Portland: Rounds four, five doubleheader preview

MATOS LOOKS TO REMAIN UNDEFEATED AS CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP RESUMES WITH DOUBLEHEADER WEEKEND AT MAZDA CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND INDIANAPOLIS (June 6, 2007) -- Since taking the lead from Robert Wickens ( ...

MATOS LOOKS TO REMAIN UNDEFEATED AS CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP RESUMES WITH DOUBLEHEADER WEEKEND AT MAZDA CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND

INDIANAPOLIS (June 6, 2007) -- Since taking the lead from Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) with three laps remaining in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season-opening Vegas Grand Prix in April, Sierra Sierra Enterprises driver Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) has not looked back.

Matos claimed the victory in Las Vegas opener, and then followed with flag-to-flag victories in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the Fast Trac 100 in Houston to become the first driver in more than 17 years to open an Atlantic season with three consecutive victories. The last driver to accomplish the feat was Mark Dismore, who won five straight en route to the 1990 Atlantic Series Pacific Division title.

Matos has also led the last 77 consecutive laps and has headed the field for nearly 78 percent of the total laps completed (99) thus far in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Championship, in addition to starting the last two events from the pole position. As a result, the second-year Atlantic driver from Belo Horizonte, Brazil stands atop the points table heading into this weekend's doubleheader at the Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Joe's Sports and Outdoor. Matos currently holds a 23-point advantage over Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor), 98-75, with a quarter of the season in the books.

However, Matos knows that his win streak--the longest since Jon Fogarty won three-in-a-row on his way to the 2004 Atlantic title--and his championship lead is anything but safe heading into this weekend's doubleheader on the 1.964-mile, 10-turn permanent road course at Portland International Raceway (Round 4 -- Saturday, June 9 -- 12:15 p.m. PT, Round 5 -- Sunday, June 10 -- 11:00 a.m. PT).

Chief among those likely to knock Matos from his perch and end the win streak is Bomarito. The Californian has not finished worse than fourth thus far in 2007 and earned podium results with a second-place run in Round 2 at Long Beach and a third-place showing in the Las Vegas season-opener. Bomarito--who picked up his first Atlantic victory in the 2006 season finale at Road America--is riding a streak of four consecutive top-four performances dating to last season. Bomarito is joined on the two-car PR1 Motorsports team by Canadian racer Mike Forest (#32 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor/Earthwater).

Matos may not need to look any further than his own Sierra Sierra Enterprises teammate, James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) when looking for candidates that could end his win streak this weekend. Hinchcliffe, who hails from Toronto, picked up his first career Atlantic victory last year at Portland and has finished inside the top-seven positions in each of the first three races this season. He picked up his season-best result of third in Round 3 at Houston and is currently third in the championship standings, nine points in arrears of Bomarito.

Wickens is another potential winner from the Red Bull Team Forsythe operation. The 18-year-old rookie from Toronto opened his inaugural Atlantic campaign with a bang by starting the Vegas Grand Prix from the pole position and finishing second. He followed that outing with a third-place run in Long Beach before a 10th-place performance in Houston. Wickens is currently fourth in the overall point standings and leads the Rookie of the Year championship. He is teamed with 16-year-old American John Edwards (#7 Red Bull/INDECK), who owns a best result of fourth at Long Beach.

Wickens is just two points clear of French rookie Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport), who has also enjoyed a strong start to his maiden Atlantic season. Perera has finished fifth in all three of his Atlantic starts to date and has started each of the last two races from inside the top-three positions. Perera leads a three-car entry for Condor Motorsports, which also includes rookies Junior Strous (#16 Shell/Best Box/HTP/Red, White & Bluezz USA) and Brian Thienes (#19 Thienes Engineering).

Atlantic veteran Ronnie Bremer (#12 The Room Store) is currently sixth in the overall Atlantic championship standings with three straight top-nine results to open the season. The Dane has two previous Portland starts--both of which came in a doubleheader in 2004--with a best result of eighth. Bremer is joined in a two-car effort from Polestar Racing Group by rookie Bret MacDonald (#21 Brelia Ent./BAM/BCP/Rock House).

The American Pacific Northwest race fans will have one of their own to cheer on as Carl Skerlong (#24 King Taco/USRT), who hails from Mukilteo, Wash., will contest his first Atlantic event on his "home track" this weekend. Skerlong--an Atlantic rookie in 2007--is carrying the momentum of a career-best second-place result in Round 3 at Houston. Skerlong is part of a two-car entry for US RaceTronics alongside Mexican rookie David Garza (#4 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa/USRT). Likewise, Canadian residents of the Pacific coast making the trek to Portland will also have a favorite in rookie Adrien Herberts (#45 Paladin Motorsports), who hails from Coquitlam, British Columbia.

