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Skerlong Leads Test Day at New Jersey Motorsports Park
The drivers and teams Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda got their first look at the new Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Friday for a test session in advance of this Sunday’s Mazda Formula X race.

Carl Skerlong posted the quickest lap of the day in the second of three test sessions with a lap at 1:10.259 in the No. 14 King Taco entry from Pacific Coast Motorsports. Skerlong has finished inside the top five in five of the season’s eight races and he will be looking to add to that record this weekend.

“If I can do what I do in practice in the race, that’d be great,” Skerlong said. “It’s a new track, and it’s a pretty level playing field for everyone. To show up and be a fair margin ahead of everybody is definitely a good feeling going into the weekend. All the guys have worked really hard in our little break. It’s been a long break, but well needed. It’s kind of nice to enjoy the last few months of good weather for summer. I’m really excited for these last three races. Hopefully, we’ll be able to improve on our little dilemmas we’ve had throughout the year.”

Despite feeling a bit under the weather on Friday, rookie Markus Niemela was second quickest in testing with a lap at 1:10.622 in the No. 8 Mr. Jones Bar & Kitchen/Rauma Town/Turku Karting machine for Brooks Associates Racing. The Finnish driver is currently tied for third place in the championship standings with James Hinchcliffe heading into the Mazda Formula X.

“I like this track,” Niemela said. “It’s a fast track and it’s got great corners, but I didn’t feel that I did that well today. I’ve been feeling sick all day. I think it’s something I ate. I don’t know if I’m quite ready for qualifying yet, but we’ll see tomorrow.”

Rookie of the Year points leader Jonathan Summerton was third-quickest on the day at 1:10.675 in the No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing machine. Summerton holds an eight-point lead over Niemela in the Rookie of the Year standings and trails overall championship leader Jonathan Bomarito by 28 points with three races remaining on the schedule.

“The new track is amazing,” said Summerton. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a bit dirty out there, but I really enjoyed the track. It’s interesting. There are a lot of fun corners and a lot of good corners. We’ll see how it is for the race. The car was good. We made a few changes here and there and it helped. I think we’ll be very competitive for qualifying. I’m looking forward to it.”

Bomarito turned in the day’s fourth quickest time in the No. 26 Del Taco/Stone Brewing/Discount Tire/RLM Investments machine for Mathiasen Motorsports with a lap at 1:10.830. Rounding out the top five was Canadian Kevin Lacroix at 1:10.973 in the No. 25 Uni-Select/Deans Knight/Wasteco entry for Walker Racing.

Hinchcliffe was sixth in Forsythe/Pettit Racing’s No. 3 Indeck/Tire Rack/NOCO machine at 1:11.129, followed by his teammate, David Martinez, at 1:11.369 in the No. 7 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa entry. Tom Sutherland was eighth at 1:11.449 in the No. 88 ClickAway Computers & Networking machine from Brooks Associates Racing, followed by Frankie Muniz in ninth at 1:11.503 in the No. 41 PCM/USRT entry from Pacific Coast Motorsports. Simona De Silvestro completed the top 10 at 1:11.555 in the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine for Newman Wachs Racing.

The first two sessions of the day were run under overcast conditions and a light rain fell throughout the day’s third and final session.

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