NEWMAN/WACHS RACING SELECTS JOE D'AGOSTINO AND DANIEL GAUNT AS ITS DRIVERS FOLLOWING ATLANTIC SHOOTOUT LOS ANGELES, California (February 14, 2006) -- Just like they used to do it in the Old West, the Newman/Wachs Racing Atlantic team held ...
NEWMAN/WACHS RACING SELECTS JOE D'AGOSTINO AND DANIEL GAUNT AS ITS DRIVERS FOLLOWING ATLANTIC SHOOTOUT
LOS ANGELES, California (February 14, 2006) -- Just like they used to do it in the Old West, the Newman/Wachs Racing Atlantic team held a shootout last week and in the end only two drivers were left standing. A strong performance on track and good chemistry with the first-year Atlantic team enabled both American Joe D'Agostino and Daniel Gaunt of New Zealand to emerge as the squad's new marksmen for the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.
A total of nine drivers participated in the three-day audition for the team, co-owned by legendary actor Paul Newman and his longtime friend and fellow racer Eddie Wachs. All of the drivers who tested at Moroso Motorsports Park in Jupiter, Florida, February 6-8 showed skill and promise, according to Wachs, but four seemed to set themselves apart. Both D'Agostino and Gaunt shined along with Brazilian racer Tuka Rocha and Frenchman Simon Pagenaud. When it came time to make the final decision on which drivers would secure the two seats available for the full-season entry in North America's top open-wheel development category, however, both D'Agostino and Gaunt proved to have that extra ingredient that the team was looking for.
"The test went very well and they all did a good job but it really came down to who showed the most improvement and who communicated best with the team," said Wachs. "We looked at the on-track development as being just as important as outright speed. Because we're all going to be starting fresh with a new car this season we believe that the people who come out of the box quickly will be the most successful. Keeping that in mind, I'm sure we picked the right candidates."
D'Agostino, a 20-year-old talent from Plantation, Florida, is eager to showcase his skills in North America after competing for the last several seasons in the United Kingdom. He raced in both Formula Renault and in Formula Fords last season, finishing third in the UK Formula Ford Championship with six wins and eight poles. A graduate of the Skip Barber program, D'Agostino was the winner of the Barber Big Scholarship shootout in 2003.
Racing mostly in Australia and his native New Zealand, Gaunt has also shown his promise competing in different formulas. The Auckland native, who will turn 22 later this month, has raced in the New Zealand Toyota Racing Series the past two seasons and is currently leading the series standings. He captured the Formula F4000 title in 2003 and has also raced in Formula Fords.
Both drivers will spend the next few weeks getting acclimated to their new team before Newman/Wachs takes possession of their new 2006 Atlantic cars in early March. The squad will put all of its focus into learning as much as it can about the new machines before a series open test March 21-22 at California Speedway. The Atlantic season kicks off April 7-9 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The Champ Car Atlantic Championship continues to be the premier open-wheel development series in North America. Beginning its 33rd season in 2006, the championship is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into Champ Car competition and has helped produce past Champ Car champions Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve. 2005 Champ Car competitors Alex Tagliani, Andrew Ranger and Ronnie Bremer are also established Atlantic graduates along with 2004 Champ Car Rookie of the Year and 2003 Atlantic champ A.J. Allmendinger. Competing in newly-designed Swift 016.a chassis powered by a 2.3-liter Cosworth engine riding on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks, 2006 competitors will fight for the 12-race championship and the unique $2 million Champ Car series champion's bonus. For more information on the Atlantic series, please visit www.champcaratlantic.com.