The Atlantic Championship springs back into action this weekend with not one, but two, races on New Jersey Motorsports Park's Thunderbolt Raceway on Saturday and Sunday [13-14 June] to headline the Mazda Formula X meeting.
Reigning Star Mazda champion John Edwards sits at the head of the points table after two rounds, at Sebring and Miller Motorsport Park, but has Simona de Silvestro for close company as the season's two winners show the way to the rest of the field.
Edwards leads by five points, having scored podium results in both races thus far, including a dominant victory in the season-opener and second place behind his Swiss rival last time out. The Newman Wachs Racing driver is no stranger to success at New Jersey Motorsports Park either, as he won the first race of a Star Mazda double-header there last year. It was one of four series victories in 2008 for Edwards, but he knows that he has his work cut out for him if he is to do it again this weekend.
“I'm looking forward to going back to New Jersey, as I enjoyed driving the track last year, and finished well there despite an incident in race two that put me back to third only a few laps from the end," the 18-year Atlantic returnee commented, "Hopefully, this time we can be fast and stay out of trouble to get back to the top step of the podium!”
If last month's Salt Lake City round is anything to go by, however, de Silvestro will be tough to beat. The 20-year old put together a thoroughly dominating weekend in the #78 Stargate Worlds entry to earn a second career Atlantic victory, after also claiming her first series pole, and became the first woman in the 36-year championship history to win a race from the front of the grid.
“I'm pretty excited for this weekend because, at the last race, we were so dominant and I believe that we can transfer that same game plan over to this race," de Silvestro, who finished eleventh a year ago at NJMP, admitted, "I'm confident that we will start off with a good base with the car because my engineer, Burke Harrison, won here last year with Carl Skerlong.”
de Silvestro's impressive showing accounted for only half of a celebration for Team Stargate Worlds in Utah, as team-mate Frankie Muniz posted the best result of his Atlantic career with a fourth-place performance in the #77 sister car. Muniz, who was born in nearby Wood Ridge, finished tenth in last year's inaugural Atlantic race at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
A three-car entry from Genoa Racing will also be a force to reckon with in both races of the Formula X double-header. Leading the way will be Belgian rookie Frederic Vervisch's #17 entry, which has a pair of podium results to show for his first two starts in the Atlantic Championship. Having finished second at Sebring and third at Miller, however, Vervisch is looking to reach the top step of the podium this weekend, and will have ample back-up in the shape of 2009 regular Jonathan Summerton and NJMP newcomer James Winslow..
The reigning Atlantic runner-up, Summerton had the highest finish in the 2008 race in New Jersey, finishing second to winner Skerlong. He has started both races from the front row this season, including taking the pole at Sebring, and his fourth place in the championship standings belies his threat for victory