Edmonton: Rounds nine, ten doubleheader preview

PERERA LOOKING TO KEEP CANADIAN STREAK ALIVE IN SECOND DOUBLEHEADER OF 2007 CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP AT REXALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON It has been a streaky season for Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered ...

PERERA LOOKING TO KEEP CANADIAN STREAK ALIVE IN SECOND DOUBLEHEADER OF 2007 CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP AT REXALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON

It has been a streaky season for Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda rookie Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport).

The Frenchman opened his Atlantic career with four consecutive fifth-place finishes. He followed that streak with two straight third-place results before breaking through for his first career Atlantic victory at Mont-Tremblant earlier this month. The following week, Perera maintained his perfect record in Canada with a second consecutive victory in the Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto and this weekend, the Condor Motorsports pilot will be looking to continue the trend as the Champ Car Atlantic Championship makes its way west for a doubleheader at the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton (Race 1 -- ESPN360.com, Saturday, July 21, Live, 2:30 p.m. ET; Race 2 -- ESPN360.com, Sunday, July 22, Live, 12:30 p.m. ET).

Perera is the only driver in the series to have finished inside the top five in every race this season, and his back-to-back victories have vaulted him into second place in the overall championship standings. He now trails points leader Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) by 30 points, 228-198, and leads the Rookie of the Year standings by 20 points over Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) as the series enters the final third of the season this weekend.

While Perera has been impressive of late, he and everybody else are still chasing Matos, just as they have done throughout the 2007 campaign. Matos still leads the series with four victories and four pole positions and has finished on the podium in six of eight races this season. In difficult conditions at Toronto--where a heavy rainstorm created havoc just as the race got underway--Matos started from the pole position but adjusted his strategy when he lost the lead heading into Turn 1 on the start and brought home a third-place trophy. If he can maintain that type of patience and consistency through the remaining four races, the championship and the $2 million prize toward a 2008 Champ Car ride will be his.

That being said, Matos did crash after starting from the pole position and leading the first 28 laps in his Edmonton Atlantic debut last season. A repeat of that performance this weekend and a continuation of Perera's recent dominance would dramatically change the complexion of the championship heading into the final two races.

The last time the Atlantic series contested a doubleheader weekend at Portland in June, Wickens picked up his first victory in the series in Race #1. The 18-year-old Canadian has finished inside the top five in six of his eight starts this season and will be looking to rebound this weekend from a disappointing run his hometown of Toronto two weeks ago. Wickens was poised for a podium result but spun out of third place while attempting to pass his Red Bull Team Forsythe teammate John Edwards (#7 Red Bull/INDECK) on the second-to-last lap and wound up seventh. Nevertheless, Wickens has finished inside the top 10 in every race this year and now finds himself third in the championship standings, 50 points in arrears of Matos.

Wickens and his fellow Canadian, James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) are actually tied in the standings with 178 points, but Wickens is ranked third and Hinchcliffe is fourth owing to the fact that Wickens has won a race this season. Hinchcliffe will be looking to correct that in the last weekend of races on his home soil for 2007. He had a solid weekend in the Portland doubleheader with pole positions for both races and second-place results, and like Wickens, Hinchcliffe is also hoping to rebound from a disappointing race in his hometown where he retired after 10 laps due to contact and wound up 11th. Like Matos, his Sierra Sierra Enterprises teammate, Hinchcliffe also has less than fond memories of his first Atlantic visit to Edmonton as he crashed after completing just four laps in his debut race at Rexall Speedway last year.

Wickens and Hinchcliffe are two of five Canadians entered in the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton. They are joined by Quebec's Kevin Lacroix (#10 Uni-Select), Coquitlam, British Columbia's Adrien Herberts (#45 Paladin Motorsports) and Edmonton's own Mike Forest (#32 Konica Minolta/Miracle Sealants/Dynacor/Earthwater). In the Portland doubleheader, Lacroix picked up his first career Atlantic victory in Race #2 in what was his first Atlantic race weekend and just the second start of his Atlantic career with Brooks Associates Racing.

Herberts is another rookie in the series and comes into the race nearest his hometown with points-paying results in six of his eight career Atlantic starts. Forest, meanwhile, will be making his second Atlantic start in his hometown after finishing 14th last season. He is part of a two-car program from PR1 Motorsports, alongside teammate Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor).

Bomarito finished sixth in his first Atlantic race in Edmonton last year and has finished inside the top-five spots in five of his eight starts this season. He too will be looking for redemption this weekend after a heartbreaker in Toronto where he got a great start from third on the grid to take the lead heading into Turn 1 and led the first three laps before crashing in the rain while attempting to make his way back to the pits for rain tires behind the pace car.

Italian rookie Giacomo Ricci (#18 Banca Italease/Lotto/Global) heads to Edmonton riding a bit of a hot streak with top-six results in each of his last three starts. That has helped to propel Ricci into fifth in the championship standings for Conquest Racing, which also fields American rookie Matt Lee (#44 Integrated Structures). Another Champ Car World Series team with an Atlantic program is Walker Racing, which fields Englishman Ryan Lewis (#15 NCPI Solutions/Insport) and Swiss rookie Simona De Silvestro (#5 Miauton), the only woman in the field. Lewis picked up his third top-five result in five races with a fifth-place performance the last time out in Toronto, while De Silvestro saw her two-race streak of career-best results snapped in the rain at Toronto.

