Skerlong Stuns with Portland Fight Back Portland, Oregon (June 09, 2007) -- If there was a hard-charger award handed out in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered By Mazda then undoubtedly Seattle's ...
Skerlong Stuns with Portland Fight Back
Portland, Oregon (June 09, 2007) -- If there was a hard-charger award handed out in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered By Mazda then undoubtedly Seattle's Carl Skerlong would collect the prize following an epic fight back from the rookie in Round 4 held Saturday at the Portland International Raceway (PIR), Oregon.
Having started the 30-lap race in ninth, Skerlong dropped back to 25th out of 28 entries on the opening lap following contact and a spin amidst treacherous conditions at the 1.964-mile permanent road-course. A stunning drive followed from the reigning Formula TR Pro Series 2000 Champion, Skerlong powering his #24 King Taco/US RaceTronics Swift Mazda-Cosworth from the rear of the field to eighth at the checkered to move up to sixth overall in the Driver Standings.
Skerlong kicked off the double-header meeting with a ninth place qualifying run on Friday, the leading American rookie steering his way to a lap time of 1m07.073s (105.414mph) just 0.512s from James Hinchcliffe's pole winning time of 1m06.561s (106.224mph).
Regarding the 12-turn Portland International Raceway as his home track, courtesy of living 'up the road' in Mukilteo, Washington, Skerlong was confident of a strong showing not least as he scored his maiden Champ Car Atlantic Championship podium in April's third round in Houston, a second place behind series leader Raphael Matos, but also due to his intimate track knowledge at PIR -- his record boasting wins there in last weekend's SCCA Rose Cup meeting as well as previous victories in the likes of Formula TR and DSR National events.
The 18-year-old's hopes of a strong start were dashed almost immediately as the pack diced through the rain-soaked track with Carl's car briefly coming into contact with fellow American Jonathan Bomarito at Turn 7 heading onto the back straight, the duo spinning together before rejoining the action at the rear of the field. With the next three laps following under the safety car, Carl was finally unleashed to begin his comeback on the re-start on lap five.
Up to 17th by lap 10, the high school senior comfortably picked off his rivals to knock on the door of the top-ten just six laps later. A cat and mouse chase with Alan Sciuto followed, Carl chipping away reducing the gap with each lap. Both drivers made gains, the duo successfully passing Ronnie Bremer and Skerlong's US RaceTronics team-mate, Mexico's David Garza, and at the checkered on lap 30 Carl's remarkable drive saw him claim an eighth place finish and a healthy dose of points. Canada's Robert Wickens claimed the win ahead of countryman and defending race champion James Hinchcliffe with Great Britain's Ryan Lewis taking third.
"I don't really have that much experience of PIR in the wet so today's finish is pretty pleasing all things considered," Skerlong reflected post-race. "I was able to get into a rhythm and just started to gain ground from there. That said every car I caught was getting harder and harder to pass. We made something from today's race which we maybe didn't expect after the first lap. It was fun out there and we reaped the rewards by hanging in there and battling!"