Summerton Picks Up Second Atlantic Win of 2009 Jonathan Summerton won the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda battle at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday night, while points leader Simona De Silvestro took a significant step towards winning the season-long war with a second-place run.
One day after blistering the previous Atlantic track record in the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NEI machine for Newman Wachs Racing, Summerton moved out into the lead from the race’s standing start and held off a charging De Silvestro to earn his second victory of the season by two seconds. Summerton’s first 2009 win came in the first race of the June doubleheader at New Jersey Motorsports Park while he was driving for Genoa Racing. The 21-year-old from Kissimmee, Fla. won twice in his rookie Atlantic season last year with Newman Wachs. He remained third in the championship standings behind De Silvestro and his NWR teammate John Edwards.
“I’d just like to thank the team for everything they’ve done all weekend,” Summerton said. “We started off the weekend a little rough. In the first few practices, we were down out of the top five, and then we slowly worked our way back up. For qualifying, we tried something new and it definitely worked. The lap time we did there in qualifying was with a little mistake, so I was really happy to still be on pole with that. Coming into this race, we just had to have a clean start. From there, I knew we had a car that could lead the race all the time.
“We both (Summerton and De Silvestro) had good starts and going into Turn 2, I think we both just missed the braking points or weren’t expecting the track to be slow slippery. We overbraked ourselves and luckily both of us were able to continue on and keep racing. Later on in the race, through traffic, Simona was able to get side-by-side with me. She did a hard, fair race with me there and I really appreciate that. We were able to hold on and basically I just kept running lap after lap consistently and trying to keep my tires. In the last few laps, I decided to try and go for it. I think we were able to do the fastest lap, so I’m pretty happy.”
De Silvestro was also pretty happy following the race with a second-place run for her seventh consecutive podium result in the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies entry from Team Stargate Worlds. The 20-year-old Swiss driver came into the race with a five-point lead over Edwards in the championship standings, but saw her fortunes improve dramatically as the lights went out to start the race.
From her third-place position on the grid, she saw Edwards – who started second – have trouble getting off the starting grid. She quickly moved up to second and challenged Summerton for much of the race, including a couple of bold side-by-side maneuvers before settling for second place. Edwards, meanwhile, lost several positions on the start in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine and was involved in an incident with Tonis Kasemets (No. 35 Fatburner) and Frankie Muniz (No. 77 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies) in Mid-Ohio’s famed “Keyhole” turn on the opening lap, removing Edwards from contention in the race. As a result, De Silvestro now leads Edwards by 16 points, 135-119, with Summerton another six points back with four races remaining in the season.
“My start was really good,” De Silvestro said. I even caught Summerton a little bit on the start. I don’t know what happened to John. He went off the line pretty well, but then kind of stalled, so I don’t really know what happened, so then I could pass him. Then, we went into Turn 2 and I almost crashed into Jonathan because it was really slippery and we almost both went off, but we kind of kept it there.
“My pace was, I think, a little bit faster than Summerton, so we could keep up with him, and when I lost a little bit of ground, I could kind of take it back. Lapped traffic played a little bit my way, but it was really difficult. I got next to him twice, but he kind of pinched me and it’s better to finish second than to crash out and lose a lot of points. The whole race, I think, we were a little bit faster than him. As I said in qualifying, we missed it a little bit, but we definitely put the car right for the race. I’m really happy. I really want to thank the team and Mazda, Cosworth and Cooper Tires, because they’re making this championship great. The racing is really competitive. I really want to thank them for making it happen.”
Rounding out the podium was Spanish rookie Borja Garcia in the No. 6 Celebfilms.co.uk/CJConsulting.us ride for Condor Motorsports. It was Garcia’s third podium result of the season and was his fifth top-five performance in his last six Atlantic starts.
