San Jose: Round nine preview

ATLANTIC COMPETITORS READY TO SHOW STREET SMARTS IN SAN JOSE AS SERIES ENTERS FINAL QUARTER OF 2006 SEASON INDIANAPOLIS (July 26, 2006) -- As the championship battle reaches a fever pitch in the 2006 Yokohama Presents the Champ Car ...

ATLANTIC COMPETITORS READY TO SHOW STREET SMARTS IN SAN JOSE AS SERIES ENTERS FINAL QUARTER OF 2006 SEASON

INDIANAPOLIS (July 26, 2006) -- As the championship battle reaches a fever pitch in the 2006 Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, it's time for the combatants to demonstrate their street smarts while the series enters its final quarter of the season.

Beginning with this weekend's Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose Presented by Taylor Woodrow Atlantic race (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, August 5), the next two rounds of North America's premier open-wheel development series will be contested on tight and challenging street circuits. With only 47 points separating the top four in the series standings with four races remaining, the driver that plays it smart and exhibits a street-racing acumen over the next pair of events in San Jose and Denver will gain a huge advantage in the pursuit of the coveted Atlantic crown and the $2 million champion's Champ Car bonus for the 2007 season. Classic long road circuits at Montreal and Road America host the final two rounds of Atlantic racing so title hopefuls will also need to rely on their versatility over the stretch run in order to claim the ultimate prize this season.

The competitive balance of this season's Atlantic Championship continued to shine last weekend in Edmonton. With series leader Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) securing his first win and the first-ever victory for the Team Australia squad, the Atlantic series has now featured five race winners, four pole winners and 10 podium finishers over the first eighth rounds of action. Will it be one of the top championship contenders that proves to be street-wise this weekend in the series' second straight visit to the 1.448-mile temporary course on the streets of San Jose, or will it be a new Atlantic young gun adding his name to the list of top series finishers?

Sunday's checkered flag will reveal the answer, but there will be no shortage of racing talent pursuing points at San Jose. Pagenaud's maiden Atlantic victory enabled him to open up an 18-point lead in the standings over his closest competitor. The French rookie has finished among the top five in all but one event this season and he's proven equally effective on both road and street courses. He'll make his first San Jose start riding a wave of momentum and hoping to keep the rest of the field at arm's length in the championship chase.

As it's been all season long, Pagenaud will have his hands full with at least two of the other top series racers - Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Layer 7/Wirth Solar) and Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company). Wirth scored his fifth podium of the season with a third-place result last weekend and he's finished among the top three an amazing 12 times in his 18 career starts. Currently second in the standings, 18 points off the lead, Wirth will try to close that gap and build on his fifth-place finish at San Jose last season when takes to the track for Forsythe Championship Racing this weekend.

Rahal continues to lead the series with three victories, although he has yet to claim a street-circuit win this season. Bobby Rahal's 17-year-old racing prodigy son will still enter this weekend as a favorite after claiming two wins, three podiums and a pole position in his last four starts. Rahal remains third in the title hunt, now 24 points behind Pagenaud, as he prepares for his first time racing in San Jose for Mi-Jack Conquest Racing.

One of eight California racers expected to compete in this weekend's 25-car field, Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Intervision/NetApp/Juniper Networks/Miracle Sealants) will certainly be a fan favorite. The consistent PR1 Motorsports driver hails from nearby Monterey, California and he'll also see his first San Jose Atlantic action. Bomarito ranks fourth in the championship, 47 points in back of Pagenaud, after finishing outside the top 10 only twice this season.

In 2005, David Martinez (#4 Speedway Motors/Days Inn/Spinnakers) fought for the win in the San Jose Atlantic race only to finish second, just over a second behind victor and current Champ Car racer Katherine Legge. After bringing Bite Racing its top finish of the season in his first race for the squad last week in Edmonton, Martinez will be in search of another podium result at the venue this time around. The Mexican racer is the only series competitor to complete every lap of action in '06 and he's improved to fifth in the championship entering Round 9 of 12.

