It was Markus Niemela's turn to win Sunday as he led flag to flag at the Atlantic Championship Series' inaugural event at Miller Motorsport Park. Niemela, driver of the ...
It was Markus Niemela's turn to win Sunday as he led flag to flag at the Atlantic Championship Series' inaugural event at Miller Motorsport Park. Niemela, driver of the #8 Brooks Associates Racing entry handily fought off a challenge on Lap 1 by the second place car driven by #36, Jonathan Summerton. Niemela never looked back after that, winning by a margin of 0.446 seconds over Summerton. The Finn was ecstatic on his win, as he becomes the seventh driver to win in 10 races this season.
"It's my first win this year. I'm so happy. I know everybody says this every time, but the team did a fantastic job and, seriously, this victory goes as much to them as to me. Also, for my teammate Tom Sutherland, he really has brought so much to this team when he came a couple of races ago. It helps a lot with the set up. I was able to learn some corners from him during the week and he was able to learn from me, obviously, but it's really good to have him here. We're getting good results from this. I'm just so happy and it's a so important victory. I don't know [how I] would feel after finishing second, and fortunately, I don't have to have that feeling now. I just can't be happier", said Niemela.
The win is the third for BAR in the Atlantic Series, and is further testament to the strength of the series in its 35th year in that team owner John Brooks is himself a former Atlantics competitor.
The win by Niemela and the second place by Summerton, along with a sixth place for points leader Jonathan Bomarito, sets up an exciting finish for the series in two weeks at Road Atlanta, as a scant 10 points separate Bomarito from third-placed Niemela. For Summerton, the second-place finish means he is also strongly in contention for the title, as he is only 8 points behind Bomarito. Summerton, the driver of the #36 Newman Wachs Racing car, also gives the United States a strong chance of winning the championship for the first time since 2004, when current Grand Am driver Jon Fogarty claimed the title.
According to Summerton, "I was happy to be second. Being on the podium is always a good thing. The start was a little disappointing, but I'm real happy with a second place. We're coming out with the rookie lead and hopefully we can win the championship in Atlanta. I think we're eight points behind, so hopefully we can win that".
Yes, show me a race winning driver who is really happy with second place. It doesn't happen. However, Summerton is savvy enough to put a good spin on his finish. Also putting a good spin on finishing on the podium but not winning was Dane Cameron, driver of the #19 car for Genoa Racing.
"We've been coming on pretty strong the last half of the year so it's good to pet our second podium, said the rookie driver from Sonoma, California. "We're still looking for the first win, but it means a lot to us to get on the podium. It gives us another head start on momentum. Road Atlanta is a track I have quite a bit of experience at, as I did here at Miller, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage. I'd really like to qualify on pole, win that race and end the year on a real high note."
Three drivers were mathematically eliminated from championship contention this weekend. Unfortunately, one of these drivers was fourth-place finisher Carl Skerlong, driver of t he #14 PCM car, who ran the fastest lap of the race at 2:29:564, but who failed to qualify at the front, so could not make it up to the front in 20 laps. He was able to make one of the few passes for position in the race, getting by fifth-place finisher Simona De Silvestro.
Also eliminated from contention was Junior Strous, the Dutch driver of the #6 car for Condor Motorsports. Strous recorded an eighth-place finish. Canadian James Hinchcliffe was also dealt out of the championship stakes due to his 10th-place finish.
In addition to the race and end of season party, the series will also finish with a special luncheon for its 35th Anniversary All-Star Team at the season finale at Road Atlanta in two weeks' time.