2009 Atlantic Championship Points Structure Reconfigured; Series-Sanctioned Test Announced

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (February 11, 2009) - The way in which the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda champion will be determined has been reconfigured from the format of previous years, series officials announced today.

Most notably, drivers will count their best 11 finishes from the 12 races on the 2009 schedule toward the championship, eliminating their worst result of the season. The number of points and the number of points-paying positions has also changed. A race victory will now net a driver 20 points, as opposed to the 31 awarded for a victory in recent seasons. Second place is now worth 16 points, with 14 for third, 12 for fourth and 10 for fifth.

A sixth-place result is now worth eight points, with seven points for seventh, six points for eighth, five for ninth, four for 10th, three for 11th, two for 12th and one point for 13th place. Previously, points were awarded for all finishers in the top-20 positions. The fastest driver in each qualifying session will earn one bonus point, with a "Hard Charger Bonus" of one point going to the driver who improves the most positions from start to finish in each race.

In the 10 races with two qualifying sessions, the fastest driver in each session is guaranteed a front-row starting spot and the driver with the fastest overall speed from the two sessions will start from the Cooper Tire Pole. The remaining spots in the field will be filled by in order of the drivers' best speed from the two sessions.

"By allowing each driver to throw out their lowest finish of the season, we believe it will make our championship even more competitive in 2009," said Atlantic Championship Vice President of Operations John Brunner. "If a driver has some misfortune in one race, it will not necessarily take them out of contention for the title. By awarding points only to the top-13 finishers, however, it places more importance on performing well in each race in order to win points."

Atlantic officials also announced today that a series-sanctioned test will also be conducted at Palm Beach International Raceway on March 10-11, slightly more than one week in advance of the season-opener. The 12-race 2009 Atlantic Championship gets underway on Friday, March 20 at Sebring International Raceway as part of the prestigious Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida weekend.

The Atlantic Championship is the longest-running open-wheel driver development series in North America and celebrated its 35th Anniversary season in 2008, with Finnish rookie Markus Niemela taking the series championship in the final race of the season. With a $1 million champion's prize and a total of $3 million in prize money up for grabs, the 2009 Atlantic Championship offers one of the most lucrative prize packages in North American open-wheel racing.

The series is noted for its long history of graduating its drivers into the top levels of motorsport throughout the world, including IndyCar drivers such as Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Danica Patrick, Dan Wheldon, Graham Rahal and Raphael Matos, Formula One world champions such as Jacques Villeneuve and Keke Rosberg, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Sam Hornish Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger and sports car stars like Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney, Michael Valiante, Joey Hand and Simon Pagenaud.

Atlantic Championship graduates have won races and championships at the highest levels of motorsport, including Formula 1, IndyCar and Champ Car, and sports cars. In 2009, Atlantic graduates will again be top competitors in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, the American Le Mans Series, the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and even the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series among many others. Learn more about Atlantic at www.atlantic-championship.com.

-credit: ac