“On Thursday when I arrived here, I went fast on this track,” Garcia said. “I like the track and also the car worked really good. The race, for me, was good, especially because the setup on the car is finally really good. I can drive fast. The problem that I had was the start, because John (Edwards) stalled the car or had a problem with the clutch of something. I lost a little bit of speed in the exit and (Frederic) Vervisch passed me. After that, Frederic Vervisch was maybe one or two second slower than me and I could pass. When I passed him, I could do my pace. I think I went faster than (Jonathan) Summerton and Simona (De Silvestro), but always in the race, when I found the traffic, I lost a little bit just when I was catching Simona. Finally, third place is a good result. We’ll see what happen next week in the street race.”
Defending series champion Markus Niemela matched his best result of the season with a fourth-place performance in the No. 1 Jensen MotorSport machine. It was also Niemela’s best run since joining Jensen MotorSport prior to Round 5 at Lime Rock Park last month. Belgian Frederic Vervisch came home fifth in the No. 19 Quartier/Isomo/Shinokki entry for Genoa Racing. He leads the Rookie of the Year standings by 16 points over Garcia.
Michael Mallinen picked up his fourth C2 victory of the season in the No. 71 Mallinen Properties entry from Swan Racing. He emerged victorious ahead of teammate Hans Peter (No. 80 Team Phenix/Swan Racing) who encountered a mechanical problem while leading midway through the race.
“Hans is good friend of mine and we’ve raced together for many, many years,” Mallinen said. “In fact, he was the driver at Swan Racing before I came in, and he came back. He was faster today. He should have got the win, but you know how racing is. Sometimes things happen. I hit a curb on Lap 2 on the back and whacked my left front wheel and I had a bad vibration, so I was kind of nursing it all the way home. I was just trying to stay out of the way. Hans had some bad luck and here I am, so I’ll take it.”
British rookie James Winslow earned his second $2,000 “Hard Charger” bonus of the season and an extra championship point with his run from ninth on the grid to sixth at the finish in the No. 18 C.A.R.S./E.T.T./D.H.S. machine for Genoa Racing. It was also the best Atlantic result of Winslow’s career.
Race results for Round 8 of 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown or country, car number, team and laps completed:
1. (1) Jonathan Summerton, Kissimmee, Fla., No. 34 Newman Wachs Racing, 38.
2. (3) Simona De Silvestro, Switzerland, No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds, 38.
3. (4) Borja Garcia (R), Spain, No. 6 Condor Motorsports, 38.
4. (5) Markus Niemela, Finland, No. 1 Jensen MotorSport, 38.
5. (6) Frederic Vervisch (R), Belgium, No. 19 Genoa Racing, 38.
6. (9) James Winslow (R), United Kingdom, No. 19 Genoa Racing, 38.
7. (10) Max Lefevre (R), France, No. 7 Condor Motorsports, 38.
8. (7) Frankie Muniz, Scottsdale, Ariz., No. 77 Team Stargate Worlds, 38.
9. (12) Michael Mallinen (R), Liberty Lake, Wash., No. 71 Swan Racing, 35.
10. (11) Hans Peter (R), Overland Park, Kan., No. 80 Swan Racing, 26, not running.
11. (2) John Edwards, Cincinnati, Ohio, No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing, 24, not running.
12. (8) Tonis Kasemets, Estonia, No. 35 Polestar Motor Racing, 0, not running.
(R) Series Rookie
Time of Race: 51:03.940
Average Speed: 100.816 mph
Margin of Victory: 2 seconds
Lap leaders: Summerton, 1-38.
Lead changes: None.
Caution flags: 1 for 2 laps.
Series Points Leaders: 1. De Silvestro, 135; 2. Edwards, 119; 3. Summerton, 113; 4. Vervisch, 94; 5. Garcia, 78; 6. Kasemets, 70; 7. Niemela, 60; 8. Muniz, 54; 9. Winslow, 50; 10. Lefevre, 37.
Next Race: Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres; Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada – Sunday, August 16.