The drivers, teams, partners and officials of the Formula Atlantic Championship have gather at the Chateau Élan in Braselton to pay tribute to the 2008 season at the annual end of season awards banquet.
After wrapping up the title with his second victory of the season at Road Atlanta, Finnish rookie Markus Niemela and his Brooks Associates Racing teammates were the evening's biggest winners.
Niemela claimed the $250,000 champion's prize and an additional $2,500 award from Coast Fabrication, as well as a special painting commissioned by Mazda from renowned motorsports artist Jim Swintal. Niemela earned a total of $364,000 in prize money during the 2008 season.
Earlier in the evening, Niemela claimed series Rookie of the Year honours and a $1,000 prize, while the Brooks Associates Racing team was presented with its choice of a full year of brake pads or four car sets of discs/peg drive assemblies for fielding the Rookie of the Year courtesy of Performance Friction Corporation. Nick Harvey, who claimed the 2008 engineer of the year award, and championship-winning chief mechanic Duarte Fidalgo, who earned the Top Wrench Award, also represented the Brooks team on stage.
After finishing second in the championship standings, American driver Jonathan Bomarito was honoured with a $150,000 prize and trophy, with his 2008 winnings totalling $261,500. Bomarito's Mathiasen Motorsports owners Ray and Leslie Mathiasen were also honoured with the prestigious team owner of the year award.
Rookie Jonathan Summerton finished third in the championship and was presented with a $100,000 prize as part of $204,000 in total earnings from the season. Summerton also won the Michael Rosen Award, which was instituted by long-time Atlantic fan and patron, Arlene Rosen in honour of her late son, Michael, a former Atlantic competitor.
The award recognised Summerton as a driver with both dedication and perseverance, as well as the desire to succeed against all odds. Summerton's Newman Wachs Racing teammate, Brian Halahan, was also honored as the Lincoln Welders Mechanic of the Year, earning a Lincoln Welders Precision TIG 225 Welding Package.
The drivers who finished in positions four through ten were also honoured, and all drivers in attendance were presented with specially designed class rings courtesy of Cooper Tires and Mazda. Taking home fourth place was James Hinchcliffe of Forsythe/Pettit Racing, with fifth place going to Junior Strous of Condor Motorsports/Team Holland. Strous also earned the Gilles Villeneuve Award, which was instituted in 1989 by Atlantic champion Steve Shelton to recognize the driver who possesses extraordinary ability and special star quality, and who has distinguished himself through sportsmanship, dedication and perseverance in the face of disappointment.
Taking sixth in the championship was Pacific Coast Motorsports driver Carl Skerlong, who also earned the BBS Rising Star Award, honouring the driver who has performance in a most competitive fashion and is a star of the future. The award included a $4,500 cheque and a specially designed coffee table incorporating a BBS wheel and Cooper Tire etched with Skerlong's name and award.