Millville: Round nine preview

Bomarito Leads Atlantic Championship to Debut at New Jersey Motorsports Park INDIANAPOLIS (September 11, 2008) - The 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda makes its first visit to New Jersey Motorsports Park's ...

Bomarito Leads Atlantic Championship to Debut at New Jersey Motorsports Park

INDIANAPOLIS (September 11, 2008) - The 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda makes its first visit to New Jersey Motorsports Park's Thunderbolt Raceway for the first time this weekend with American Jonathan Bomarito leading the way heading into the final three races of the season.

With a series-leading three victories from the first eight races, Bomarito owns a comfortable, 28-point lead over American rookie Jonathan Summerton, 191-163, ahead of Sunday's Mazda Formula Zoom-Zoom event. The driver of the No. 26 Del Taco/Stone Brewing/Discount Tire/RLM Investments machine for Mathiasen Motorsports also leads the series with three pole positions. He has finished sixth or better in each of his last six starts and in seven of eight overall, and his championship hopes have been bolstered by three victories in his past five starts.

While Bomarito has ridden his summer hot streak to the top of the Atlantic point standings, Summerton has done the same in the race for Rookie of the Year honors. Summerton, who won the second race of doubleheaders at both Edmonton and Road America, is the only driver other than Bomarito to have won more than one race this season. The rookie driver of the No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing entry has finished on the podium in three of his last four starts and moved into the Rookie of the Year points lead with a second-place run last month at Trois-Rivieres.

Three drivers who have led the championship at one point or another this summer occupy positions three, four and five and all three are very much in need of strong performances this weekend in New Jersey to keep their title hopes alive. Canadian James Hinchcliffe and Finnish rookie Markus Niemela find themselves tied with 155 points, with Hinchcliffe holding third in the standings by virtue of a victory in Round 2 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May. Dutchman Junior Strous is currently fifth in points, 10 behind Hinchcliffe and Niemela.

Hinchcliffe, who will once again drive the No. 3 Indeck/Tire Rack/NOCO machine for Forsythe/Pettit Racing this weekend, lost considerable ground in the title chase with a 20th-place run at Trois-Rivieres due to contact with Kevin Lacroix. Niemela, meanwhile, also saw his championship hopes take a hit in Trois-Rivieres when mechanical problems relegated him to 17th in the final race standings in the No. 8 Mr. Jones Bar & Kitchen/Rauma Town/Turku Karting entry from Brooks Associates Racing. It was the first time that either driver had finished outside the top 10 all season.

Strous, meanwhile, endured a bit of a swoon immediately after he took his first career Atlantic victory and claimed the points lead in Round 3 at Mont-Tremblant in June. However, the Dutchman returned to the podium with a third-place performance at Trois-Rivieres in the No. 6 NEM/Shell/HTP/Muermans Group/Red, White & Bluezz entry for Condor Motorsports/Team Holland and Strous is obviously hoping that was the beginning of another upswing for the final three races.

Had it not been for a 17th-place result in Round 7 at Road America last month, American rookie Dane Cameron would also likely be in the thick of the championship battle. As it is, the 2008 Star Mazda champion has finished inside the top five in five of his last six starts heading into this weekend and is currently sixth in the championship standings. He will once again drive the No. 19 MAZDASPEED/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing machine for Genoa Racing.

Second-year Atlantic driver Carl Skerlong of Mukilteo, Wash. has been among the quickest drivers virtually throughout the 2008 season, but Lady Luck has not been kind to him. An 18th-place result due to mechanical problems last time out at Trois-Rivieres was the third result of 18th or worse for Skerlong. However, he has finished inside the top five in his other five starts and matched his career-best result of second at both Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May and Round 5 at Edmonton in July. He heads into this weekend still looking for his first career victory, and if it comes, it would definitely go a long way toward making this a successful season for the driver of the No, 14 King Taco machine.

Simona De Silvestro became the second woman in Atlantic Championship history to win a race with her triumph in the 2008 season-opener at Long Beach. Since then, De Silvestro has earned top-10 results in five of seven races and earned her best result since the Long Beach win with a fourth-place performance in the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine for Newman Wachs Racing at Trois-Rivieres. She heads to New Jersey sitting eighth in the championship.

