JOLIET, Ill. – In qualifying for Race #1 of this weekend's Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda doubleheader, John Edwards earned the first pole position of his Atlantic career at the Harrah's Autobahn Grand Prix presented by Mazda.
Driving the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine for the Mundelein, Ill.-based Newman Wachs Racing, Edwards posted a best lap at 2:004.600 (102.857 mph) around the 3.56-mile, 21-turn permanent road circuit. The 18-year-old from Cincinnati, Ohio was nearly a half-second quicker than his next closest competitor, points leader Simona De Silvestro, and he heads into Saturday's race looking for his second career Atlantic win.
“It's not only my first pole, it's pole by half a second," Edwards said. “I can't say enough. The only word I could say when I came in the pits was 'awesome.' I told the guys, 'You guys are awesome!' The car was awesome. The whole session just played out exactly how we had planned and how we had hoped. I mean, I was the only one in the 2:04s the whole session, and especially I got there quickly and could stay there longer than anyone could. We're really looking forward to second qualifying and both races this weekend."
Starting from the outside of the front row will be De Silvestro, who turned a best lap at 2:05.092 (102.453 mph) in the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies entry for Team Stargate Worlds. It is the fifth consecutive time that De Silvestro has qualified on the front row, and she has won three of the last four races this season to take over the points lead heading into tomorrow's sixth round of the 12-race championship.
“The first qualifying was really hard," De Silvestro said. “Edwards is going really fast and pretty consistent. We made some changes from practice to qualifying and it's a little bit better, but we still have a little bit to find. It's really hard to put a lap together. It was a pretty tough session but I'm happy with starting P2, because I think it's pretty easy for somebody to do a mistake. Maybe we can get a chance to pass in the race. Most importantly is to start on the front row. It's always great, especially on this kind of track where I'm not really used to it. It's kind of new, so I'm really happy with that ending."
Jonathan Summerton made it two Newman Wachs Racing cars in the top-three spots with a best lap at 2:05.594 (102.043 mph) in the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NEI machine. Summerton has won one race in each of the last three Atlantic doubleheaders (Race #1 of the New Jersey doubleheader in June and Race #2 of 2008 doubleheaders at Road America and Edmonton).
“It went all right," Summerton said. “We definitely made an improvement. We just can't figure out what we have different and what's going on with the car. We're going to check all the dampers and check everything, because we're on the same setup as John (Edwards) and I have totally different problems. We'll see. We'll work through it tonight and hopefully tomorrow we can bring a fight. Starting third, I think, with John being in front, we can possibly work together to get 1-2 in the race."
Local favorite Tonis Kasemets, who makes his home in Mundelein, turned in his best qualifying performance of the season with a fourth-place run at 2:06.019 (101.699 mph) in the No. 35 Fatburner car for Polestar Motor Racing. Kasemets is looking to improve on season-best results of fifth at Lime Rock and Miller Motorsports Park this weekend.
Rookie of the Year points leader Frederic Vervisch completed the top five on the starting grid with a best lap at 2:06.097 (101.636 mph) in the No. 17 Quartier/Isomo/Shinokki machine for Genoa Racing. The Belgian has qualified inside the top five for every race this season.
Saturday's race will be televised live on HDNet. The network's coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. ET and the 45-minute Atlantic Championship event rolls off from a standing start beginning at 3:05 p.m. ET (2:05 p.m. local time).
JOLIET, Ill. – Qualifying results for Round 6 of 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, the Harrah's Autobahn Grand Prix presented by Mazda at Autobahn Country Club, with starting position, driver, hometown or country, car number, team, time and speed in mph:
1. John Edwards, Cincinnati, Ohio, No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing, 2:04.600, 102.857 mph.
2. Simona De Silvestro, Switzerland, No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds, 2:05.092, 102.453 mph.
3. Jonathan Summerton, Kissimmee, Fla., No. 34 Newman Wachs Racing, 2:05.594, 102.043 mph.
4. Tonis Kasemets, Estonia, No. 35 Polestar Motor Racing, 2:06.019, 101.699 mph.
5. Frederic Vervisch (R), Belgium, No. 17 Genoa Racing, 2:06.097, 101.636 mph.
6. Markus Niemela, Finland, No. 1 Jensen MotorSport, 2:06.379, 101.409 mph.
7. Borja Garcia (R), No. 6 Condor Motorsports, 2:06.810, 101.065 mph.
8. Frankie Muniz, No. 77 Team Stargate Worlds, 2:07.174, 100.775 mph.
9. James Winslow (R), No. 19 Genoa Racing, 2:07.829, 100.259 mph.
10. Max Lefevre (R), No. 7 Condor Motorsports, 2:08.271, 99.913 mph.
11. Michael Nacol (R), No. 3 Jensen MotorSport, 2:14.687, 95.154 mph.