Cooper Tires Presents the Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda
Atlantic Championship Powered By Mazda Preview
by Dan Pawlowski
PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL - The beginning of the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents the Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda is here and it looks to be a very exciting season for a few reasons. Atlanta businessman Ben Johnston, who has a love for the sport, purchased the series last October. The top three finishers in points from 2008 are returning, a new points system has been installed, along with a purse that will payout $50,000 to the winner on most race weekends, a $500,000 prize to the season runner-up and a one million dollar prize to the season champion.
In sunny South Florida last week, a two-day test was conducted at Palm Beach International Raceway. Only being able to attend the afternoon session of the second day, opportunities for interviews were very virtually none as the teams were battling the 4 P.M. gun. A total of 12 drivers were in attendance, but a few had an impressive day.
Driving for Condor Motorsports, rookie Borja Garcia was quickest at 1:07.286, followed by the Newman Wachs Racing entries of John Edwards, who has moved to Atlantics after capturing last year's Star Mazda title, and Markus Niemela, last year's Atlantic champion. Frankie Muniz now driving for Team Stargate Worlds ended up a strong fourth. The remainder of the field finished in the 1:08's.
The opening race of the season will be held at Sebring International Raceway on Friday March 20th at 2 P.M. eastern, a day prior to the American Le Mans Series 57th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
In the week following the test two new faces have signed on the dotted line. James Winslow from Australian F3 will drive for Conquest Racing. Tonis Kasemets has returned to the series, at least for the Sebring event, with Polestar Motor Racing.
Qualifying was held Wednesday and Thursday where Jonathan Summerton took the Cooper Tires Pole Award with a 1:53.571 (117.283 mph). His time was posted on Wednesday. Congrats to my fellow Florida resident! The next seven drivers were all within a second. Complete results can be found on IMSA's website www.imsaracing.net and click the Atlantic Championship section on the right side of the page.