Like Skerlong, Lacroix has also been quick virtually everywhere this season but has encountered more than his share of misfortune. He owns four top-10 results from the season, topped by a best result of third in the Long Beach opener, leaving him ninth in the championship standings. He will go in search of his second career Atlantic victory on Sunday aboard the No. 25 Uni-Select/Deans Knight/Wasteco entry from Walker Racing.

Elsewhere in the field, it will be a "home race" of sorts for Pacific Coast Motorsports driver Frankie Muniz. The second-year Atlantic racer was born in Woodridge, N.J. before making his way to Hollywood and becoming a star of television and film. Now focused on a career as a professional race car driver, Muniz has enjoyed a solid and consistent season in the No. 41 PCM/USRT machine.

Rookies Greg and Leo Mansell, the sons of 1992 Formula 1 World Champion and 1993 IndyCar World Series champion Nigel Mansell will also continue their first year of racing in America this weekend. Greg will pilot the No. 5 Sunseeker machine with Leo in the No. 15 Sunseeker entry, both for Walker Racing.

This weekend's field features a few drivers who have enjoyed some success despite competing on more of a "part time" basis.

Mexican driver David Martinez has finished seventh in each of his three starts in the No. 7 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa entry from Forsythe/Pettit Racing and will look to exceed that performance this weekend as he continues to stand in for the injured David Garza. American Tom Sutherland, meanwhile, has enjoyed career-best Atlantic results, topped by an eighth-place performance at Trois-Rivieres last month, in the No. 88 ClickAway Computers & Networking entry for Brooks Associates Racing. Sutherland is making his sixth Atlantic start of the season this weekend. Also returning for a second consecutive Atlantic start is owner/driver Eric Jensen in the No. 22 Jensen MotorSport machine. Jensen finished 15th at Trois-Rivieres in his first Atlantic start since 2005.

This weekend will also see the return of Rich Zober of Newtown, Pa. to the Atlantic Championship for the first time since 2005, as he is slated to drive the No. 66 Zober Industries, Inc./www.zober.com machine for Polestar Motor Racing. It is also the first appearance of the season for the Polestar team.

Adding to the international flavor this weekend are Dutch racer Dominick Muermans in the No. 9 Hugenholtz Property Group/Jumbo Supermarkten/Muermans Group machine for Condor Motorsports/Team Holland, Finnish driver Henri Karjalainen in the No. 2 Everyman/LTC Rakennus car for Jensen MotorSport and Brazilian rookie Douglas Soares in the No. 11 Banco BMG machine from Condor Motorsports.

All Atlantic race cars are Swift 016.a Atlantic chassis powered by 300-horsepower Mazda-Cosworth MZR engines capable of speeds in excess of 175 mph. Each entry will ride on new Cooper Atlantic racing slicks and rain tires throughout the weekend.

After a promoter test day on Friday, September 12, the official race weekend festivities get underway on Saturday, September 13 with a practice session from 9:35 to 10:20 a.m. ET, followed by First Round Qualifying from 2:00 to 2:40 p.m. Sunday's race day schedule calls for Final Qualifying from 8:30 to 9:10 a.m., and Round 9 of the 11-race 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, the Mazda Formula Zoom-Zoom, will roll off from a standing start at 1:00 p.m. ET. The timed race will be 50 minutes in length.

MAZDA FORMULA ZOOM-ZOOM FAST FACTS

WHAT: Mazda Formula Zoom-Zoom

WHERE: Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Millville, N.J.

ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND SCHEDULE (All times local, ET):

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 13
Practice, 9:35 - 10:20 a.m.; First Round Qualifying, 2:00 - 2:40 p.m.;

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14
Final Qualifying, 8:30 - 9:10 a.m.; Race, 1:00 - 2:00 p.m.

