Kasemets (pictured right), the second-year native Estonian racer, found his speed at just the right time in the 30-minute qualifying run for Sunday’s Round 8 of the Atlantic championship – the Napa Auto Parts Presents the Toyota Atlantic Challenge (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel – Saturday, July 23 at 2 p.m. ET). After finishing fourth in the opening practice session of the weekend Friday and sitting middle of the pack for much of qualifying, Kasemets ripped off a lap of 1:07.678 (104.950 mph) on the challenging and fast 1.973-mile Finning International Speedway airport circuit with just two minutes left in the session. The lap represents a new track record at the course, that’s new to the Atlantic schedule this season.
Perhaps most importantly, Kasemets also earned a point for leading today’s session and he now trails series leader Charles Zwolsman (#11 Landtran Systems, Inc.) 186-180 in the tight point standings. Zwolsman owned the fastest time for a good portion of qualifying but suffered suspension damage to his car with about 10 minutes remaining in qualifying and was forced to pull into pit lane while his team made repairs. With rain in the forecast for the final round of qualifying on Saturday, Kasemets also helped his cause by locking up a front-row starting spot for his efforts on Friday.
A capacity crowd of 55,722 Canadian race fans turned out on Friday, welcoming not only Atlantics, but also the cars of the Champ Car World Series and the Trans-Am Series Road Racing Series to Edmonton.
The enthusiastic faithful witnessed Kasemets’ clutch qualifying performance, as well as solid efforts from two more of open-wheel racing’s top up-and-coming stars. British driver Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) had an impressive day for Polestar Racing Group. The 24-year-old racer that made history when she became the first woman to win a major open-wheel race in North America, capturing the checkered flag at Long Beach in April, turned in her best qualifying result of the season on Friday. After carding the second-fastest time in practice this morning, Legge backed it up in qualifying as she earned a top time of 1:07.826 (104.721 mph) on her second-to-last lap of the session. The time left her trailing only Kasemets in the qualifying rundown.
Legge’s Polestar teammate, Canadian Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design), completed the top three from first-round qualifying. Fresh off his first series win last weekend at Toronto, Bessette showed his speed and confidence early, leading the first practice session of the weekend. He also paced qualifying for a time before settling for the third-fastest lap of 1:07.846 (104.690 mph).
Pos Driver Car# Lap Time Mph
1 Tonis Kasemets 6 1:07.678 104.950
2 Katherine Legge 12 1:07.826 104.721
3 Antoine Bessette 3 1:07.846 104.690
4 Andreas Wirth 8 1:07.978 104.487
5 Charles Zwolsman 11 1:08.508 103.678
6 Al Unser 10 1:09.026 102.900
7 David Martinez 7 1:09.794 101.768
8 Eric Jensen 2 1:11.229 99.718
9 Daryl Leiski 63 1:13.808 96.233
10 Dan Cobb 9 1:14.811 94.943
11 Justin Sofio 15 1:14.942 94.777
12 Bob Siska 18 1:15.611 93.939
13 Chris Souliotis 56 1:15.863 93.627
14 Roger Glover 21 1:16.836 92.441