Carl Skerlong Post-Season Q&A Mukilteo, Washington (September 04, 2007) -- Seattle's Carl Skerlong arrived in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda having dominated the 1600 and 2000 classes of...
Carl Skerlong Post-Season Q&A
Mukilteo, Washington (September 04, 2007) -- Seattle's Carl Skerlong arrived in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda having dominated the 1600 and 2000 classes of the Formula TR Pro Series with back-to-back titles.
The 18-year-old rookie subsequently enjoyed a challenging first season racing the #24 King Taco/US RaceTronics Swift-Mazda Cosworth, a year in which the highlights were undoubtedly his podium visits in Round 3 in Houston, where he finished second, and his third place finish in August's season finale at the famed Road America circuit in Wisconsin.
Skerlong showcased his pace and potential throughout the year, grabbing four top-five qualifying positions in 12 starts while impressing many with his dogged determination behind the wheel -- notably his stunning recovery drive from 25th to eighth at Portland in Round 4 in June having initially qualified inside the top-ten.
A late-season run of bad luck, including consecutive retirements from contact in Toronto and Edmonton in July, and a mechanical retirement in the second Edmonton outing, saw Carl drop down the points standings but his Road America podium ensured a return to the top-ten, the American talent finishing the season tenth overall and well placed for a strong sophomore season in 2008.
Carl took some time out to reflect on a compact but flat-out first season in Atlantics:
Q: Was it a relief to get back on the podium in your final race last month?
Carl Skerlong (CS): "For sure it was a great way to end the campaign! We had our struggles in the middle bit of the season even though we showed great speed during the course of the year. Getting the podium at Road America definitely makes heading into the off-season a lot easier on us and it's a platform on which I hope to build on next year."
Q: With the competition so tight at this level, how do you cope with the frustrations that affected the second half of your rookie season?
CS: "You've really just got to learn what you can from it all and move on. In a lot of cases we only had a week between races and if you dwell on these things too long nothing good's going to come from it. You always look back retrospectively and think, 'well what if I had done this or done that' but you can't change what's happened. We'd liked to have picked up stronger, more consistent finishes that's for sure."
Q: Overall was your first year in Atlantic's as you expected?
CS: "Definitely. I knew the level of competition would be unparalleled! I certainly learned a lot from the year and I'm looking forward to another crack at it next season and hopefully making the jump up to the Champ Car World Series after that."
Q: What was the single-biggest thing that surprised you about this season?
CS: "Well the level of competition I expected so that wasn't anything new when I started racing. I guess the one thing that surprised me most, and this is in a good way, was the level of camaraderie between the drivers and teams in the series. It's a very professional championship but we also had a lot of fun competing this year, there's definitely a family atmosphere within the paddock."
Q: Looking back over the year, what stands out as the highlight of your rookie campaign?
CS: "The early podium at Houston in Round 3 definitely has to be up there as a highlight. I also think I gained a bit of recognition this season which was pretty good coming out of the slightly less well-known Formula TR Pro Series."
Q: In contrast, what sucked the most?
CS: "Post-Houston I don't think we were really able to showcase what we were capable of. We always ran competitively, we showed clear pace but unfortunately through a series of varying events, often contact, we didn't get the finishes we looked like scoring. I think that's why it was gratifying to get back onto the podium at Road America -- it was a truer reflection of the package we had for most of the season."
Q: Did you expect a podium finish as early as Round 3?
CS: "I wouldn't go so far as to say I expected a podium finish that early but it's safe to say that I certainly wanted one!"
Q: As a training ground to Champ Car, how does the Atlantic Championship stack-up?
CS: "The racing is as good, if not better, in Atlantics than almost anywhere else in the world of open-wheel racing. It's a great series to be involved in and obviously I'm competing in it with a view to making it into the Champ Car World Series down the line -- this is where I can prove myself and enjoy an association with the team owners and engineers above."
Q: What are your plans for the next few months and 2008 season?
CS: "I can put this one pretty bluntly! Next season I want to go for the 2008 Champ Car Atlantic Championship title. I want to be able to put everything I've learned from my rookie season into a full-on championship effort and I believe I'll be well-placed to do that given the experiences I've had this season. I'm going to spend the off-season working on making this happen so I'm even better prepared when I line up on the grid next year."