San Jose: Round 11 preview

MATOS LOOKS TO WRAP-UP 2007 CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WITH ANOTHER STRONG PERFORMANCE AS SERIES HEADS FOR PENULTIMATE ROUND AT SAN JOSE GRAND PRIX INDIANAPOLIS (July 25, 2007) -- With six victories and a season full of strong...

MATOS LOOKS TO WRAP-UP 2007 CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WITH ANOTHER STRONG PERFORMANCE AS SERIES HEADS FOR PENULTIMATE ROUND AT SAN JOSE GRAND PRIX

INDIANAPOLIS (July 25, 2007) -- With six victories and a season full of strong performances already under his belt, Brazilian driver Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) can wrap-up the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda and the $2 million prize toward a Champ Car World Series seat in 2008 with another solid outing in Sunday's San Jose Grand Prix (ESPN360.com, Live, 3:30 p.m. ET), the penultimate round of the 12-race season.

The simplest way for Matos to clinch the title would be for him to do what he did in last year's San Jose Grand Prix, which was to start the race from the pole position and lead every lap en route to his first career Atlantic victory. He carries a 40-point lead into the weekend over French rookie standout Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport/Continental Cartage Inc.), 291-251, and Matos and Perera are the only two drivers still mathematically eligible for the championship. With a maximum of 34 points available on a race weekend, Matos could also clinch the title simply by finishing ahead of Perera, which he has done seven times in 10 races this season. There are numerous other scenarios where Matos could take the crown one race early even if Perera does finish ahead of him.

However, both Perera and Matos are undoubtedly well aware that a mistake on Matos' part this weekend could push the title fight to the season finale at Road America in August. With a 25-car entry list and points only being awarded through 20 positions, an early exit by Matos coupled with a strong result from Perera could dramatically change the complexion of the championship. While Matos has not encountered any significant problems all season, Perera has not either, which is why he is still in contention for the title. The Condor Motorsports rookie is the only driver in the series to have finished inside the top five in every race this season and has two victories of his own.

While most of the attention will deservedly be on Matos and Perera, there are a number of other drivers in the series who could force the championship battle into the background as they find their own way to victory circle at San Jose's Redback Raceway. One such candidate is Matos' Sierra Sierra Enterprises teammate James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks). Hinchcliffe has been a consistent front-runner throughout the season with five podium results and three pole positions. However, the personable Canadian has yet to find his way to the top step of the podium in 2007 and would relish the opportunity to do so this weekend.

Hinchcliffe is locked in a battle for third in the championship with his Canadian countryman, Red Bull Team Forsythe rookie Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK). Wickens currently trails Hinchcliffe by five points in the championship standings and has already won in 2007 with a victory in Race #1 of the doubleheader at Portland in June. Wickens also has the benefit of knowing the quick way around Redback Raceway, as he started from the pole position in both races and won the second race of a Formula BMW USA doubleheader in San Jose last year.

Wickens is one of a number of 2007 Atlantic competitors that will bring knowledge they gained of San Jose from Formula BMW with them this weekend. Rookie Tom Sutherland (#2 Drive Energy Soda) of nearby Los Gatos, Calif. finished second in the first Formula BMW race at San Jose last year, while Conquest Racing rookie Matt Lee (#44 Integrated Structures) finished second to Wickens in the second race.

The only woman driver in the Atlantic field, Swiss rookie Simona De Silvestro (#5 Miauton) finished fourth in both Formula BMW races at San Jose last year, while US RaceTronics Mexican rookie David Garza (#4 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa/USRT) finished third in the first race of the doubleheader last year. Others with Formula BMW experience at San Jose that are expected to compete this weekend are actor-turned-racer Frankie Muniz (#13 Chandler Development) and Canadian rookie Adrien Herberts (#45 Paladin Motorsports). It will be interesting to see if that previous experience pays dividends this weekend.

Of course, previous Atlantic experience at San Jose may trump those graduates of Formula BMW. Joining Matos and Hinchcliffe with previous Atlantic races at Redback Raceway are De Silvestro's Walker Racing teammate Ryan Lewis (#15 NCPI Solutions/Insport), owner/driver Alan Sciuto (#20 WS Deans), Atlantic returnee Steve Ott (#22 InterVision), Monterey, Calif. resident Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) and Atlantic veteran Justin Sofio (#26 RLM Investments).

Lewis finished second to Matos last year and if he holds to form this weekend, he could be a contributing factor in the outcome. The Englishman has been particularly strong at events this season where he also had a good result in 2006, finishing third and fifth in the doubleheader at Portland after finishing second the previous year and finishing fifth in Toronto after a third-place run in 2006.

Sciuto made his Champ Car Atlantic debut at San Jose in 2005 and posted a fourth-place result. He heads to San Jose this weekend riding the momentum of his best result of the season, a fourth-place performance in Race #2 of the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton doubleheader.

Ott is making his first Atlantic start of the season, joining Sutherland and Muniz as part of a three-car entry from Jensen MotorSport. Ott finished 20th last year at San Jose with Newman Wachs Racing, but owns a career-best Atlantic result of third in the second race of a doubleheader at Cleveland last year.

Racing in what amounts to a "hometown" event, Bomarito started third and finished 16th in last year's Atlantic race at San Jose. However, he too is riding the momentum from Race #2 at Edmonton, where he finished second, and has proven the ability to win at the Atlantic level as evidenced by his triumph at Road America last year.

