Utah: Round two preview

Edwards Leads Atlantic Championship Back to Utah for Round 2 TOOELE, Utah (May 14, 2009) - The 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda swings back into action this weekend after a two-month break for Round 2 of the...

Edwards Leads Atlantic Championship Back to Utah for Round 2

TOOELE, Utah (May 14, 2009) - The 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda swings back into action this weekend after a two-month break for Round 2 of the 12-race championship, the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park on Sunday.

Leading the way will be John Edwards in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine for Newman Wachs Racing. The 18-year-old Edwards scored his first career Atlantic victory in the season opener at Sebring International Raceway on March 20 in a triumphant return to the series.

Edwards previously competed in Atlantic as a 16-year-old in 2007 and last year won the Star Mazda championship. He earned $50,000 for his Sebring victory and that victory also makes him the early leader in the race for the $1 million championship prize to be awarded at season's end.

If Edwards expects to make it two in a row this weekend, however, his first order of business will be to keep his own Newman Wachs Racing teammate in his mirrors. That could be a tall order, as Markus Niemela earned his first career Atlantic Championship victory in the series' maiden visit to Miller Motorsports Park last September and the Finnish racer used that victory as a catalyst which led him to win the 2008 Atlantic title. Niemela had a tough outing in the Sebring opener, as he tangled and crashed with Jonathan Bomarito, but he is determined to show once again why the Mr. Jones/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NWR machine carries the No. 1.

The Newman Wachs teammates will face a stiff challenge from a strong, three-car entry from Genoa Racing this weekend. Last year, Niemela barely beat Jonathan Summerton-who ironically drove for Newman Wachs Racing-across the stripe for the victory at Miller Motorsports Park. This year, Summerton pilots the No. 19 Genoa Racing machine, which he drove to the pole position and a third-place result in Sebring. He will undoubtedly be a solid contender throughout the weekend.

However, Summerton has a pair of talented teammates that will be a handful for him and the rest of the field. Belgian rookie Frederic Vervisch, who returns to the cockpit of the No. 17 Genoa Racing machine this weekend, had an outstanding weekend to open the 2009 season with a second-place race result after qualifying third. Vervisch will be looking for more of the same this weekend.

Atlantic veteran Tonis Kasemets completes the talented lineup for Genoa Racing in the team's No. 18 car. Kasemets opened the year with a seventh-place result at Sebring for Polestar Motor Racing, but moves to the Genoa team this weekend. The Estonian is a three-time winner in Atlantic competition and will be looking to add to that total on Sunday.

Team Stargate Worlds will be another one to watch this weekend with drivers Simona De Silvestro and Frankie Muniz. De Silvestro, who drives the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies machine, has some good momentum heading into this weekend's race at Miller Motorsports Park. She finished fifth in Sebring and also scored a fifth-place result in her first Atlantic visit to Utah last fall. She is looking for her second career Atlantic victory this weekend.

Muniz, meanwhile, has been impressive through early-season testing and the race at Sebring in the No. 77 Stargate Worlds/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies entry. Muniz qualified ninth for the season opener and battled to a 10th-place result in the race despite the fact that he had to start from pit lane when he car would not fire on the pre-race grid.

A pair of drivers from Condor Motorsports could also make some significant noise in the Utah Grand Prix. Spanish rookie Borja Garcia was the quickest driver in official preseason testing at Palm Beach International Raceway in early March and followed that testing performance with a sixth-place run at Sebring. He returns to the cockpit of the No. 6 Celebfilms/CJConsulting.us entry this weekend in search of his first Atlantic podium. His Condor Motorsports teammate, Max Lefevre, meanwhile, will be making his first Atlantic start this weekend in the No. 7 DOTMOBIL car. The Frenchman qualified 12th for the season opener but missed the race due to illness.

