Summerton smashes Atlantic record at M-O Prior to qualifying for the first Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in six years, easily the most popular question in the paddock was “What will the Atlantic lap times be?”
Jonathan Summerton answered that question resoundingly with a blistering lap at 1:12.970 (111.399 mph) in the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NEI machine for Newman Wachs Racing to obliterate the previous Atlantic track record held by 2003 series champion A.J. Allmendinger and take the $1,000 Cooper Tire Pole Award for Saturday’s eighth round of the 12-race championship. Summerton’s lap was nearly three seconds faster than Allmendinger’s previous record of 1:15.668, giving him his third pole of the season and the fourth of his Atlantic career.
“I’d just like to thank the team, definitely, for everything they’ve done,” Summerton said. “A lot of hard work went into the car for the session today. We’ve got two birthdays we’re celebrating today, my engineer (Don Hallliday) and also (crew member) David (Marquez) from the team, and it’s just great to put 1-2 for Newman Wachs and both of them for their birthdays. I’d just like to say ‘Thanks again’ to (team owner) Eddie (Wachs) for giving me the opportunity that I have. The lap that we did, I was calm and everything went out way and then I came through our timing beacon on our dash and it was a really good lap. I tried holding it together and I made a little mistake in the last corner, but we were able to hold P1 with that, so I’m very happy with everything that went on. To come out on top and be leading the race tomorrow at the start, I think, there’s a good chance of us winning.”
Summerton led a Newman Wachs Racing sweep of the top two qualifying positions and will be joined on the front row for tomorrow night’s race by John Edwards in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy entry. Edwards logged a best lap at 1:13.150 (111.125 mph). The 18-year-old resident of Cincinnati, Ohio is riding the momentum of a sweep of both races and both pole positions in the Harrah’s Autobahn Grand Prix presented by Mazda doubleheader two weeks ago and is looking to further close his five-point gap in the championship standings to points leader Simona De Silvestro tomorrow.
“Once again, it’s a really great day for Newman Wachs Racing locking out the front row for tomorrow’s race,” said Edwards. “Obviously, I’d like the roles to be reversed, but the important thing for me is I’m ahead of Simona. That’s the championship battle, Jonathan had a piece break in Autobahn, so he’s a little further back in the championship trying to make up some ground. Right now, we’re really focused on staying ahead of Simona. It’d be great to win tomorrow, but Jonathan’s definitely got the advantage starting from pole, since it’s so hard to pass here. But we’re ahead of Simona and that’s what we’re shooting for this weekend.”
While Edwards did out qualify De Silvestro, it wasn’t by much as the 20-year-old Swiss racer put her No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies machine third on the grid for Team Stargate Worlds at 1:13.243 (110.984 mph). It was the seventh consecutive top-three qualifying performance for the only woman in the 2009 Atlantic field and she heads into Saturday’s race looking for her seventh straight podium finish.
“It was a little bit difficult, especially with Summerton suddenly there,” De Silvestro said. “We tried a few different things. We went a little bit in the wrong way with some changes. I think we should have kept the car like it was, but we gave it a shot. It could have been much better, but I’m happy with P3. I think we have a good racecar for the race tomorrow. I think we should be fine. Team Stargate Worlds just did a great job, because we did so many changes in this session and they were really quick to get me out there. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”
Starting fourth will be Spanish rookie Borja Garcia in the No. 6 Celebfilms.co.uk/CJConsulting.us car for Condor Motorsports at 1:13.384 (110.771 mph). It was Garcia’s fourth performance of fourth or better in his last five qualifying sessions. Prior to qualifying, Garcia had the fastest lap from a pair of morning practice sessions.
Rounding out the top five on the grid is defending series champion Markus Niemela in the No. 1 Jensen MotorSport entry at 1:13.849 (110.073 mph). It was Niemela’s best qualifying performance since he qualified fourth for Round 5 at Lime Rock. He is looking to improve on season-best performances of fourth in both races of the June doubleheader at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
In qualifying for the C2 class, Hans Peter took the pole position for his Atlantic Championship debut at 1:17.997 (104.219 mph).
Qualifying results for Round 8 of 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda at Lime Rock Park, with starting position, driver, hometown or country, car number, team, time and speed in mph:
1. Jonathan Summerton, Kissimmee, Fla., No. 34 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:12.970, 111.399 mph.
2. John Edwards, Cincinnati, Ohio, No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:13.150, 111.125 mph.
3. Simona De Silvestro, Switzerland, No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds, 1:13.243, 110.984 mph.
4. Borja Garcia (R), Spain, No. 6 Condor Motorsports, 1:13.384, 110.771 mph.
5. Markus Niemela, Finland, No. 1 Jensen MotorSport, 1:13.849, 110.073 mph.
6. Frederic Vervisch (R), Belgium, No. 17 Genoa Racing, 1:13.857, 110.061 mph.
7. Frankie Muniz, Scottsdale, Ariz., No. 77 Team Stargate Worlds, 1:14.040, 109.789 mph.
8. Tonis Kasemets, Estonia, No. 35 Polestar Motor Racing, 1:14.102, 109.697 mph.
9. James Winslow (R), United Kingdom, No. 18 Genoa Racing, 1:14.187, 109.572 mph.
10. Max Lefevre (R), France, No. 7 Condor Motorsports, 1:15.243, 108.034 mph.
11. Hans Peter (R), Overland Park, Kan., No. 80 Swan Racing, 1:17.997, 104.219 mph.
12. Michael Mallinen (R), Liberty Lake, Wash., No. 71 Swan Racing, 1:20.611, 100.840 mph.
13. Mirl Swan (R), Topeka, Kan., No. 88 Swan Racing, no time, no speed.
(R) Series Rookie