Sofio, of Arleta, Calif., is the most experienced driver in this weekend's field with two previous Atlantic starts at Redback Raceway. He owns a pair of top-nine Atlantic results at San Jose, with a run of eighth last year and a ninth-place result--and C2 class victory--in 2005. He will also be looking to break back into the top 10 in the Atlantic championship standings this weekend.

One driver in this weekend's field brings previous San Jose experience that may trump all the others as Denmark's Ronnie Bremer (#10 Brooks Associates Racing) actually has a Champ Car World Series start at Redback Raceway under his belt. He finished seventh in the inaugural Champ Car event at San Jose in 2005. However, this will be his first Atlantic start at the facility. Bremer is returning to the Atlantic series with Brooks Associates Racing this weekend for the first time since running the first six rounds of the season for Polestar Racing Group.

Others carrying momentum into San Jose are Italian rookie Giacomo Ricci (#18 Banca Italease/Lotto/Global), 16-year-old American rookie John Edwards (#7 Red Bull/INDECK), and American rookie teammates Adrian Carrio (#17 Carrio Cabling Company) and Richard Heistand (#37 Eola Capital Investments) of Genoa Racing. Ricci is riding a streak of five consecutive top-six results, while Edwards has finished inside the top eight in each of his last three starts, highlighted by a career-best second-place performance at Toronto three races ago. Carrio picked up a career-best seventh-place result in the first race of the Edmonton doubleheader, while Heistand earned a career-best 11th-place result in Race #2 at Edmonton.

Joining Sutherland and Bomarito as a "hometowner" this weekend is Sausalito, Calif. rookie driver J.R. Hildebrand (#36 Newman Wachs Racing). Hildebrand, the 2006 Cooper Tires Formula Ford champion, owns a best result this season of second at Cleveland and is currently eighth in the overall championship standings.

Completing an extremely competitive field this weekend are Perera's Condor Motorsports teammates, Junior Strous (#16 Shell/Continental Cartage Inc./Best Box/HTP/Red, White & Bluezz USA) and Brian Thienes (#19 Thienes Engineering/Continental Cartage Inc.), American rookie Carl Skerlong (#24 King Taco/USRT) and Canadian Mike Forest (#32 Konica Minolta/Miracle Sealants/Dynacor/Earthwater).

The teams and drivers will be vying for a total of $100,000 in purses in the San Jose Grand Prix. Each Atlantic race features a $100,000 purse as part of $3.7 million in total prize money.

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.

The weekend on-track festivities for the Champ Car Atlantic championship at the San Jose Grand Prix get underway at 8:45 a.m. PT on Friday morning with a 45-minute practice session. Friday's schedule also includes provisional qualifying from 12:40 to 1:15 p.m.

The Atlantic machines will take to Redback Raceway for another practice on Saturday morning from 8:45 to 9:30 a.m. PT, followed by final qualifying from 12:40 to 1:15 p.m. and a driver autograph session at the Cooper Tire Display beginning at 3:45 p.m. Sunday's race day schedule calls for a 15-minute warm-up session beginning at 8:30 a.m., followed by Round 11 of the 12-race 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Championship, the San Jose Grand Prix, which will roll off from a standing start at 12:30 p.m. PT. The timed race will be 50 minutes in length.

In addition to live flag-to-flag coverage on ESPN360.com, ESPN2 will carry a 30-minute tape-delayed telecast of the Atlantic action from San Jose at 5:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, August 2. 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.

For additional information, and to watch all of this season's races on demand, visit the official web site of North America's premier open-wheel development series, www.champcaratlantic.com.

COOPER TIRES PRESENTS THE CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA FAST FACTS SAN JOSE GRAND PRIX

WHAT: San Jose Grand Prix

WHERE: Redback Raceway -- San Jose, Calif.

CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local, PT):

RIDAY, JULY 27
8:45 -- 9:30 a.m., Atlantic practice
12:40 -- 1:15 p.m., Atlantic qualifying

SATURDAY, JULY 28
8:45 -- 9:30 a.m., Atlantic practice
12:40 -- 1:15 p.m., Atlantic qualifying

SUNDAY, JULY 29
8:30 -- 8:45 a.m., Atlantic warmup
12:30 p.m. -- 1:30 p.m. Atlantic Race

LIVE INTERNET VIDEO: SUNDAY, JULY 29 - Flag-to-flag coverage of the San Jose Grand Prix will be available on ESPN360.com beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: THURSDAY, AUGUST 2 -- ESPN2, San Jose Grand Prix, 5:30 p.m. ET.

TRACK LAYOUT:  1.443-mile temporary street circuit

RACE LENGTH: 50-minute time limit

TRACK RECORDS (based on current layout):
Qualifying (one lap) -- 7/29/06, Raphael Matos, 55.495 seconds, 93.608 mph
Race (one lap) -- 7/30/06, Graham Rahal, 55.666 seconds, 93.320 mph
Race (45 laps) -- 7/30/06, Raphael Matos, 50:03.045, 77.843 mph

RACE ROUNDS: Round 11 of 12 in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda

NEXT RACE: Generac Grand Prix of Road America, August 12

-credit: ccws/atl

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Graham Rahal , Jonathan Bomarito , Ronnie Bremer , Ryan Lewis , Justin Sofio , Adrian Carrio , Robert Wickens , Adrien Herberts , Junior Strous , Tom Sutherland , James Hinchcliffe , David Garza , Brian Thienes , J.R. Hildebrand , Giacomo Ricci , Richard Heistand , Mike Forest , Steve Ott , Franck Perera , Matt Lee
Teams Conquest Racing