Long-time Atlantic competitors, Jensen MotorSport, also feature a two-driver entry, with American racers Matt Lee and Michael Nacol. In his first Atlantic race since the 2007 season finale, Lee earned a career-best ninth-place result in Sebring. He looks to continue that forward progress this weekend in the No. 2 Jensen MotorSport machine. Nacol made his professional racing debut in Sebring, finishing 14th overall and 11th in the Atlantic Championship class. He hopes to build on that experience in Utah.

Michael Mallinen will represent the C2 category this weekend in the No, 71 Mallinen Properties entry for Swan Racing. Mallinen opened the season with a fifth-place class result and a 16th-place overall result in Sebring.

Each entry will ride on Cooper Atlantic racing slicks and rain tires. The official race weekend schedule features practice on Friday and qualifying on Saturday, with the 50-minute race slated to roll off from a standing start at 11:40 a.m. MT on Sunday morning.

COOPER TIRES PRESENTS THE ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA LARRY H. MILLER DEALERSHIPS UTAH GRAND PRIX PRE-RACE NOTEBOOK

* Big Money On The Line: The 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda will feature a $1 million prize for the series champion and $50,000 to win this weekend's race at Miller Motorsports Park. Second place in the championship standings is now worth $500,000, with $200,000 going to third place in the season standings. Last year's champion, Markus Niemela, won $300,000 for taking the title.

* Everybody Gets A Mulligan: The 2009 Atlantic Championship features a new wrinkle in the way the championship will be decided, as all drivers will earn points from their best 11 finishes in the 12-race season.

* On The Road Again: The 12-race 2009 Atlantic Championship schedule brings the series to many of North America's most revered road racing circuits. The series shares seven race weekends with the American Le Mans Series at Sebring International Raceway, Miller Motorsports Park, Lime Rock Park, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Mosport International Raceway, Road Atlanta and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The Atlantic series is the "headline" attraction in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec and in doubleheader weekends at New Jersey Motorsports Park and Autobahn Country Club in suburban Chicago.

* Atlantic Returns to Miller With A Twist: The Atlantic Championship returns to Miller Motorsports Park for its second race at the state-of-the-art facility, but with a few key differences from the inaugural visit last September. Last year's race was run in conjunction with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and was contested on the full, 4.5-mile road course at Miller Motorsports Park. This year, the Atlantic Championship runs alongside the American Le Mans Series and will utilize the 3.048-mile "perimeter" circuit.

* International Flair: This weekend's race will feature drivers representing seven different countries. The United States is best represented with a total of six drivers with one each from Finland, Spain, France, Belgium, Estonia and Switzerland.

* Rookies Aplenty: This weekend's field will include five Atlantic Championship rookies. The first-timers are Michael Nacol (No. 3 Team Jensen), Borja Garcia (No. 6 Celebfilms/CJConsulting.us), Max Lefevre (No. 7 DOTMOBIL), Frederic Vervisch (No. 17 Genoa Racing), and Michael Mallinen (No. 71 Mallinen Properties).

LARRY H. MILLER DEALERSHIPS UTAH GRAND PRIX MILLER MOTORSPORTS PARK FAST FACTS

WHAT: Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix

WHERE: Miller Motorsports Park - Tooele, Utah

ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP EVENT SCHEDULE (All times local, MT): FRIDAY, MAY 15 - Practice, 11:00 - 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 - 6:00 p.m. SATURDAY, MAY 16 - Qualifying, 10:40 - 11:10 a.m. SUNDAY, MAY 17 - Race, 11:40 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

TRACK LAYOUT: 14-turn, 3.048-mile Permanent Road Course

RACE LENGTH: 50 minutes

RACE ROUND: Round 2 of the 12-race 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda

-credit: ac

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Jonathan Bomarito , Tonis Kasemets , Borja Garcia , Frederic Vervisch , Jonathan Summerton , John Edwards , Max Lefevre , Markus Niemela , Michael Nacol , Michael Mallinen , Frankie Muniz , Matt Lee