Portland: Polestar Racing preview

Rain or Shine, Polestar Racing Group's Alan Sciuto and Alex Barron Ready for Round Four of the 2006 Atlantic Championship in Portland Portland, Oregon (June 15, 2006) -- Coming into this weekend's Trinity Carpet 100k, round four of the 12-race...

Rain or Shine, Polestar Racing Group's Alan Sciuto and Alex Barron Ready for Round Four of the 2006 Atlantic Championship in Portland

Portland, Oregon (June 15, 2006) -- Coming into this weekend's Trinity Carpet 100k, round four of the 12-race 2006 Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, there's a quiet optimism in the Polestar Racing Group camp as drivers Alan Sciuto (#12 Sealy/PKV Racing/The RoomStore of Phoenix) and Alex Barron (#21 The RoomStore of Phoenix) have a new-found level of comfort and familiarity with their cars.

A recent two-day test at Florida's Sebring International Raceway resulted in significant strides as the team was able to try a number of different set-up combinations, many geared specifically for the characteristics of Portland International Raceway's 1.964-mile permanent road course.

"Every time we get out on the track, we learn so much more about the cars," said Sciuto, who most recently finished seventh after starting ninth in the series' last race in Monterrey, Mexico. "Our biggest hang-up thus far has been not being able to qualify as far up as we should be able to, for whatever reason. We've been fast in all of the races, we just need to make sure that we're closer to the front at the start. Now, we're feeling really good about what we've learned in the last couple of weeks and I think it will reflect in this weekend's race in Portland."

"Everything has gone very well in recent testing and I am very comfortable with the car," said Barron, who won the 1997 Atlantic Championship title with Polestar co-owner Jim Griffith as his engineer. "Most importantly, we learned a big thing that should help us out for the rest of the season. Everything that we concentrated on for Portland also went very well, so we're hoping that we'll be able to hit the track right away with a solid qualifying set-up. The Atlantic field is so incredibly close this year that it's critical to start closer to the front."

Barron set the third-fastest lap during the previous race in Monterrey and finished eighth after starting 11th. Sciuto has never finished outside of the top ten in all of his six Atlantic starts and makes his first appearance at Portland International Raceway this weekend.

Last year's Portland race featured an Atlantic double-header where the Chardon, Ohio-based Polestar team fielded rookies Katherine Legge and Antoine Bessette. Legge, who now competes in the Champ Car World Series with PKV Racing, started the first race seventh and finished ninth. Legge captured her second of five podiums in 2005 by climbing up to third after starting tenth in Portland's second race. Teammate Bessette started from fifth and finished fifth in both Portland races.

Barron, of Menifee, Calif., is the only Atlantic series champion in the field this weekend. He captured the 1997 Atlantic Championship title with five wins, four poles, six fastest race laps and the Rookie-of-the-Year crown. Since then, he competed in the Champ Car World Series and Indy Racing League from 1998 to 2005 with such teams as Cheever Racing, All American Racers and Team Penske. Barron finished 14th in 1998's Portland Champ Car race in his rookie Champ Car season with Dan Gurney's All American Racers team.

Orange, California - native Sciuto, 18, was recognized as North America's top shifter kart racer in 2004 before competing in three Atlantic races last year. He finished fourth in his series debut on the challenging San Jose street course then, the following week in Denver, led both rounds of qualifying to capture his first career Atlantic pole position and establish himself as the youngest-ever Atlantic pole winner at just 17 years of age.

Polestar co-owners Jim Griffith, Pam Griffith and Bruce Potter are all experienced Atlantic veterans, having been instrumental to the Atlantic championship-winning efforts of Barron, Patrick Carpentier (1996) and Buddy Rice (2000).

For 2006, the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, now in it's 33rd year, features an all-new made-in-the-USA Atlantic Swift 016.a chassis powered by a 2.3-liter Mazda-Cosworth engine. All competitors are vying for an unprecedented $2 million bonus designed for the series champion to use in securing a full-time Champ Car ride in 2007.

This weekend's race is scheduled to begin on Sunday, June 18 at 10:00 AM local and will be televised via SPEED Channel on Saturday, June 24 at 4:00 PM ET. The race will also air to U.S. service men and women in over 130 countries around the world through the American Forces Radio & Television Service. Further information is available on the team's official web site at www.polestarracinggroup.com.

-polestarracing

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Patrick Carpentier , Alex Barron , Dan Gurney , Katherine Legge , Buddy Rice , Antoine Bessette , Alan Sciuto
Teams Team Penske