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Summerton takes provisional pole
For a driver who didn’t have a ride in the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda until a few days ago, Kissimmee, Fla. resident Jonathan Summerton didn’t need much time to get back up to speed.

Summerton got his first Atlantic seat time since last October’s season finale at Road Atlanta yesterday, and today he put the No. 19 Genoa Racing machine on the provisional pole for Friday’s $50,000-to-win season-opener at Sebring International Raceway. In a qualifying session that saw the top spot change frequently, Summerton claimed the top spot, touring the 3.7-mile circuit in 1:53.571 (117.283 mph). Summerton is guaranteed a front-row starting position for his third consecutive Atlantic start dating back to last season and will be going for his second career pole in tomorrow’s final round of qualifying.

“It was fun,” Summerton said. “It’s a ride and a half out there. When you’re going through Turn 1, it’s bumpy as heck. You’ve got to keep your perfect line and basically make sure you miss the bump in Turn 1 and Turn 17. It’s a joy out there. It’s like a roller coaster. We worked hard between sessions. (Crew chief) Geoff Bushor (team manager) Tom Knapp and Genoa really worked hard. The car was great. I’m sure we still had another two or three tenths (of a second) out there, easy.”

Rookie Frederic Vervisch made it an all Genoa Racing provisional front row. Participating in the first qualifying session of his Atlantic career, Vervisch clocked a best lap at 1:53.625 (117.228 mph) to wind up second in the session. The 22-year-old Belgian heads into the season looking for his third consecutive series championship, taking the ATS Formula 3 Cup title last year and the Asian Formula 3 championship in 2007.

“It feels really good,” said Vervisch of his qualifying performance. “We struggled a little bit this morning, both of us (he and Summerton), but I think we did a good job so far. I cannot say there was more in it. We did a change, and I thought it felt better, but then there was the yellow flag. Tomorrow is another session, so we can try to improve. It’s really good for the team and for everybody to be in front of John (Edwards), who has so many miles here. It’s cool. I’m really enjoying this. I never did such a long qualifying. Back in Europe, it’s very short, but here you have to drive, drive, drive. You’re continuously driving and the car gets better the more you drive, so it’s interesting. It’s something that suits me also, so I’m happy and enjoying it a lot.”

Edwards, who was quickest in Tuesday’s promoter test day and also in this morning’s opening practice session, wound up third in provisional qualifying with a lap at 1:53.715 (117.135 mph) in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine for Newman Wachs Racing. It was the first Atlantic qualifying session for Edwards since he qualified second for the 2007 season finale at Road America. Last year, Edwards competed in Star Mazda and claimed the series championship.

“Third is not the worst thing that could happen, but it’s not what we wanted after being quickest in the first two sessions,” Edwards said. “I got in a little traffic in the beginning and should have found a better gap. That got me a little unfocused and I started taking too many mistakes. I sort of found my way there at the end but ran out of time. It’s too bad, but hopefully the track will be better tomorrow once more rubber gets laid down, and then we can go for the real pole instead of just the early pole.”

Two more rookies took the next two places on the provisional grid. Qualifying fourth was Latvian driver Harald Schlegelmilch in the No. 21 Conquest Racing entry with a best lap at 1:53.810 (117.037 mph). Following Schlegelmilch was Spanish rookie Borja Garcia, who was fifth in the No. 6 CJ Consulting machine for Condor Motorsports at 1:53.984 (116.859 mph).

The top eight drivers in the session turned laps within one second of Summerton’s provisional pole-winning time.

•    Defending series champion Markus Niemela brought the qualifying session to an end three minutes short of its scheduled run time when he spun and stalled in Turn 7. Niemela lost his fastest lap for causing the stoppage, dropping him from fifth to sixth at the end of provisional qualifying with a lap at 1:54.083 (116.757 mph) in the No. 1 Mr. Jones/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NWR machine for Newman Wachs Racing.

•    After holding the top spot at one point in the qualifying session, Atlantic veteran Jonathan Bomarito wound up seventh in provisional qualifying. Bomarito posted a best lap at 1:54.206 (116.631 mph) in the No. 26 Mathiasen Motorsports entry.

•    Team Stargate Worlds teammates Simona De Silvestro and Frankie Muniz were eighth and ninth, respectively, in provisional qualifying. De Silvestro turned a best lap at 1:54.525 (116.306 mph) in the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies entry, while Muniz turned a lap at 1:54.846 (115.981 mph) in the team’s identically sponsored No. 77 machine.

•    Matt Lee completed the top 10 in provisional qualifying at 1:54.955 (115.871 mph) in the No. 2 Jensen MotorSport entry. Lee is returning to Atlantic competition this weekend after a one-year absence.

•    Owner/driver Mirl Swan was the fastest qualifier in the C2 category with a lap at 1:58.965 (111.966 mph) in the No. 88 Everclear Specialty Lubricants machine for Swan Racing.

Provisional Qualifying Results for Round 1 at Sebring International Raceway:

1.  Jonathan Summerton, No. 19 Genoa Racing, 1:53.571, 117.283 mph.
2.  Frederic Vervisch (R), No. 17 Genoa Racing, 1:53.625, 117.228 mph.
3.  John Edwards, No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:53.715, 117.135 mph.
4.  Harald Schlegelmilch (R), No. 21 Conquest Racing, 1:53.810, 117.037 mph.
5.  Borja Garcia (R), No. 6 Condor Motorsports, 1:53.984, 116.859 mph.
6.  Markus Niemela, No. 1 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:54.083, 116.757 mph.
7.  Jonathan Bomarito, No. 26 Mathiasen Motorsports, 1:54.206, 116.631 mph.
8.  Simona De Silvestro, No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds, 1:54.525, 116.306 mph.
9.  Frankie Muniz, No. 77 Team Stargate Worlds, 1:54.846, 115.981 mph.
10. Matt Lee, No. 2 Jensen MotorSport, 1:54.955, 115.871 mph.
11. Tonis Kasemets, No. 35 Polestar Motor Racing, 1:55.036, 115.790 mph.
12. Max Lefevre (R), No. 7 Condor Motorsports, 1:56.130, 114.699 mph.
13. James Winslow (R), No. 12 Conquest Racing, 1:56.531, 114.304 mph.
14. Mirl Swan (R), No. 88 Swan Racing, 1:58.965, 111.966 mph (C2-1st).
15. Sadat Yelkin (R), No. 75 Swan Racing, 1:59.275, 111.675 mph (C2-2nd).
16. Ahsen Yelkin (R), No. 29 Swan Racing, 2:01.430, 109.693 mph (C2-3rd).
17. Chris Lee (R), No. 68 Swan Racing, 2:01.561, 109.575 mph (C2-4th).
18. Michael Nacol (R), No. 3 Jensen MotorSport, 2:01.619, 109.522 mph.
19. Michael Mallinen (R), No. 71 Swan Racing, 3:05.027, 71.989 mph.

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