TRACK LAYOUT: 2.25-mile Permanent Road Course

RACE LENGTH: 50 minutes

RACE ROUND: Round 9 of the 11-race 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda

NEXT RACE: September 21 - Miller Motorsports Park; Tooele, Utah

COOPER TIRES PRESENTS THE ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA MAZDA FORMULA ZOOM-ZOOM PRE-RACE NOTEBOOK

* Jonathan and Jonathan: Lately it's been good to be an American driver named "Jonathan" in the Atlantic Championship. Jonathan Bomarito (No. 26 Del Taco/Stone Brewing/Discount Tire/RLM Investments) has taken over the championship lead on the strength of victories in Race #1 of the doubleheaders at Edmonton and Road America, and the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres. Rookie Jonathan Summerton (No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing) won Race #2 of the Edmonton and Road America doubleheaders, and finished second at Trois-Rivieres. He is currently second in the overall championship standings and leads the Rookie of the Year point standings. Bomarito and Summerton are the only two drivers in the 2008 Atlantic Championship with multiple victories.

* New Jersey Motorsports Park Becomes "Atlantic City": The Atlantic Championship will make its inaugural appearance at the brand new Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park this weekend. It is the first of two venues which will host Atlantic competition for the first time this year, the other being Miller Motorsports Park, where the Atlantic Championship will make its debut next weekend.

* And Down The Stretch They Come: This weekend's Mazda Formula Zoom-Zoom kicks off the final stretch of races that will go a long way in determining the 2008 series champion. The other two races will be at Miller Motorsports Park on September 21 and the season finale at Road Atlanta on October 3. Bomarito currently leads Summerton by 28 points, 191-163, followed by James Hinchcliffe (No. 3 Indeck/Tire Rack/NOCO) and Markus Niemela (No. 8 Mr. Jones Bar & Kitchen/Rauma Town/Turku Karting) with 155 points each. Junior Strous (No. 6 NEM/Shell/HTP/Muermans Group/Red, White & Bluezz) completes the top five with 145 points. With a maximum of 102 points still up for grabs, nine of the drivers in this weekend's field are still in mathematical contention for the title, including Dane Cameron (No. 19 MAZDASPEED/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing), Carl Skerlong (No. 14 King Taco), Simona De Silvestro (No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy) and Kevin Lacroix (No. 25 Uni-Select/Deans Knight/Wasteco).

* 35 Years and Counting: The 35th Anniversary celebration for the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda continues with this weekend's Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres. Through the years, the Atlantic series has seen more than its share of legendary drivers pass through the series on their way to greatness, from Formula 1 superstars such as Gilles Villeneuve, Keke Rosberg and Jacques Villeneuve to IndyCar racing heroes such as Bobby Rahal, Jimmy Vasser, Michael Andretti, Danny Sullivan, Sam Hornish Jr., Dan Wheldon and Buddy Rice. This year, Atlantic graduates will compete for race victories and championships in top-tier North American series such as the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. Atlantic has earned the distinction of being North America's longest-running driver development series, and also one of the best.

* International Flair: This weekend's race will feature drivers representing eight different countries. The United States is best represented with a total of seven drivers; followed by Canada with three; Finland, England and The Netherlands with two each; and one each from Mexico, Brazil and Switzerland.

* Rookies Aplenty: This weekend's field will include nine rookies. The first-year drivers are Henri Karjalainen (No. 2 Everyman/LTC Rakennus), Greg Mansell (No. 5 Sunseeker), Niemela, Dominick Muermans (No. 9 Hugenholtz Property Group/Jumbo Supermarkten/Muermans Group), Douglas Soares (No. 11 Banco BMG), Leo Mansell (No. 15 Sunseeker), Cameron, Summerton and Rich Zober (No. 66 Zober Industries, Inc./www.zober.com).

-credit: atlantic

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Jimmy Vasser , Bobby Rahal , Nigel Mansell , Dan Wheldon , Danny Sullivan , Gilles Villeneuve , Buddy Rice , Keke Rosberg , David Martinez , Jonathan Bomarito , Kevin Lacroix , Junior Strous , Tom Sutherland , James Hinchcliffe , David Garza , Leo Mansell , Greg Mansell , Dane Cameron , Dominick Muermans , Carl Skerlong , Henri Karjalainen , Markus Niemela , Douglas Soares , Sam Hornish Jr. , Frankie Muniz