Three American rookies have visited the second-place spot on the podium this season and will be looking to take that next step this weekend. The 16-year-old Edwards was the most recent to accomplish the feat with a masterful drive in the rain at Toronto. In Cleveland it was J.R. Hildebrand (#36 Newman Wachs Racing) who came home second to Matos, while Carl Skerlong (#24 King Taco/USRT) was also runner-up to Matos in Round 3 at Houston. Skerlong is joined on the two-car US RaceTronics team by Mexican rookie David Garza (#4 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa/USRT), who has scored points in his last six Atlantic starts.

While Perera has gotten most of the headlines, his Condor Motorsports teammate Junior Strous (#16 Shell/Best Box/Red, White & Bluezz USA) has also shown flashes of brilliance. The Dutchman led his first Atlantic laps at Toronto after qualifying a career-best fourth but fell out of the race due to contact after 10 laps. Nevertheless, he has scored points in six of his eight starts this season. Strous and Perera are joined by Brian Thienes (#19 Thienes Engineering) on the only three-car team in the series.

Actor-turned-racer Frankie Muniz (#13 Chandler Development) heads to Edmonton carrying the momentum of a ninth-place result at Toronto, which was the best result of his professional racing career to date. Muniz is joined on the Canada-based Jensen Motorsport team by Californian Tom Sutherland (#2 Drive Energy Soda). Likewise, fourth-year Atlantic racer Justin Sofio (#26 RLM Investments) scored his best result of the season in Toronto with an eighth-place run for Mathiasen Motorsports.

Nineteen-year-old owner/driver Alan Sciuto (#20 The Room Store of Phoenix) has also shown flashes of speed throughout the 2007 season and matched his best result of the season with a sixth-place performance in Toronto. He has five top-nine results in eight starts.

Completing a strong, 24-car entry--which will be the largest Atlantic field in the three-year history of the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton--will be Genoa Racing teammates Adrian Carrio (#17 Carrio Cabling Company) and Richard Heistand (#37 Eola Capital Investments). Carrio, the 2006 Star Mazda champion, is looking to improve on a previous best Atlantic result of 12th in Round 2 at Long Beach, while Heistand is returning to Atlantic competition after sitting out Round 8 at Toronto.

The teams and drivers will be vying for a total of $200,000 in purses in this doubleheader weekend. 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.

On-track activities for the Champ Car Atlantic Championship at the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton get underway on Friday morning with practice from 8:45 to 9:30 a.m. MT, followed by qualifying for the first race of the doubleheader from 12:40 to 1:15 p.m.

Saturday's schedule will open with qualifying for Race #2 of the doubleheader from 8:00 to 8:45 a.m. MT. Race #1 of the doubleheader and Round 9 of the 120-race Atlantic championship will roll off the grid from a standing start at 12:30 p.m. and will be subject to a 45-minute time limit. Saturday's schedule will also include an autograph session for all Atlantic drivers at the Cooper Tire display beginning at 3:15 p.m.

Sunday's schedule will see the Atlantic machines on-course for a 15-minute warm-up session beginning at 8:00 a.m. MT, followed by Race #2 of the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton weekend and Round 10 of the championship will roll off from a standing start at 10:30 a.m. Race #2 will also have a 45-minute time limit.

In addition to live flag-to-flag coverage on ESPN360.com, ESPN2 will carry 30-minute tape-delayed telecasts of the Atlantic action from Edmonton on Monday, July 23. Race #1 will air at 5:00 p.m. ET, followed immediately by Race #2 of the doubleheader at 5:30 p.m. ET. The races will also air to U.S. service men and women in over 130 countries around the world through the American Forces Radio & Television Service.

COOPER TIRES PRESENTS THE CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA FAST FACTS - REXALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON

WHAT: Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton

WHERE: Rexall Speedway; City Centre Airport -- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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

FRIDAY, JULY 20
Practice: 8:45 -- 9:30 a.m.
Race #1 Qualifying: 12:40 -- 1:15 p.m.

SATURDAY, JULY 21
Race #2 Qualifying: 8:00 -- 8:45 a.m.
Race #1: 12:30 -- 1:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, JULY 22
Warm-Up: 8:00 -- 8:15 a.m.
Race #2: 10:30 a.m. -- 11:30 a.m.

LIVE INTERNET VIDEO: SATURDAY, JULY 21 and SUNDAY, JULY 22 - Flag-to-flag coverage of Race #1 of the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton Champ Car Atlantic doubleheader will be available on ESPN360.com at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 21. Race #2 will be live on Sunday, July 22 at 12:30 p.m. ET

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: MONDAY, JULY 23 -- ESPN2, Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton

Race #1 -- 5:00 p.m. ET
Race #2 -- 5:30 p.m. ET

TRACK LAYOUT: 1.973-mile temporary airport circuit

RACE LENGTH: 45-minute time limit for both races

TRACK RECORDS (based on current layout):

Qualifying (one lap) -- 7/22/06, Raphael Matos, 1:05.333, 108.717 mph

Race (one lap) -- 7/23/06, Simon Pagenaud, 1:05.647, 108.200 mph

Race (36 laps) -- 7/23/06, Simon Pagenaud, 41:54.492, 101.691 mph

RACE ROUNDS: Round 9 and 10 of 12 in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda

NEXT RACE: San Jose Grand Prix, July 29

-credit: ccws/atlantic

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Lewis , Justin Sofio , Adrian Carrio , Robert Wickens , Kevin Lacroix , Adrien Herberts , Junior Strous , Simon Pagenaud , Alan Sciuto , James Hinchcliffe , David Garza , Brian Thienes , Carl Skerlong , Giacomo Ricci , John Edwards , Richard Heistand , Mike Forest , Franck Perera , Frankie Muniz , Matt Lee
Teams Conquest Racing