Denver: Round 10 preview

HOST OF COMPETITORS LOOKING FOR MILE-HIGH MAGIC AS CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP VISITS DENVER FOR ROUND 10 INDIANAPOLIS (August 9, 2006) -- On any given race weekend this season in the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic ...

HOST OF COMPETITORS LOOKING FOR MILE-HIGH MAGIC AS CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP VISITS DENVER FOR ROUND 10

INDIANAPOLIS (August 9, 2006) -- On any given race weekend this season in the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, it's been tough to predict which rising star of open-wheel racing will emerge from a talent-laden international field to claim the top step on the Victory Podium.

In an extremely competitive series that's featured six different race winners and 11 separate podium finishers over the first nine rounds of racing, trying to determine just who's turn it is to ascend to the top of the Atlantic mountain has been a nearly impossible task. The past three races, for example, have featured three separate drivers all claiming their first career victories in the Atlantic Championship. The series has already featured more race winners than it's seen in four years -- and the best is yet to come with three rounds still remaining in the entertaining 2006 season.

As the Atlantic cars arrive in Denver for this weekend's Grand Prix of Denver (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 19), the picture of success seems to be even more out of focus than normal. While several drivers remain in the thick of the chase for the series title and the unique $2 million champion's Champ Car bonus for 2007, even more competitors appear poised for positive results this weekend on the 1.657-mile street circuit around the Pepsi Center. Despite a rookie-dominated field, no fewer than 10 Atlantic racers enter the Mile-High city with experience competing on the Denver circuit. This roster includes several championship hopefuls who will be looking to make a statement at Round 10 of 12 in the last street race on the '06 series calendar and the fifth Atlantic race run in the Colorado city.

Of course, several drivers will also be seeing their first action at Denver. Team Australia's Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) has had to overcome the obstacle of learning each track he's raced on this season. Despite the disadvantage, the French rookie has soared to the top of the Atlantic standings behind a win, four podiums and seven top-five finishes in nine races. He's even emerged as the man to beat in the first day on track at the venues that are new to him, leading the series with four first-day provisional pole positions. Pagenaud will try to continue his opening-day success in his first time racing at Denver and he also brings a 26-point lead in the both the overall series championship and the Rookie of the Year battle into this weekend's racing.

Despite coming off a 12th-place finish last round on the streets of San Jose, Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing has risen to a season-best second place in the series standings. The impressive 17-year-old American racer and son of racing legend Bobby Rahal does enjoy some Denver racing experience. He produced one of his top weekends of the 2004 Formula BMW USA season at the Pepsi Center course, scoring third-and fourth-place finishes during the series doubleheader race weekend at the venue. Like Pagenaud, Rahal has yet to claim a street-circuit win this season and he needs to make sure to finish ahead of his main title rival on Sunday in order to make up some ground in the standings with the '06 campaign hitting its stretch run.

Last season, Germany's Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Layer 7/Wirth Solar) earned his first Atlantic win at Denver, leading every lap and turning back a last-lap challenge in thrilling fashion. This year Wirth needs another good showing on the Denver streets to keep his championship dreams alive. Now third points, just 28 markers behind Pagenaud, the Forsythe Racing series second-year racer also ran at the venue in the '04 Formula BMW USA double dip, posting a pair of top-five results. Wirth, who won the first two Atlantic events of the year, hopes to recapture the magic he discovered at Denver last season and break a tough stretch that's seen him finish 16th or lower in three of his last four starts.

Although American Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor) hasn't raced at Denver before, the 24-year-old California native has had a taste of success at the circuit. He served as a driver coach last season for his current PR1 Motorsports team at the Grand Prix of Denver. Bomarito, who has four top-fives and is 45 points out of the Atlantic series lead in fourth place entering this weekend, helped guide current Atlantic racer Alan Sciuto (#12 Sealy/PKV Racing/The RoomStore of Phoenix) to his first series pole and his best series finish of second place in '05 at Denver for PR1. Bomarito will be looking to create his own excitement on track in his Denver debut.

Now racing for Polestar Racing Group, Sciuto had his coming out party last season in the Mile-High city. He became the youngest-ever polewinner in the history of Atlantic competition when he led both rounds of qualifying in Denver at age 17 in just his second series start. Though he's currently 10th in the season standings, Sciuto is confident that a return to the track where he experienced the most success in his short Atlantic career will spark a late-season run.

