Laguna Seca: Series round 12 preview

De Silvestro Leads Three-Way Championship Battle to Season Finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca BROWNSBURG, Ind. (October 8, 2009) - Simona De Silvestro heads into Sunday's 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda...

De Silvestro Leads Three-Way Championship Battle to Season Finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (October 8, 2009) - Simona De Silvestro heads into Sunday's 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca looking to make one more bit of history in a history-making season as she hopes to become the first woman to win the championship in the 36-year history of America's top open-wheel driver development series.

De Silvestro heads into the season finale with a seven-point lead over second place Jonathan Summerton, 176-169, and a 10-point lead over third place John Edwards. It is the second consecutive year that three drivers will enter the season finale with a shot at the Atlantic title. While there are a number of different scenarios through which De Silvestro can take the crown, the simplest is that she will be champion with a second-place run or better in Sunday's race.

The 21-year-old Italian-Swiss driver has achieved her lofty position in the championship standings with podium results in nine of her 11 starts thus far, including a run of eight straight from Round 2 at Miller Motorsports Park in May to Round 9 at Trois-Rivieres in August. She has taken four victories and four pole positions in the cockpit of the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Games/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies machine for Team Stargate Worlds. She has finished first or second eight times this year, and one more will give her the title.

Standing in her way, however, are Newman Wachs Racing teammates Summerton and Edwards. Summerton has been on a tear since a victory in Round 8 at Mid-Ohio in August, with three victories and a third-place run in his last four starts to become a part of the three-way championship battle royal for the second straight year. He won each of the last two races - at Mosport and Road Atlanta - after starting from the pole position and leads the series with five poles on the season. Another dominating performance this weekend in the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NEI ride and the title could be his.

If Edwards is to take the championship, he needs some help from both Summerton and De Silvestro. However, his 10-point deficit to the points leader heading into this year's finale is the same as it was for Markus Niemela heading into the 2008 season finale, and the Finnish rookie managed to come away with the title. No matter where he winds up in the championship race, Edwards can hang his hat on a fine 2009 season that saw the 18-year-old American score the first three victories and two pole positions of his Atlantic career. He looks to add to that total on Sunday in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy entry.

While all eyes will be on the race for the championship on Sunday, it's safe to assume that Monterey's Jonathan Bomarito will have more than his fair share of crowd support as he makes his third Atlantic start of the season this weekend. Bomarito will once again fill-in for the injured Frankie Muniz in the No. 77 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Games/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies machine as a teammate to De Silvestro this weekend. In his first run aboard the No. 77 machine last month at Road Atlanta, Bomarito started and finished fourth.

While Belgian rookie Frederic Vervisch has already wrapped up 2009 Rookie of the Year honors and fourth place in the overall championship, the race for fifth in the standings is still wide open between Estonian racer Tonis Kasemets and Niemela. Kasemets currently holds the position with 95 points but Niemela is just 10 points back and has finished inside the top five in each of his last four starts. Kasemets will once again drive the No. 35 Fatburner entry for Polestar Motor Racing, while Niemela is in the No. 1 Jensen MotorSport entry.

Niemela will welcome a new teammate this weekend, as 19-year-old American rookie Barrett Mertins has been entered to drive the No. 2 Jensen MotorSport car. Mertins, of Alexandria, Va., competed in the 2009 Formula BMW Americas season, which concluded at Mosport in August and finished 11th in the championship standings, despite no previous go-kart or auto racing experience.

Wrapping up his rookie Atlantic season this weekend will be Frenchman Max Lefevre in the No. 7 DOTMOBIL entry from Condor Motorsports. Lefevre is looking to build on previous best results of seventh in Round 2 at Miller Motorsports Park and Round 8 at Mid-Ohio this weekend. Condor Motorsports has two other entries listed as "TBA" on the entry list and could field up to three cars in Sunday's race.

All Atlantic racecars this weekend will utilize 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 Cooper Atlantic racing slicks and rain tires throughout the weekend.

