For the second year in a row, the battle for the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda title will go down to the final race of the season, and Jonathan Summerton is once again one of three drivers in contention for the championship.
Summerton leapfrogged his Newman Wachs Racing teammate, John Edwards for second in the standings and closed to within seven points, 176-169, of leader Simona De Silvestro following his fourth victory of the season on Friday afternoon at Road Atlanta. The 21-year-old American Formula 1 hopeful started from the pole and led every lap in the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NEI machine, beating De Silvestro to the stripe by 4.208 seconds.
It was Summerton's third victory in his last four Atlantic starts and was his eighth podium result in 11 races this season. Summerton is currently tied with De Silvestro for the series lead in victories and will head for the season finale in Monterey, Calif. carrying the momentum of four consecutive podium results.
“Coming from (last month's race at) Mosport and a dominating weekend there, we were fastest in all the practices and qualifying and we won the race there, it was the same thing here,” Summerton said. “We were very, very quick in all the practices and qualified on pole and won the race. I think we're in for a good run at Laguna Seca. I hope John will be there also with us up there strong. Basically, I can only do what I can do and focus on winning races. The rest is out there. We're going for a championship and I know it can be done. The way the car has been the last three or four races, I can't complain. I know we're going to have a strong car in Laguna. Hopefully, we can do it in dominating fashion again there.”
After seeing her streak of podium finishes snapped at eight consecutive races due to a crash at Mosport, De Silvestro returned to the podium for the ninth time in 11 races with her runner-up result in the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Games/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies entry for Team Stargate Worlds. De Silvestro started third and got the drop on Edwards on the race's standing start, and she managed to keep Edwards at bay throughout the race to score valuable second-place points.
“We had a really good podium streak before the big crash in Mosport,” De Silvestro said. “It was a little bit unfortunate that I had that. I'm really happy to be back here on the podium. It's really important for me for the championship to be back up front. In the race, I knew I had to get a really good start, so I really focused on that and it happened, so I was really happy. Just from then on, Summerton had a little bit faster car than we had. A really big thanks to my whole team for putting the car together. It was really important to get back on the podium for the points.”
Edwards settled for third in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy ride for Newman Wachs Racing, scoring his eighth podium result of the season. With 166 points, the 18-year-old American is now 10 points behind De Silvestro in the championship race and he also now trails teammate Summerton by three points. It is important to point out, however, that the driver who was third in the championship standings following the penultimate round - Markus Niemela - wound up taking the series title when all was said and done in the season finale, so Edwards is very much alive in the title chase.
“I got a bad start, and that's really where the race was lost,” Edwards said. “I had a couple of chances where I was drafting her, but I never really got close enough until about two laps from the end. That was the lap that Tonis (Kasemets) decided to spin or something in the chicane, so his car was stalled and there was a yellow flag. I went to pop on Simona, I popped out and had a run, but unfortunately the yellow flag didn't allow me to complete the pass. That was unfortunate, but the reality is that I gave the position to her at the start and that ruined my race.”
Making his first Atlantic start since the Sebring season-opener - where he didn't complete a lap due to an opening-lap incident - Jonathan Bomarito scored a fourth-place result in the No. 77 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Games/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies entry for Team Stargate Worlds. Bomarito will also be in the cockpit of the No. 77 machine when the series moves to his hometown in two weeks, as he will once again fill in for the injured Frankie Muniz.
Niemela completed the top five in the No. 1 Jensen MotorSport machine. It was the Finnish racer's fourth straight top-five performance and his sixth top five of the season.
1. (1) Jonathan Summerton, Kissimmee, Fla., No. 34 Newman Wachs Racing, 34.
2. (3) Simona De Silvestro, Switzerland, No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds, 34.
3. (2) John Edwards, Cincinnati, Ohio, No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing, 34.
4. (4) Jonathan Bomarito, Monterey, Calif., No. 77 Team Stargate Worlds, 34.
5. (6) Markus Niemela, Finland, No. 1 Jensen MotorSport, 34.
6. (5) Frederic Vervisch (R), Belgium, No. 17 Genoa Racing, 34.
7. (9) James Winslow (R), United Kingdom, No. 19 Genoa Racing, 34.
8. (10) Max Lefevre (R), France, No. 7 Condor Motorsports, 34.
9. (7) Tonis Kasemets, Estonia, No. 35 Polestar Motor Racing, 29, not running.
10. (8) Greg Mansell, United Kingdom, No. 18 Genoa Racing, 17, not running.
(R) Series Rookie
Time of Race: 45:52.977
Average Speed: 112.931 mph
Margin of Victory: 4.208 seconds
Lap leaders: Summerton, 1-34.
Lead changes: None.
Caution flags: 1 for 2 laps.