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Summerton Retains Pole
Kissimmee, Fla. resident Jonathan Summerton earned the first championship point and prize money of the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda as his quickest time from yesterday’s provisional qualifying session held up through the final qualifying session today.

Summerton earned one point toward the championship and the $1,000 Cooper Tires Pole Award thanks to his lap at 1:53.571 (117.283 mph) on Wednesday in the No. 19 Genoa Racing machine. It is the second consecutive Atlantic race that Summerton will start from the pole, as he also took the top starting spot for the 2008 season finale at Road Atlanta, and is his third straight front-row starting spot. Summerton was second quickest in today’s final qualifying round at 1:54.185 (116.653 mph).

“Starting from pole is a fun place to start from,” Summerton said. “You get to start from the front row, see the clean lights and have a clear first corner. For me, it’s going to be keeping it clean at the start, get a good start and then just drive away. I know we have a car that’s fast. I’ve just got to keep my head down, keep it planted and keep the car on track and we’ll be good for the win, I’m sure. I have some family coming tomorrow and it’ll be a ton of fun. My family all knows what I do and it’s easygoing. I’m just going to try and drive and look tonight at the problems we were having today in qualifying. I think we were about a tenth (of a second) off, but all in all, I’m happy. Yesterday was a better track, and we just had a car for that track at that time.”

The fastest driver in qualifying today was John Edwards in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy entry from Newman Wachs Racing. Edwards’ best lap in final qualifying was 1:54.100 (116.740 mph), which guaranteed him second on the starting grid. However, his fastest qualifying lap overall was actually the third-quickest time on Wednesday at 1:53.715 (117.135 mph).

“We’re starting P2, but we made big improvements from yesterday and I got it together on track,” Edwards said. “I was a whole lot more consistent and I think we were P1 most of the session today. I ended first, but unfortunately the track was slower today. That’s just how it goes in the two-session format. Jonathan’s on pole, but we’re here at Sebring and there’s a couple of long straightaways, so hopefully we can stay with him and maybe see if we can draft by him and win tomorrow.”

Starting third will be rookie Frederic Vervisch in the No. 17 Genoa Racing machine with a Wednesday time of 1:53.625 (117.228 mph). He was third fastest in final qualifying at 1:54.232 (116.605 mph) as he continues to prepare for the first Atlantic Championship race of his career.

“The track was slower,” Vervisch said. “I was personally struggling a little bit more than yesterday. It was difficult to put a good lap together, clean lap, but in general, we cannot complain. We’re close to the frontrunners and the race has to be driven, so I’m looking forward to it. I’m very thrilled and excited.”

Vervisch led a trio of rookies to qualify inside the top five for the season opener. Starting fourth will be Latvian rookie Harald Schlegelmilch with a best lap at 1:53.810 (117.037 mph) in the No. 21 Conquest Racing entry. Spanish rookie Borja Garcia completed the top five at 1:53.984 (116.859 mph).

The second half of the top 10 on the grid features a lot of experienced Atlantic racers. Starting sixth will be defending series champion Markus Niemela in the No. 1 Mr. Jones/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine for Newman Wachs Racing at 1:54.083 (116.757 mph), followed by Jonathan Bomarito in the No. 26 Mathiasen Motorsports entry at 1:54.206 (116.631 mph). Bomarito is entering his fifth year of Atlantic competition.
The lone woman in the field, Simona De Silvestro starts eighth in the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies machine at 1:54.525 (116.306 mph), one spot ahead of her Team Stargate Worlds teammate Frankie Muniz, who qualified his identically-sponsored No. 77 machine ninth at 1:54.846 (115.981 mph). Both Muniz and De Silvestro open their third seasons of Atlantic competition on Friday. Second-year driver Matt Lee completed the top 10 at 1:54.955 (115.871 mph).

The C2 class for previous generation Atlantic machinery returns for the first time since the 2005 in the season-opener at Sebring. Owner/driver Mirl Swan starts from the class pole position after a best qualifying lap at 1:58.965 (111.966 mph).

Starting Lineup for Round 1 of 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda:
1.    Jonathan Summerton, No. 19 Genoa Racing, 1:53.571, 117.283 mph.
2.    John Edwards, No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:53.715, 117.135 mph.
3.    Frederic Vervisch (R), No. 17 Genoa Racing, 1:53.625, 117.228 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.
15.  Sadat Yelkin (R), No. 75 Swan Racing, 1:59.275, 111.675 mph.
16.  Ahsen Yelkin (R), No. 29 Swan Racing, 2:00.304, 110.720 mph.
17.  Chris Lee (R), No. 68 Swan Racing, 2:01.561, 109.575 mph.
18.  Michael Nacol (R), No. 3 Jensen MotorSport, 2:01.619, 109.522 mph.
19.  Michael Mallinen, No. 71 Swan Racing, 2:04.026, 107.397 mph.

(R) - Series Rookie
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