SKERLONG ROUNDS OFF ROOKIE SEASON WITH SECOND PODIUM
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – Carl Skerlong celebrated the news that he’ll receive a Champ Car World Series test in the off-season, courtesy of Pacific Coast Motorsports, by posting a third place podium finish on Sunday in the twelfth and final round of the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda hosted at Wisconsin’s Road America.
The 18-year-old rookie from Seattle enjoyed one his strongest outings of the season at the sweeping 4.048-mile track, qualifying in the top-five for the third time in his last four starts – taking fourth on the grid, before going on to score his second podium finish of the year with a third place effort behind race winner Franck Perera and 2007 Series Champion Raphael Matos.
Piloting the 300bhp #24 King Taco/US RaceTronics Swift Mazda-Cosworth for the final time in the regular season, Skerlong was keen to end on a high note and he failed to disappoint with a consistent performance in Saturday’s second qualifying session. Posting the third fastest lap time with a tour of 1m59.621s (121.825mph), he would start fourth overall with fellow rookie Jonathan Edwards holding a front-row slot courtesy of being fastest in Friday’s session. France’s Franck Perera shattered the Road America lap record to score his second pole with a best time of 1m58.883s (122.581mph).
Wasting no time in fighting for a podium, when the lights flicked from red to green at the start of Sunday’s 50-minute race Carl launched off the line taking third from Round 11 race winner Jonathan Bomarito almost immediately. Climbing to second on the next lap he successfully defended his position at the re-start following the first of two early full-course cautions. A thrilling battle for second followed between Skerlong and Brazil’s Raphael Matos.
The duo traded second place back and forth before the second full-course caution on lap eight. The track returned to green three laps later and Skerlong continued to hound his Brazilian rival. Further ahead Perera remained unchallenged at the head of the 24-strong field but he couldn’t quite shake-off Matos and Skerlong behind. As the top-three pulled away from the chasing pack, enjoying a five second advantage from the fourth placed car, Carl maintained the pressure on Matos with the gap never more than seven tenths of a second.
Perera went on to score his third win of the season with Matos second and Skerlong third – Carl back on the podium for the first time since his second place run in April’s Round 3 in Houston. Skerlong’s final flurry also saw him climb back into the top-ten, finishing the season 10th in the Driver Standings.
“Ending third, it’s a lot better than where we’ve been for most of the season,” said Skerlong. “I can’t complain though it’s a great way to end the season here. We had a good race in Houston, and then we’ve really been struggling since then. To go into next season on the podium is a great feeling.”
ESPN2 will air Round 12 from Road America as a tape delayed broadcast on Wednesday 22nd August starting at 5pm EST.
Top-Ten Atlantic Drivers R12/12: 1st Matos (BRA) 341pts – CHAMPION, 2nd Perera (FRA) 310pts, 3rd Wickens (CAN) 255pts, 4th Hinchcliffe (CAN) 224pts, 5th Bomarito (USA) 207pts, 6th Ricci (ITA) 188pts, 7th Hildebrand (USA) 140pts, 8th Sciuto (USA) 140pts, 9th Edwards (USA) 125pts, 10th SKERLONG (USA) 114pts