Hoping to put the heartbreak of last weekend behind him, Brazil's Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) hopes his first start at San Jose will bring an end to the tough luck that's followed him this season. Matos won the pole and led the first 28 laps last Sunday in Edmonton before he hit the wall, ending the bid for his first Atlantic win. The Sierra Sierra Enterprises rookie, who sits 10th in the season standings despite his obvious speed, starts with a clean slate this weekend.

Fellow Brazilian hot shoe Danilo Dirani (#1 Canary Fund/Funcional Card/Sala Design/Perkons) has also shown positive flashes recently, improving to sixth in the championship for Condor Motorsports. Dirani gets his first taste of San Jose street racing this weekend as well.

Leonardo Maia (#7 Layer 7/INDECK) of Forsythe Racing returns home this weekend and he'll be looking for his first podium result of '06. Maia, who was born in Brazil but raised in Oakland, California, has finished inside the top 10 in seven of the first eight races this season. His Forsythe teammate, Portland winner James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK) of Canada, hopes to get back on track in San Jose after an accident early in Edmonton ended his day and saw him fall to seventh in the standings. The fourth member of the Forsythe foursome -- 16-year-old Richard Philippe (#33 INDECK/Layer 7) -- looks to continue his recent hot streak. Philippe has top-four finishes in two of the last three races as he makes his San Jose debut this weekend.

Polestar Racing Group's two California racers are also excited about racing in San Jose. Alan Sciuto (#12 Sealy/PKV Racing/The RoomStore of Phoenix) of Orange, California made his series debut here last season, finishing an impressive fourth as a 17-year-old on a tough circuit. His teammate, 1997 Atlantic champ and Menifee, California native Alex Barron (#21 The RoomStore of Phoenix), will see his first action at SJ.

Ryan Lewis (#30 Insport Sports Management), Rahal's Mi-Jack Conquest Racing teammate, makes just his second career street racing start this weekend, while another British racer, Tim Bridgman (#2 Epson) of Epson Team Jensen, will also compete at San Jose for the first time after scoring his best Atlantic finish of eighth last weekend.

The all-American Newman Wachs Racing duo of Joe D'Agostino (#34 Newman Wachs Racing) and Steve Ott (#35 Newman Wachs Racing) hopes to continue their recent upswing in their first action at San Jose. Also racing at the venue for the first time is another U.S. tandem of Robbie Pecorari (#28 Western Union/USA Today/Gelles Racing) and former Formula One hopeful and Red Bull driver Colin Fleming (#14 Esoles/King Taco). Pecorari won at Toronto in Round 7 while Fleming, from North Hills, California, grabbed a top-10 finish in his series debut last weekend. Both Pecorari and Fleming will welcome a new teammate at Gelles Racing this weekend in Oxnard, California racer Phil Giebler (#42 Jos. J Albanese Concrete Construction), who finished eighth at San Jose in his series debut in 2005.

Justin Sofio (#26 Mathiasen Motorsports/RLM Investments) finished ninth at San Jose in '05 as he wrapped up the C2 Atlantic title at the venue and the Arleta, California driver returns this weekend. Promising young Australian racer James Davison (#5 Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards) prepares for his San Jose debut along with Cooper Tires FF2000 series standout Ricardo Vassmer (#22 Jensen Motorsport), who will be making his first Atlantic series start.

Brooks Associates Racing teammates Alex Sperafico (#10 Mnyx.com/Sperafico Agroindustrial) and Carlos Mastretta (#8 Tecnoidea/Radiante Digital/Signotech) will also be making their first starts San Jose. Returning to action for the first time since the season opener at Long Beach, Brian McAtee (#19 Cosby Oil/Union 76) of San Clemente, California will look to improve on his 20th place finish at San Jose last season.

This weekend's street fight will feature the fifth standing start of the season in Sunday's race at San Jose. All entries will feature newly-designed Swift 016.a chassis powered by 300-horsepower Mazda-Cosworth MZR engines capable of speeds in excess of 175 mph. Each Atlantic will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks. The weekend schedule has the series practicing for the first time on Friday morning from 9:15-10 a.m. Pacific Time. The first round of qualifying will take place from 1:15-1:45 p.m. Friday. The Atlantics return to the track for practice from 9:45-10:15 a.m. Saturday morning while the final round of qualifying will be held from 3:45-4:15 p.m. Saturday. Race day will see the Mazda-Cosworth engines roar to life with a 15-minute warm-up practice from 8-8:15 a.m. Sunday morning before Round 9 of the Atlantic Championship begins at 10:30 a.m. The Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose Atlantic race is scheduled for 45 laps (65.160 miles) or 50 minutes.

