Skerlong -- May Q&A Mukilteo, Washington (May 09, 2007) -- Seattle's Carl Skerlong, driver of the ...
Skerlong -- May Q&A
Mukilteo, Washington (May 09, 2007) -- Seattle's Carl Skerlong, driver of the #24 King Taco / US RaceTronics Swift Mazda-Cosworth in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, scored his first podium of the season in last month's third round on the streets of Houston.
The 18-year-old rookie, the reigning Formula TR Pro Series 2000 Champion, took time out from his schedule to look back on his progress to-date in the series and his first top-three of the season:
Q: After a frantic start to the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Championship season, with three races over consecutive weekends, what have you been up to since Houston?
Carl Skerlong (CS): "I've really just been preparing myself for the next event in Portland. It's like a home track to me, I've led a lot of laps around there and I really want to put on a good show in front of the home-town crowd."
Q: Describe your feelings on reaching the podium in Houston in just your third career Champ Car Atlantic Championship start?
CS: "I couldn't have been happier to be there in my third race. Of course, that's not to say that I couldn't have been up there in my first two races, I definitely think we were capable of doing that but things just didn't work out the way we wanted them to. All in all though the Houston result was a good end to the first quarter of the season and the trio of street races. Standing on the podium was certainly a pretty nice feeling."
Q: Have you been surprised with your competitive start to the season?
CS: "Not really! After pre-season testing we knew we could be quick but I was a little worried about all the street courses having never raced on one prior to the Las Vegas opener. Ultimately it wasn't a problem and from there we just kept working hard to keep our momentum going leading to our first podium in Round 3."
Q: Having run three back-to-back street races are you looking forward to a return to a permanent road courses when you hit Portland International Raceway next month?
CS: "I'm definitely looking forward to a return to road course racing, especially because Portland's first up and it's basically my home race. I'm excited to be back racing at a permanent track although it was fun racing on the streets of Las Vegas, Long Beach and Houston. While those tracks were new to me I'm hoping I might have a leg-up on some of the competition when we get to Portland."
Q: What are your expectations for the race weekend in Portland and how happy are you that it's the first double-header meeting of the season?
CS: "The fact that we have two races at Portland is definitely nice for me. There's limited track time before qualifying and the races which shouldn't be too much of an issue for me given all the laps I've got there. I'm hopeful I'll be up to speed fairly quickly as a result and from there we just have to see what I produce on-track. Portland's layout is great, it's a real flowing circuit and quite rhythmical to drive. There are definitely some technical sections but there's also some high speed stuff which makes for a great combination. It's a really smooth track which will make for a nice change of pace having raced on temporary street circuits for the last three events."
Q: With just two American drivers competing in the Champ Car World Series this season, how important do you feel it is to be competitive and a leading home-grown talent in Atlantic competition?
CS: "Like I said at the beginning of the season, one of my goals for the year is to be the top American in Atlantics. There seem to be more American companies taking a look at Champ Car now and I think they'll want to see more home-grown drivers in the top series and being competitive at the same time. That's a role I definitely want to fulfill and the Atlantic platform is a great place to showcase your abilities."
Q: Brazil's Raphael Matos has set the benchmark this season with three straight wins to kick start the year. Do you think he can be caught in the title fight and what's been the key to his successes?
CS: "A lot of it's down to experience! He's familiar with his team, he ran all the races last season and he's had a lot of time in the car. Rafa's a good driver, he's very quick and he doesn't make a lot of mistakes so he's going to be tough to beat all season no matter what. That said I think we're snapping away at his heels now and hopefully we'll be able to go do something to change the order."
Q: You're currently third in the 'Rookie of the Year' battle behind Canada's Robert Wickens and France's Franck Perera -- how do you rate your fellow rookies and just how close will the fight for rookie honors be this season?
CS: "It's going to be close! Perera's been fast all season, he showed that in pre-season testing at Laguna Seca for starters. Again, Robert's been quick at every round this year so for sure it's going to be a close fight for rookie honors but I definitely think we're capable of taking the title."
Rounds 4 & 5 of the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season take place at Portland International Raceway, Oregon, 8th-10th June.