Jonathan Bomarito capitalized on an error by pole sitter James Hinchcliffe to take the lead and eventually the win the first of two races at the Rexall Edmonton Indy in the Cooper Tires Presents the Atlantic Series Championship Powered by Mazda.
Jonathan Bomarito capitalized on an error by pole sitter James Hinchcliffe to take the lead and eventually the win the first of two races at the Rexall Edmonton Indy in the Cooper Tires Presents the Atlantic Series Championship Powered by Mazda. Bomarito, who looked to be the likely winner at the season opener in Long Beach, only to be overcome by gearbox gremlins, took his first victory of the 2008 season. Driving the Mathiasen Motorsports #26, the Monterey California driver also handed team owners Ray and Leslie Mathiasen a well-deserved maiden victory in the series. For Bomarito, it was a tough but rewarding day at the office.
"The race was very difficult, but smooth in the same sense," Bomarito said. "I had a decent start and from there, I was just kind of hanging onto the coattails of James, letting him tow me around the track a bit and let things pan out. I was able to develop a little bit of a gap to third.
"James had a little bit of a problem down into Turn 1. He just got a little bit wide into (Turn) 1, out in the marbles. This track seems to just have rubbered-up big time. If you get off line, you're done. You lose a couple seconds just like that. I was able to get by and hold my position on the restart. That was a nail-biter right there at the end to see that full-course caution come out. I think I had a two-second lead with five minutes to go or something like that and it was gone just like that. Big thanks to the Mathiasen Motorsports team and (owners) Ray and Leslie (Mathiasen). I'm excited for everybody."
Hinchcliffe, in addition to being passed for the lead by Bomarito, was also erroneously told there was a full course caution by his engineer later in the race. This team error allowed a hard-charging Markus Niemela to sail past the #3 car with no opposition, a move that handed second place to the fast moving Finn along with the series points lead. The new championship leader has the distinction of leading the points battle without having won any races thus far, a phenomenon aided by the fact that each of the four races thus far in the season has featured a different victor. Niemela's usual wit and humor were in evidence in the post-race press conference.
"It feels good (to lead the points)," Niemela said. "It doesn't suck, I would say. I started fifth and we really struggled in qualifying. I wasn't at my best, really, and I was probably misleading my engineer, Nick Harvey, with the car setup. We went through the data with Nick and I don't know what he did for the car, but it was so good to drive. It was one of the best cars I've had for a long time. I got a good start and went from fifth to third and started chasing (Hinchcliffe and Bomarito). I was keeping up with them quite closely, actually, sometimes. James was making some mistakes a couple of times and was driving really on the limit.
"I was actually not so happy with James making those small mistakes, because every time he made one, Dane Cameron caught me. I was hoping James would make a proper mistake or stop doing them, so that I could have an easy third or I could move up. Anyway, he made one little bit bigger one and Jonathan got by. Then, I was hoping for the next one, and it came, actually, a couple of laps later. I am equally thankful to the team for making a really great race car for me, and I have to thank James for handing me the second place. From there on, the gaps were quite big. Jonathan was gone already. He was clearly first and I was quite clearly second. I finished there, and I'm really happy with this. It's good."
Fortunately, even though Friday was clearly not his day, Canadian Hinchcliffe was in his usual good form at the press conference.
"First off, congratulations to Jonathan," Hinchcliffe said. "I'm really happy for those guys. They deserved that win. They pretty much had one in the bag at Long Beach and it didn't go their way, and I can now sympathize with them. Credit to him for that. He just made my life so difficult. I have blisters on my hands like you couldn't believe. I had a couple of moments early on and then we got side-by-side and had a little exciting battle there for a couple of corners. Late in the race, I'd been having a little bit of a downshifting problem heading into the first corner and it didn't want to go from fourth gear into third, so I just went in a little too deep there and by that point in the race, there were so many marbles and so much dirt and dust off-track that there was just no way I was getting the car back. Jonathan had a good, clean run up the inside. That was tough to swallow, but that's racing."
Fans looking for good finishes from Canadian drivers had to be happy with what James Hinchcliffe was able to do, as well regarded Kevin Lacroix finished 7th and Daniel Morad 11th.
Long Beach winner Simona De Silvestro continued her usual pattern of qualifying midpack and finishing close to the front. Today, she finished 8th. Mont Tremblant winner Junior Strous had an even worse day, falling out of the points lead with a perhaps unlucky 13th place finish.
Hopefully Carl Skerlong's talented mechanics will employ an exorcist so that whatever they can do to fix the car from today stays fixed for tomorrow's race when he's to start from the pole. Skerlong had an unfortunate 19th place finish Friday, and if something goes wrong, rookie Dane Cameron will be poised to take his first victory. With Edmonton being what Paul Tracy calls the "most physically challenging track in North America", victory will come to the driver and the car that has been able to remain the strongest over this long race weekend.