Atlantics Championship – Year In Review
The Atlantics Championship has a LONG history as the premiere feeder series in American Open-Wheel racing going back to 1974. Series champions include a serious who’s-who of racing. Here are just a few of the drivers who have conquered the series: Gilles Villeneuve, Michael Andretti, and Johnny O’Connell. A rich of a history as the series has, it has never been known for having deep grids with most races fielding fifteen or so cars. This year the car count was especially light with most races only managing to attract ten entrants. That’s pretty anemic, especially when you consider that even amongst those ten, only three were challengers for race wins and for the championship: Johnathan Edwards, Johnathan Summerton, and Simona de Silvestro.
The 2009 Atlantics Championship Series began along side the American Le Mans Series during the 12-hours of Sebring weekend at Sebring International Raceway. Fourteen entries showed up for the event, although only thirteen would make the starting grid. Frenchman Max Lefèvre failed to start, but did manage to run the remainder of the season. Thirteen cars was the maximum that the series ever saw on the grid. The 19-lap race at Sebring was a great start for Newman-Wachs racing with both drivers, Johnathan Edwards and Johnathan Summerton both making the podium with Edwards taking the victory. Simona’s season-opening performance wasn’t exactly what she was hoping to have, finishing 5th.
In the second race at Miller Motorsports Park outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, Simona came to life and started an eight-race run of podium finishes by winning from the pole. This win positioned her well for a season-long championship battle. Yes, it was only the second race, but this race gave Simona serious confidence that would show in her performance in later races. Edwards again showed good pace and talent, improving from his fourth place starting position to finish second and maintaining the championship lead. Summerton struggled at Miller dropping back from P2 to finish back in sixth place placing him in fourth place behind rookie Frédéric Vervisch for the championship. To be fair, Summerton’s attentions during these first two races of the season were split as he also ran in the Firestone Indy Lights upto the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
At the newly constructed New Jersey Motorsport Park, the series ran their first double-header of the season. Summerton, free of the distraction of running in two separate series simultaneously, won Race 1 from the pole and made his way back to the championship fight. Simona qualified and finished right behind him in P2. What really tightened up the championship during Race 1 was Edwards’ poor qualifying performance. He started the race in P8 and fought his way up to P5 by race end, but that allowed Simona to catch up and tie Edwards with Summerton only three points behind. In Race 2, Simona and Summerton swapped roles with Simona winning from pole and Summerton finishing in second. Edwards continued to struggle starting and finishing in sixth. Simona’s third podium and second race win vaulted her into the championship lead, while Edwards slide back to third behind his teammate.
Tomorrow: The Mid-Season Grind!