Jonathan Bomarito, Jonathan Summerton and Markus Niemela will go head-to-head for glory as the 2008 Cooper Tires presents the Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda concludes its dramatic 35th anniversary season on Friday afternoon at Road Atlanta.
By virtue of his eight-point lead over Summerton in the standings, as well as his series-leading three victories in 2008, Bomarito and Mathiasen Motorsports will be considered the favourites heading into the weekend, where the Atlantics support the Petit Le Mans sportscar classic.
The series veteran has finished inside the top ten in nine of his ten starts in the #26 machine, including victories in the first race of the double-headers at both Edmonton and Road America, as well as at Trois-Rivieres in mid-August. That success vaulted Californian Bomarito into a 28-point lead over Summerton with three races remaining, but since the trip to Canada, he has seen his points lead shrink dramatically, as both Summerton and Niemela kept the pressure on.
While Bomarito finished ninth in round nine at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Niemela and Summerton finished second and third respectively, and at round ten - at Miller Motorsports Park - Niemela won and Summerton finished second which, coupled with a sixth-place performance by Bomarito, brought the gaps down to where they are now, with just ten points separating the top three going into the season finale.
While there are numerous scenarios for any of the three championship contenders to take the title, Bomarito can wrap up the crown with a second place race result, regardless of how well Summerton or Niemela perform.
In addition to battling for the overall championship, both Summerton and Niemela are fighting for rookie of the year honours. Summerton, who hails from Florida, currently enjoys a two-point advantage over his Finnish rival, and has taken a pair of victories as part of eight top ten finishes in the #36 Newman Wachs Racing entry as he heads to Atlanta riding a streak of four consecutive podium results.
Niemela, meanwhile, solidified his stake in the title fight with a first career Atlantic victory last time out at Miller Motorsports Park, and has finished seventh or better in nine of his ten starts aboard the #8 Brooks Associates Racing car. He is carrying the momentum of back-to-back podium results to Atlanta.
While Bomarito, Summerton and Niemela are the only drivers left in contention to win the championship this weekend, the field will include several other drivers with the potential to close out the season with a victory - and perhaps play a 'spoiler' role in the title fight.
Dutch racer Junior Strous has already won once this season and would love to finish his second Atlantic campaign with a another victory, while Canadian James Hinchcliffe makes his way to Road Atlanta looking for the third victory of his Atlantic career and his second of what has been a largely frustrating season. With her victory in the season-opening race at Long Beach, Simona de Silvestro became only the second woman in series history to win a race - after Katherine Legge - but has yet to revisit the top step.