Skerlong Celebrates Houston Podium Mukilteo, Washington (April 22, 2007) -- Carl Skerlong celebrated his podium debut in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda on Sunday, 22nd April, as he raced his...
Skerlong Celebrates Houston Podium
Mukilteo, Washington (April 22, 2007) -- Carl Skerlong celebrated his podium debut in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda on Sunday, 22nd April, as he raced his way to second place, and fastest lap of the race, in Round 3 of the 12-race series at the JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park in Houston, Texas.
The 18-year-old rookie bounced back from a fraught Friday in the #24 King Taco/US RaceTronics Swift Mazda-Cosworth, where he failed to finish opening practice and first qualifying, to score his first career Champ Car Atlantic Championship podium following a frantic 43-lap sprint round the 1.683-mile temporary street course. Skerlong's second place finish, in just his third series start, moves him up into seventh place in the Driver Standings and third overall in the fight for 'Rookie of the Year' honors.
Arriving in Texas off the back of his first top-ten finish, scored at Long Beach the previous weekend, Carl was hoping to be a front-runner in Houston straight out of the box. Learning his third street course in succession, the young American showed promising pace but a brush with the wall at Turn 7 ended his first session with a damaged right front suspension. Friday afternoon's qualifying proved equally dramatic as another dice with the concrete put paid to his hopes of a strong finish to the day.
Friday's incidents failed to dampen Skerlong's resolve and the reigning Formula TR Pro Series 2000 Champion soon showed he'd be a force to be reckoned with in Texas. Lapping the track in 1m05.390s (92.656mph) for the fourth fastest time in Saturday practice, he then matched his achievement in Saturday's second and final qualifying session, posting a 1m05.115s lap (93.048mph) for a second-row grid slot for Sunday's race, Carl the highest placed American racer in the 28-car field. Series leader Raphael Matos followed up his opening two victories with a second straight pole position, the Brazilian pacing his rivals in 1m04.520s (93.906mph).
Ensuring Matos didn't have everything his own way Carl then made his own statement in Sunday morning's warm-up, the high-school senior topping the timesheets for the first time in his burgeoning Atlantic career, leading the Sierra Sierra Enterprises' sophomore pairing of Canada's James Hinchcliffe and Raphael Matos.
Matos led off the line but a blistering start from Skerlong jumped the rookie up into second place, Carl holding station through to the checkered with Hinchcliffe completing the podium celebrations. With just one early full-course caution, the race remained event free after that with Skerlong working the gap between himself and Matos in P1. In the process Carl set the fastest lap of the race, on his 39th tour, with a 1m05.072s (93.109mph) effort before chasing home Matos at the flag, just 0.945s the difference between the battling duo with Hinchcliffe a further eight seconds behind.
"We effectively started our weekend a day late after Friday's issues," reflected Carl. "To finish on the podium after all that is a great result and I'm delighted for the team. I was really closing in on Matos in the last two laps but wanted to bag second rather than attempt anything that could prove costly!"