SPEED will provide tape-delayed television coverage of this weekend's race from San Jose on Saturday, August 5 beginning at 11 a.m. ET. The race will also air to U.S. service men and women in over 130 countries around the world through the American Forces Radio & Television Service. For additional information, visit the official web site of North America's premier open-wheel development series, www.champcaratlantic.com.

FAST FACTS

WHAT: Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose Presented by Taylor Woodrow Atlantic Race

WHERE: Streets of San Jose -- San Jose, California, July 28-30

CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local): FRIDAY, JULY 28 -- 9:15-10 a.m., Practice; 1:15-1:45 p.m., First-Round Qualifying. SATURDAY, JULY 29 -- 9:45-10:15 a.m., Practice; 3:45-4:15 p.m., Final-Round Qualifying. SUNDAY, JULY 30 -- 8-8:15 a.m., Warm-up, 10:30-11:30 a.m., Atlantic Race.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: SATURDAY, AUGUST 5 -- SPEED, The Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose Presented by Taylor Woodrow Atlantic Race at 11 a.m. ET. Re-broadcast: Wednesday, August 9 at 3 p.m. on SPEED.

2005 SAN JOSE CHAMPION: Katherine Legge
2005 SAN JOSE POLESITTER: Charles Zwolsman

TRACK LAYOUT:  1.448-mile temporary street course

RACE LENGTH: 45 laps (65.160 miles) or 50 minutes

TRACK RECORDS: Qualifying (one lap) -- 2005, Charles Zwolsman, 1:02.657 (83.196 mph). Race -- (one lap) 2005, David Martinez, 1:02.159 (83.860 mph); (45 laps) 2005, Katherine Legge , 48:56.342 (79.887 mph).

RACE ROUND: 9 of 12 in the 2006 Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda

NEXT EVENT: August 11-13, Champ Car Grand Prix of Denver, Pepsi Center -- Denver, Colorado

INSTANT REPLAY: Katherine Legge scored her second straight victory and third of her fantastic rookie Atlantic season when she took advantage of a solid start and the mechanical troubles of her closest competitors in the first-ever Atlantic race on the streets of San Jose. Starting from the fourth spot, Legge got a good jump on the start to improve to third. Tonis Kasemets also came out firing at the green flag, passing polesitter Charles Zwolsman in the first turn. Kasemets looked strong while leading the first nine laps before his gear shift lever broke in his hands and his day ended in pit lane. Zwolsman seized the lead after Kasemets' early exit and the Dutch rookie led the next 20 orbits on the tight and bumpy street circuit. While Zwolsman tried to overcome a stubborn shifting problem, Legge made her way past the eventual series champion to claim the lead for the second straight race. Mexico's David Martinez also passed Zwolsman and he applied heavy pressure to Legge for the final 15 laps of the race. After Legge's Polestar Racing Group teammate Antoine Bessette crashed while fighting Zwolsman for third place to cause a caution flag just six laps from the finish, Legge held of Martinez and Zwwolsman on the restart. From there she fought to the finish line, winning by 1.084 seconds over Martinez, who earned his best series result. Zwolsman owned third place and extended his lead in the championship with the finish. The result also allowed Legge to improve to third in the series standings with just three races remaining in the season.

-ccws/atl

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Graham Rahal , Alex Barron , Leonardo Maia , Katherine Legge , Colin Fleming , David Martinez , Alex Sperafico , Jonathan Bomarito , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Tonis Kasemets , Robbie Pecorari , Phil Giebler , Danilo Dirani , Ryan Lewis , Justin Sofio , Andreas Wirth , Brian McAtee , James Davison , Simon Pagenaud , Alan Sciuto , James Hinchcliffe , Joe D'Agostino , Carlos Mastretta , Steve Ott
Teams Conquest Racing