Another driver who hopes Denver carries good karma for him in his return is James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK) of Forsythe Racing. This season's Portland race winner, "Hinch" owned the Denver weekend in '04. He captured both ends of the FBMUSA doubleheader and won a pole position two years ago on the Pepsi Center course. After failing to finish each of the last two races while falling from fifth to ninth in the title hunt, the Canadian rookie will be looking to bounce back strong with a good effort on Sunday.

After completing every lap of competition this season, racing for two different teams, David Martinez (#4 Sub-Hub) returns to Denver. Rejoining the US RaceTronics team for this weekend, Martinez is sixth in the championship and he scored a fifth-place finish last year for the team on this course. Two other talented young series racers also competed at Denver last season. Both 16-year-old Richard Philippe (#33 INDECK/Layer 7) of Forsythe Racing and 19-year-old James Davison (#5 Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards) of Team Australia ran in last year's Formula BMW USA doubleheader at the circuit. Philippe, who went on to claim the '05 FBMWUSA title, owned finishes of second and seventh at the venue while Davison also claimed a runner-up result to go along with an 11th-place finish.

Steve Ott (#35 Newman Wachs Racing) will be making his homecoming this weekend. Although he has no starts under his belt at Denver, Ott is a native or nearby Thornton, Colorado and he boasts several SCCA Rocky Mountain regional titles on his racing resume. The American rookie is looking forward to his Denver Atlantic debut in front of his friends and family.

Several other top series drivers will also be making their first Denver starts this weekend. Brazil's Danilo Dirani (#1 Canary Fund/Funcional Card/Sala Design/Perkons) is coming off his first Atlantic podium and he's jumped back up to fifth in the standings for Condor Motorsports as he prepares for his first time racing at Denver. Fellow Brazilian Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises visits the Pepsi Center for the first time as perhaps the series' hottest driver. Matos scored a wire-to-wire victory at San Jose two weeks ago and he's also won the last two Atlantic poles.

Coming off his top Atlantic finish of fifth place at Round 9 in San Jose, Forsythe Racing's Leonardo Maia (#7 Layer 7/INDECK) will race in Denver for the first time, along with fellow Americans Joe D'Agostino (#34 Newman Wachs Racing) of Newman Wachs Racing and Toronto winner Robbie Pecorari (#28 Western Union/USA Today/Gelles Racing) of Gelles Racing. Pecorari's Gelles teammate Colin Fleming (#14 eSoles/King Taco), who looked strong in his first two series starts, also will race at Denver for the first time in his career.

British rookies Ryan Lewis (#30 Insport Sports Management) of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing and Tim Bridgman (#2 Epson) of Epson Team Jensen will get their first taste of Denver street racing as well, coming off impressive performances. Lewis tied his best Atlantic result of second at San Jose while Bridgman claimed fourth place last round for his top finish of the season. Former Champ Car drivers Alex Barron (#21 The RoomStore of Phoenix) of Polestar Racing Group and Alex Sperafico (#10 Mnyx.com/Sperafico Agroindustrial) of Brooks Associates Racing will also race for the first time on the streets around the Pepsi Center.

Americans Justin Sofio (#26 Mathiasen Motorsports/RLM Investments), Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store) and Brian McAtee (#19 Cosby Oil/Union 76) all competed in the 2005 Denver Atlantic race. Both Sofio, who earned his top finish of the season last round with an eighth-place run at San Jose, and Selznick scored top-10 results at the venue last year, while McAtee finished 15th. All three return to the circuit this weekend. Canadian rookie Mike Forest (#32 Miracle Sealants) of PR1 Motorsports will make his first Denver start while Ricardo Vassmer (#22 Zoom/Meridiano Television) of Venezuela will compete in his second series race and first in the Mile-High city.

