Newman Wachs hires defending champ
Newman Wachs Racing celebrates the largest Atlantic Championship Series prize money funding in history with the completion of the strongest driver lineup of the modern Swift 016 era. Reigning Atlantic Champion, Markus Niemela will join reigning Star Mazda Champion, John Edwards in NWR’s campaign to win the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents the Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda. This two-car effort will be the strongest team NWR has ever had. Putting their efforts behind two drivers of this caliber, NWR is confident they can take the last step to securing the Championship’s one million dollar prize.
Markus hails from Rauma, Finland, and is the first driver to return to defend his title with a full-time effort since Lee Bentham, who won the 1998 title and finished sixth in the 1999 championship. He will carry the #1 on his Mr. Jones/ Nuclear Clean Air Energy/ Entergy Swift 016.
Niemela will return to the series-opener at Sebring International Raceway March 17-20 with a great deal of momentum. The two-time winner closed out his ‘08 championship with a win at the finale at Road Atlanta. Race day in Sebring will also be on his 25th birthday.
Markus’ career has been impressive and he holds a resume that spans the globe. From karting at a young age to GP2, he has six championships to his name. Over the winter Niemela kept busy; testing a GP2 car, an Indy Lights car, and a DTM car. Between testing and his strictly regimented training, Markus remained diligent and hopeful to find a ride for 2009. This diligence paid true earlier this week when a contract was signed with NWR.
“First of all, I would like to say that I am extremely excited for this season. For me, this is also the first time that I have competed in the same series for more than one year since karting. I was looking at other options after I won the Championship last year, but when Ben Johnston announced the new prize money structure, it made sense to do it again. Newman Wachs Racing was my first choice for a new team and I am very happy to be here. It took awhile to get things together but I am very relieved and now ready to focus on what is ahead and get some good results.”
Eddie Wachs, Team Owner:
“I am pleased that we will not have to race against Markus this year. He is a fierce competitor and is a welcomed asset to our team. We had our most successful season last year to date, and I am secure in saying 2009 will be even better. With Markus and John (Edwards) as teammates, I think they can both benefit and get the most out of each other. It’s been a long winter and I’m sure I speak for the rest of the Atlantic family when I say, ‘let’s get this going’.”
Newman Wachs Racing heads into its fourth year of competition in the Atlantic Series in 2009. In its three years of competition, NWR has earned 1 pole position, 3 victories, 7 podium finishes, and 11 top-fives.