Official on-track activities for the Atlantic Championship get underway on Friday with a pair of practice sessions, the first from 8:50 to 9:35 a.m. PT and the second scheduled to run from 4:05 to 4:35 p.m. Saturday's lone on-track session for the Atlantic Championship is qualifying from 8:55 to 9:35 a.m. with a 30-minute all-driver autograph session scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. Sunday's race-day schedule calls for a warm-up from 9:00 to 9:15 a.m., followed by the 50-minute timed race, which rolls off from a standing start at 1:30 p.m.

Live Timing & Scoring data, news and photos from throughout the weekend are available on the official website of the Atlantic Championship at www.atlantic-championship.com.

COOPER TIRES PRESENTS THE ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA PRE-RACE NOTEBOOK

- Three-Way Battle: The battle for the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda is coming down to a three-way fight between Simona De Silvestro (No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds), John Edwards (No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing) and Jonathan Summerton (No. 34 Newman Wachs Racing). De Silvestro currently leads by seven points over Summerton, 176-169, with Edwards another three points back. Last year, Markus Niemela entered the season finale third in the point standings - 10 points out of the lead - and took home the title with a thrilling race victory at Road Atlanta.

- Possible History in the Making: If either De Silvestro or Edwards take the series championship in Sunday's race, it will make Atlantic Championship history. If De Silvestro wins the title, she will become the first woman in 36 years of the Atlantic Championship to take the crown. If the 18-year-old Edwards takes the title, he will become the youngest champion in series history. The current youngest champion was Michael Andretti who took the 1983 title at 20 years, nine months and 30 days of age.

- Everybody Gets A Mulligan: The 2009 Atlantic Championship features a new wrinkle in the way the championship will be decided, as all drivers will earn points from their best 11 finishes in the 12-race season.

- On The Road Again: The 12-race 2009 Atlantic Championship schedule brings the series to many of North America's most revered road racing circuits. The series shares seven race weekends with the American Le Mans Series at Sebring International Raceway, Miller Motorsports Park, Lime Rock Park, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Mosport International Raceway, Road Atlanta and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The Atlantic series is the "headline" attraction in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec and in doubleheader weekends at New Jersey Motorsports Park and Autobahn Country Club in suburban Chicago.

- International Flair: This weekend's race will feature drivers representing five different countries. The United States has four drivers in the field and there are one each from Finland, France, Estonia and Switzerland.

- Rookies at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca: This weekend's field will include two Atlantic Championship rookies. The first-timers are Barrett Mertins (No. 2 Jensen MotorSport) and Max Lefevre (No. 7 Condor Motorsports).

COOPER TIRES PRESENTS THE ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA FAST FACTS

WHAT: Monterey Sports Car Championships presented by Patron

WHEN: Sunday, October 11, 2009

WHERE: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca - Monterey, Calif.

ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP EVENT SCHEDULE (All times local, PT): FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9 - Practice 1, 8:50 - 9:35 a.m.; Practice 2, 4:05 - 4.35 p.m. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 10 - Qualifying, 8:55 - 9:35 a.m. SUNDAY, OCTOBER 11 - Warm-Up, 9:00 - 9:15 a.m.; Race, 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.

TRACK LAYOUT: 2.238-mile, 11-turn permanent road course

RACE LENGTH: 50 minutes

RACE ROUND: Round 12 of the 12-race 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda

ATLANTIC TRACK RECORDS: Qualifying (1 Lap): James Hinchcliffe, 5/17/08, 1:16.189, 105.748 mph Race (1 Lap): Douglas Soares, 5/18/08, 1:16.369, 105.498 mph Race (Full Distance): Jon Fogarty, 9/12/04, 40:22.200, 99.786 mph

-credit: ac

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Jon Fogarty , Jonathan Bomarito , Tonis Kasemets , James Hinchcliffe , Frederic Vervisch , Jonathan Summerton , John Edwards , Max Lefevre , Markus Niemela , Douglas Soares , Barrett Mertins , Frankie Muniz