As is the case in all 2007 Atlantic events, the Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland will have a decided Hollywood flair. Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman and his team co-owner Eddie Wachs will field 2006 Cooper Tires Formula Ford champion J.R. Hildebrand (#36 Newman-Wachs Racing). Also, television and motion picture star Frankie Muniz (#13 Chandler Development) will continue his progress toward a professional racing career as part of a two-car effort for Jensen MotorSport. Muniz is teamed with Tom Sutherland (#2 Clickaway Computer).

Simona De Silvestro (#5 Deans Knight/Wasteco) will be the lone woman in the 28-car field driving for long-time Champ Car World Series stalwarts Walker Racing. De Silvestro, a native of Switzerland, is teamed with Englishman Ryan Lewis (#15 NCPI/Deans Knight/Wasteco). Conquest Racing is another Champ Car World Series operation with an Atlantic program, fielding Italian rookie Giacomo Ricci (#18 Banca Italease/Lotto/Global) and American rookie Matt Lee (#44 Integrated Structures). Ricci is currently eighth in the championship standings, while Lee is currently ranked 14th.

Alan Sciuto (#20 The Room Store of Phoenix) completes the top 10 in the championship standings and finished fourth in his first Portland appearance last year. Trailing Sciuto by just two points, 36-34 is Atlantic veteran Justin Sofio (#26 RLM Investments). Sofio heads to Portland, where he has made three previous Atlantic starts, with top-11 results in each of his first three starts of the 2007 season with Mathiasen Motorsports.

Eleven different nationalities are represented in the Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland field, including Chinese rookie Tengyi Jiang (#8 Champ Car Grand Prix of China) and his Brooks Associates Racing teammate, Canadian rising star Kevin Lacroix (#10 Uni-Select), who will make his debut in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship this weekend. The field will be further strengthened by 18-year-old Adrian Carrio (#17 Carrio Cabling Company) and his Genoa Racing teammate, rookie Richard Heistand (#37 Eola Capital Investments), as well as Atlantic veteran Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store of Phoenix).

On-track activities for the Champ Car Atlantic Championship get underway on Friday, June 8 with a 45-minute practice session which takes the green flag at 8:45 a.m. PT. Friday's schedule also includes qualifying from 12:35 p.m. to 1:10 p.m. for Saturday's Round 4, as well as a driver autograph session from 3:45 to 4:15 p.m. at the Cooper Tires display at the track.

Saturday's schedule will see the Atlantic machines on course to qualify for Sunday's Round 5 from 8:10 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. PT, followed by Round 4 of the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, Race #1 of the Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, which will begin from a standing start at 12:15 p.m. for a 50-minute race. Saturday's Atlantic schedule concludes with a final practice session from 4:30 to 4:45 p.m. Round 5 of the season and Race #2 of the weekend will roll off from a standing start at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.

All Atlantic 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.

FAST FACTS

MAZDA CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND PRESENTED BY JOE'S

WHAT: Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Joe's

WHERE: Portland International Raceway -- Portland, Ore., June 8-10

CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local):

CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local):

FRIDAY, JUNE 8
8:45-9:30 a.m., Practice
12:35-1:10 p.m., Qualifying for Race #1

SATURDAY, JUNE 9
8:10-8:45 a.m., Qualifying for Race #2
12:15-1:15 p.m., Atlantic Race #1
4:30-4:45 p.m., Practice

SUNDAY, JUNE 10
11 a.m.-12 p.m., Atlantic Race #2

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: MONDAY, JUNE 18 -- ESPN2, Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Joe's Atlantic races from 5-6 p.m. ET.

2006 PORTLAND CHAMPION: James Hinchcliffe
2006 PORTLAND POLESITTER: Graham Rahal

TRACK LAYOUT:  1.964-mile permanent road course

RACE LENGTH: 50-minute time limit

TRACK RECORDS (based on current layout):
Qualifying (one lap) -- 2006, Graham Rahal, 1:04.628 (109.401 mph)
Race -- (one lap) 2006, Joe D'Agostino, 1:05.680 (107.650 mph)

RACE ROUND: 4 and 5 of 12 in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda

NEXT RACE: The Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland -- Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, June 22-24

-credit: ccws/atl

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Mark Dismore , Graham Rahal , Paul Newman , Jonathan Bomarito , Ronnie Bremer , Daniel Selznick , Ryan Lewis , Justin Sofio , Adrian Carrio , Kevin Lacroix , Adrien Herberts , Junior Strous , Alan Sciuto , Tengyi Jiang , Tom Sutherland , James Hinchcliffe , Joe D'Agostino , David Garza , Brian Thienes , Carl Skerlong , J.R. Hildebrand , Giacomo Ricci , John Edwards , Richard Heistand , Brett MacDonald , Mike Forest , Eddie Wachs , Franck Perera , Matt Lee
Teams Conquest Racing