atlantic Championship, you can use the money to go anywhere you see fit to continue your racing career. I've seen many drivers become champions one year and sit on the sidelines the next due to lack of sponsorship or funding to continue. The Atlantic Championship is now offering them a chance to make their best racing move of they careers.”

BRIAN HALAHAN, Team Manager, Newman Wachs Racing: “We are pleased that our questions and concerns about the upcoming season have been addressed and we can finally move forward with this year’s preparations. To compete as a Series in today’s economy, a substantial prize fund is crucial to attract drivers. The system that has been put into place is a good solution and should make for another strong championship. Things have been looking good, and the phone has been ringing to fill our second seat alongside John Edwards, who brings MAZDASPEED sponsorship. We’re now focusing on the month ahead in preparation for Sebring.”

BOB GELLES, Owner, Gelles Racing:
  “As a long-standing team owner in the Atlantic Championship, obviously, it’s the most grand prize that they’ve ever offered. The fact that the driver can take the cash and go wherever he wants to advance his career, anywhere in the world, it’s phenomenal.”

SHANE SENEVIRATNE, Owner, US RaceTronics: “The Atlantic community has been involved in constructive dialog in the past few weeks, and I am very satisfied to see those conversations and feedback stating to take shape. These are tough times for any industry and I am very encouraged to see the Atlantic series show strength with a $3 million prize fund. I am grateful to (Atlantic Championship President) Ben Johnston for his commitment to the series and its teams. I am very enthusiastic to support him and his wonderful staff in building a strong series. Our team looks forward to the 2009 season and will be making driver announcements shortly.”
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