FROM THE POLE FROM THE POLE AT ROAD AMERICA
In a double-header weekend at the legendary road course, rising open-wheel Atlantic Championship star Dane Cameron opens the door to his future in open-wheel racing
After a remarkable run of three top-5 finishes in a row, Dane Cameron opened the door that leads to his future in open-wheel racing a little wider with a podium finish from the pole in Race 1 of a double-header at Road America on August 9-10.
Dane Cameron, the 2007 Star Mazda Champion who won his Mazda-sponsored drive in the 2008 Atlantic Championship courtesy of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder, has demonstrated just how well that ladder works by scoring a top-5 triple, including Mont-Tremblant and the double-header at Edmonton – where he qualified on the front row and finished 4th in one race and 5th in the other. As a result, Cameron has vaulted from 12th to 7th in the Atlantic Championship points championship battle heading into a back-to-back races, beginning with a double-header this weekend at Road America.
After qualifying on the pole in the No. 19 MAZDASPEED/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing machine fielded by Genoa Racing, Cameron – a rookie in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Championship -- was the one of only two drivers in the field to lead the race a lap -- which he did thanks to an outstanding move in the famed Canada Corner (Turn 12) on Lap 10 of the 18-lap race. Ultimately however, Jonathan Bomarito, a driver with three years of Atlantic experience, re-passed and narrowly won the race. Nevertheless, the second-place performance by Cameron was a career-best for the Atlantic rookie, eclipsing a previous-best performance of fourth in Race #1 of the doubleheader at Edmonton two weeks ago. It was also the fourth consecutive top-five result for the 2007 Star Mazda champion and the performance moved him into a tie for fifth in the championship with Carl Skerlong after Race 1.
"Both qualifying and the race were extremely competitive, but the Genoa Racing team and I are really working together well and we showed we can run at the front," says Cameron, who won the FF2000 race at Road America in 2006 and, in 2007, finished 2nd on his way to winning the Star Mazda Championship. "We just missed out on the pole in the previous race at Edmonton, so winning the pole and scoring our first podium finish at Road America is the result of a lot of work by a lot of talented people at Genoa Racing and great support from our sponsors. I feel that we've stepped up to the next level of competitiveness and we'll be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the season."
The second race of the weekend was a bit more problematic; changes to both the car and the track conditions overnight resulted in handling difficulties during his second qualifying run and he started Race 2 from the fourth row of the grid. The race itself saw his streak of top-five finishes snapped at four straight races due in large part to a spin after contact with Simona De Silvestro on Lap 11. Both Cameron’s No. 19 MAZDASPEED/Finlay Motorsports Lynx Racing machine and De Silvestro’s No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy car slid off-course and brought out a full-course caution, but both drivers managed to continue in the race, albeit one lap down. Cameron finished 17th and De Silvestro was 18th, and Cameron also earned a bonus point for turning the fastest lap in the race at 2:01.172 (120.265 mph) on Lap 18 of the 20-lap race.
"It was just one of those racing things that happen sometimes, but it was a shame because we had a fast car and I was able to set the fast race lap without a tow, running on my own," says Cameron, who now sits 7th in the championship. "Both the team and I learned a lot at Road America, including how to put a car on the pole. And that knowledge will be important at the next race next weekend on the street circuit at Trois Rivières. It’s a historic, narrow, technically-challenging track where passing is virtually impossible, so where you qualify is absolutely vital. I finished second there in the Star Mazda race last year, so I have the most recent, relevant experience of any Atlantic driver going into Trois Rivieres and that should allow us to get up to speed quickly and go for another podium finish."
Cameron arrives at this stage of his career via an accomplished climb up the open-wheel ladder. In addition to the 2007 Star Mazda Championship, where he was both series champion and Rookie of the Year (only the second driver in the series’ 17-year history to become champion in his first season), Cameron was the 2006 F2000 Rookie of the Year and finished second in the championship. As a Team USA Scholarship driver, he won the 2006 Palmer Audi Winter Championship in Europe. In 2005 Cameron was the SCCA Formula Jim Russell Series champion and Rookie of the Year. His karting career, beginning in 2000, was similarly successful, including the 2003 Jim Russell Karting 80cc Junior Shifter Championship and a 2004 finalist in the Red Bull Driver Search.
Cameron drives for Genoa Racing, a team with a rich heritage in many forms of motorsports. Founded by successful San Francisco-based businessman Angelo Ferro in the early 1980s, the team began competing in the famed CanAm Championship, moved to the Atlantic series in 1990 and graduated to Indy Racing League competition in 1997-98 as Thomas Knapp Motorsports/Genoa Racing with driver Greg Ray, a period highlighted by Ray's front-row qualifying run for the 1998 Indianapolis 500.
His participation in the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents the Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda is also made possible by the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder, as well as a variety of long-time personal sponsors; including the Finlay Motorsports Driver Development Program, Lynx Racing, Mockett.com, Rett.org, Nearburg Exploration, Red Line Oil and Sparco USA.
The Atlantic Championship is the longest-running open-wheel driver development series in North America and celebrates its 35th Anniversary season in 2008. The series is noted for its long history of graduating its drivers into the top levels of motorsport throughout the world, including IndyCar champions such as Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti, Jacques Villeneuve, Jimmy Vasser, Greg Ray, Sam Hornish Jr. and Dan Wheldon, Indy 500 winners such as Sullivan, Rahal, Villeneuve, Buddy Rice, Wheldon and Hornish, and Formula One world champions such as Villeneuve and Keke Rosberg.
Atlantic on-track action at Road America begins Friday, August 15. Final qualifying takes place from 11:35 to 12:05 pm, Saturday, August 16, with the 60-minute/40-lap race scheduled to take the green flag at 1:30 pm, Sunday August 17.
Dates and times for the television broadcast of the event have yet to be determined; check AtlanticChampionship.com fo