DANE CAMERON IS KNOCKED OUT OF FINAL ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP RACE BY 'AVOIDABLE CONTACT'
With six top-5s and a pole and pair of podiums, rising open-wheel star Dane Cameron ends the 2008 Atlantic Championship season with an eye-opening performance
Demonstrating clearly how racing fortunes turn on a moment, rising open-wheel star Dane Cameron, driving the #19 Genoa Racing/Mazda/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing Swift with sponsorship from the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder, qualified on the front row and – leading by as much as seven seconds -- was on his way to a dominant victory in the final race of the 2008 Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.
An ill-timed full-course yellow in the closing stages of the race at Road Atlanta erased his lead, and on the re-start, Cameron was knocked out of the race by the championship points leader, Jonathan Summerton, in a desperate passing move that damaged both cars and resulted in Summerton not finishing the race due to damage to his car… and being penalized for 'avoidable contact.' Series officials moved him back to 14th, a result that cost him the championship.
Meanwhile, Cameron, though knocked out of the race, had put the final polish on a shining second half of the season that saw him finish on the podium twice, finish in the top-5 six times and start races from both the pole and the front row.
"Atlantic is an extremely competitive series with a lot of experienced drivers, but the Genoa Racing team and I really hit our stride in the last half of the season," said Cameron, winner of the 2007 Star Mazda Championship. "I'd obviously like to have won a race this year, particularly by a big margin like I had at Road Atlanta, but you have to take what comes and keep moving forward. I've had people following my rookie Atlantic season and liking what they see, so I've got several options for next year, but I feel that I have some unfinished business in Atlantic and what I'd really like to do is come back and win the championship in 2009. The team deserves it and I know we're capable of winning it, but we'll have to see how things work out."
Cameron's previous experience at Road Atlanta was a decidedly memorable one; capping off a season that included three wins, six poles, eight podium finishes and two top-5 results, Cameron became only the second driver in the 18 year history of Star Mazda to win the championship in his rookie year.
In addition to the championship, he also won a full-season sponsorship to race in the 2008 Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda courtesy of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder, a unique, Mazda-sponsored program reaching all the way from karting to the top-step of the open-wheel driver development ladder, the Atlantic Championship. Champions at each step (karting, Skip Barber Pro Series and the Star Mazda Championship) are provided with a one-year sponsorship to prove themselves in the next series up the ladder.
With Cameron racing the #19 Genoa Racing/Mazda/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing Swift 016.a in Atlantic, the 2007 Skip Barber Pro Series champion, Joel Miller, is occupying Cameron's vacated seat in the #20 JDC Motorsports/Mazda/K&N Air Filters Mazda in the 2008 Star Mazda Championship. And karting champion Connor De Phillippi is racing in the Skip Barber National Championship presented by Mazda.
And Cameron has been proving that this unique ladder program works; after a remarkable run of three top-5 finishes in a row (at Mont-Tremblant and the Edmonton double-header), Cameron scored his first Atlantic podium at Road America, and then followed it up with another top-5 at Trois Rivierès. In the ultra-competitive Atlantic Championship, this represents a substantial accomplishment.
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.
The most recent graduate, 2005 Star Mazda Champion Raphael Matos, went on to win the 2007 Atlantic Championship and the 2008 Indy Lights championship. In addition, he co-drove the winning Daytona prototype car in the Rolex Series season finale at Miller Motorsports Park and has been announced as the new driver for the Luzco Dragon team in the Indy Racing League.