For the sixth time this season, a standing start will highlight the beginning of Sunday's race at Denver. All entries will feature newly-designed Swift 016.a chassis powered by 300-horsepower Mazda-Cosworth MZR engines capable of speeds in excess of 175 mph. Each Atlantic will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks. Friday morning the Atlantics will kickoff the weekend schedule with practice from 9:15-9:55 a.m. (local) Mountain Time. The first round of qualifying will take place from 1:15-1:45 p.m. Friday. The Atlantics return to the track for practice from 8:45-9:15 a.m. Saturday morning while the final round of qualifying will be held from 1:15-1:45 p.m. Saturday. Race day will see the Mazda-Cosworth engines roar to life with a 15-minute warm-up practice from 8:30-8:45 a.m. Sunday morning. Round 10 of the Atlantic Championship will begin at 11:15 a.m. The Grand Prix of Denver Atlantic race is scheduled for 39 laps (64.623 miles) or 50 minutes. For additional information, visit the official web site of North America's premier open-wheel development series, www.champcaratlantic.com.

FAST FACTS

WHAT: Grand Prix of Denver sponsored by Bridgestone Atlantic Race

WHERE: Pepsi Center -- Denver, Colorado, August 11-13

CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local): FRIDAY, AUGUST 11 -- 9:15-9:55 a.m., Practice; 1:15-1:45 p.m., First-Round Qualifying. SATURDAY, AUGUST 12 -- 8:45-9:15 a.m., Practice; 1:15-1:45 p.m., Final-Round Qualifying. SUNDAY, AUGUST 13 -- 8:30-8:45 a.m., Warm-up, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m., Atlantic Race.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: SATURDAY, AUGUST 19 -- SPEED, The Grand Prix of Denver Atlantic Race at 3 p.m. ET. Re-broadcast: Wednesday, August 23 at 3 p.m. on SPEED.

2005 DENVER CHAMPION:  Andreas Wirth

2005 DENVER POLESITTER: Alan Sciuto
TRACK LAYOUT:  1.657-mile temporary street course

RACE LENGTH: 39 laps (64.623 miles) or 50 minutes

TRACK RECORDS (based on 1.657-mile layout): Qualifying (one lap) -- 2004, Jon Fogarty, 1:07.576 (88.274 mph). Race -- (one lap) 2004, Danica Patrick, 1:07.804 (87.977 mph); (37 laps) 2004, Ronnie Bremer , 42:33.175 (86.446 mph).

RACE ROUND: 10 of 12 in the 2006 Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda

NEXT EVENT: August 25-27, Champ Car Grand Prix of Montreal, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve -- Montreal, Quebec, Canada

INSTANT REPLAY: It was a weekend of firsts last season for the Atlantic series at the Grand Prix of Denver. In just his second series race, Alan Sciuto became the youngest polewinner in the history of the Atlantic Championship at age 17 when he led both rounds of qualifying on the Pepsi Center street circuit. Once the green flag dropped on the race, however, everything went the way of Andreas Wirth, who claimed his first Atlantic win. Starting second, Wirth got a great jump on Sciuto at the start and took the lead on the first lap. Katherine Legge, bidding for the three straight series wins, saw her car make contact with both Tonis Kasemets and Charles Zwolsman at the start and had to return to pit lane for repairs. Both Zwolsman and Kasemets soldiered on from the incident and both would factor in the outcome. Kasemets rallied and passed Zwolsman for second place with 12 laps to go. Kasemets attempted to make a pass for the lead on Wirth in the final turn of the race but he spun out and fell to eighth at the checkered flag. Sciuto, who fell to fifth place after the start, finished strong passing Zwolsman and Antoine Bessette in the final few laps to score his best-ever result of second place, 6.487 seconds behind Wirth. Zwolsman claimed third for his eighth podium finish in 10 races. Wirth's first series victory enabled him to move up to second place in the series standings, trailing only Zwolsman. The frustrating finish saw Kasemets fall to third in the title chase, which was eventually won by Zwolsman.

-credit: ccws/atl

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Jon Fogarty , Graham Rahal , Alex Barron , Leonardo Maia , Katherine Legge , Colin Fleming , David Martinez , Alex Sperafico , Jonathan Bomarito , Ronnie Bremer , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Tonis Kasemets , Robbie Pecorari , Danilo Dirani , Ryan Lewis , Justin Sofio , Andreas Wirth , Brian McAtee , James Davison , Richard Philippe , Simon Pagenaud , Alan Sciuto , James Hinchcliffe , Mike Forest , Danica Patrick , Steve Ott
Teams Conquest Racing