JONATHAN BOMARITO SCORES FIRST CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC VICTORY, EARLY-RACE CRASHES GIVE $2 MILLION CHAMPIONSHIP PRIZE TO SIMON PAGENAUD ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin (September 24, 2006) -- The last day of the 2006 Yokohoma Presents The Champ Car Atlantic...
JONATHAN BOMARITO SCORES FIRST CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC VICTORY, EARLY-RACE CRASHES GIVE $2 MILLION CHAMPIONSHIP PRIZE TO SIMON PAGENAUD
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin (September 24, 2006) -- The last day of the 2006 Yokohoma Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda dawned bright and breezy in Road America - symbolic as the storyline of today's event followed the same meandering flight path of a hot-dog wrapper tossed by the wind.
Coming into the day's event, all eyes were riveted on the championship battle between Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U./ Gen. Vienne) and Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company), with Rahal needing to make up 13 points on Pagenaud to take the crown and the $2 million prize that went with it.
But by the end of the Gehl Championship Finale at Road America, both title combatants had retired to the safety of their pit stalls while Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor) outraced polesitter Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) to score the first win of his Champ Car Atlantic career.
Pagenaud and Rahal battled nose-to-tail through the first four laps, but the war ended before the cars could make a fifth trip around the 4.048-mile Road America layout. Pagenaud had passed Rahal for third -- retaking the spot that Rahal had wrested from Pagenaud at the start -- and was running third under the caution flag brought out on Lap 5 by Antoine Bessette (#21 The RoomStore) when Rahal's car pulled off course. Stricken down by a faulty wiring harness, Rahal would take the long walk back through the woods of Elkhart Lake after being credited with a 20th-place finish.
The electrical failure handed the season championship to Pagenaud, but the Frenchman would not be around to enjoy it very long. With the title fight over, the Team Australia driver set his sights on the front of the grid, moving around James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK) for second place heading into Turn Five. Hinchcliffe fought right back however, and ended up initiating contact with Pagenaud's car, puncturing and eventually shredding the Frenchman's left rear tire. The contact left him in 17th place and allowed him to start his championship celebration a bit ahead of time.
Meanwhile, the maelstrom at the front of the field continued to swirl. Matos, having taken the lead from Hinchcliffe with a strong move on the Lap Seven restart, ran ahead of Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Layer 7/Wirth Solar) and Bomarito, with Ryan Lewis (#30 Insport Sports Management) following in fourth.
The order would stay the same for the next two laps as the third caution of the day flew after contact between Tim Bridgman (#2 EPSON Team Jensen) and J.R. Hildebrand (#36 Newman Wachs Racing, but Wirth made his bid for the lead directly after the Lap Nine restart. Wirth came up behind Matos heading into Turn Five but could not make the pass, dropping off track briefly before making the save.
The slip gave Bomarito the chance to move into second, where he would spend the next three laps chasing down Matos. He made it count on Lap 12 when he was able to draft Matos and make the pass for the lead in Turn Four. He got a free pass to stay there less than a minute later as the canary banner flew for contact between Justin Sofio (#26 Mathiasen Motorsports) and Mike Forest (#32 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor). Sofio would end up stranded with a broken suspension, setting the stage for a late-race restart.
Matos again got the strong restart when the green flag waved on Lap 15, moving to the right and around Bomarito heading into Turn One. But Bomarito fought right back, drafting the leader and moving around him in Turn Four again, taking a lead he would not relinquish.
The Californian made the most of his opportunity, stretching his lead ahead of Matos while Wirth held onto the third spot. Bomarito's gap was enough to keep Matos from getting close, despite the fact that the Brazilian ran the fastest lap of the race on the final lap of the race, crossing the line with a 0.706-second margin of victory.
Matos earned his fourth podium of the season by finishing second while Wirth bagged his sixth podium of the year with a third-place run. Robbie Pecorari (#Western Union/USA Today) scored his best finish since his Toronto win, moving up to fourth with a pass of Lewis on the 17th of the day's 18 laps. Lewis came home in fifth, claiming his fourth top-five finish of the season.
Danilo Dirani (#1 Canary Fund), Joe D'Agostino (#34 Newman Wachs Racing), Alan Sciuto (#12 Sealy/PKV Racing), David Martinez (#4 Sub-Hub) and Forest rounded out the top 10, with Forest not only earning the first top-10 result of his young career, but also taking the extra championship point for gaining the most positions in the race.
QUOTES FROM TOP THREE FINISHERS:
Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor) of PR1 Motorsports: "I had goosebumps for the whole last lap, just trying to keep my head down and not make any mistakes. We've been working so hard this year. I'm so happy to be here and for the team. It's great to be leading the last lap, but did it have to be a four mile track? Every corner, I was checking my mirrors and just trying to breathe. What a feeling! I can't even describe it."
Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises: "It was a very competitive race. In the beginning, I was able to keep the lead, even after the first restart. It's hard track to keep the lead for a long time because of the long straightaways. Jonathan was a little bit better coming out of the Carousel and the last corner and I was unable to draft him and make a pass. (On signing with Sierra Sierra Enterprises for next year) We signed yesterday and finalized everything. It's a great feeling, racing knowing that you will be with the same team next year.
Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Layer 7/Wirth Solar) of Forsythe Championship Racing: "The beginning of the race was great, but towards the middle the car began to understeer a lot and I couldn't get a shot out of the corners towards the straights. It killed me at the end because we were hoping to get a good run out of the corners and pull alongside the guys and get past them. When I was behind the other guys, I ran out of gear. I was on the limit and couldn't pull out. But, I finished on the podium for the last race."
Simon Pagenaud won the Champ Car Atlantic Championship despite only winning one race this season. The last time an Atlantic champion was crowned after winning one race in a season was 1993 when David Empringham beat Claude Bourbonnais by four points.
Jonathan Bomarito became the seventh different driver to win an Atlantic race this season, marking the first time since 1999 that the a season has seen seven different race winners.
David Martinez was the only driver to complete each of the 402 laps run in competition this season. He is the last driver to complete every lap of an Atlantic season since Danica Patrick in 2004.