Jonathan Summerton took sole possession of the lead in one important statistical category in the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda today, taking his fifth pole position of the season in qualifying for Friday's race at Road Atlanta.
He's hoping to move to the top of two other important categories – namely race victories and the championship standings – when the checkered flag falls on tomorrow's penultimate round of the 12-race 2009 Atlantic Championship. Driving the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NEI machine for Newman Wachs Racing, Summerton posted a best lap at 1:15.166 (121.651 mph) to take another $1,000 Cooper Tire Pole Award. Perhaps even more importantly, Summerton earned a bonus championship point, closing his gap to 11 points behind leader Simona De Silvestro, 160-149, and just three behind teammate John Edwards, who is second in the standings heading into tomorrow's race.
“I definitely want to win the race,” Summerton said. “I think we have a very good shot. Consistently, we've been quickest all week, so I'm really happy with the car. We can make some improvements. The temperature made a bit of a difference today with the car. It wasn't spot on what I would like it to be. It was the same for everybody. Really, I'm happy with everything. Hopefully, tomorrow John and I can pull away. The best would be for somebody just to jump in front of Simona for the championship for Laguna.”
Summerton will share the front row with Edwards, who came out on top in a late-session battle with De Silvestro for second on the starting grid. Edwards posted a best lap at 1:15.345 (121.362 mph) in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy entry. It was his sixth front-row qualifying performance in 11 qualifying sessions this season.
“We were comfortably ahead of Simona for most of the session and then on the second set of tires, I had a few problems in the first six or seven laps with some oversteer with the new rubber,” Edwards said. “Finally, they started coming in and I started getting the times down and then Simona put one in on the second to last lap. I was told that she was ahead of me, so I pushed even harder and got her by a couple hundredths at the end. We want pole and we want the win, but the key is to stay ahead of Simona and that's where we are.”
De Silvestro wound up third on the grid with a lap at 1:15.357 (121.342 mph) in the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Cheyenne Mountain Games/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies machine for Team Stargate Worlds. The performance was an improvement over yesterday's practice session, when she posted the fourth-quickest time of the day. De Silvestro looks to return to the podium tomorrow after missing the top-three for just the second time all season in the last race at Mosport last month due to a crash.
“I'm a little disappointed in this session, because the times are so close,” said De Silvestro. “We were pushing hard, but we didn't quite feel the second set of tires as good as the first one. Maybe we lost a little bit of time there. The gap really shrunk between now and yesterday and the day before yesterday. It took me a little bit of time for me to get back into it after the crash in Mosport, and then we had kind of an engine problem, so I think that took us back because we were trying to figure gears out. I'm pretty happy. I know we have a really strong racecar, and I have to thank the whole team, because they put the car together really fast. It's really competitive right away, so I'm really proud of them and I think we're going to have a really good race tomorrow.”
Jonathan Bomarito made it a Row 2 sweep for Team Stargate Worlds with the fourth-quickest lap of the session at 1:15.614 (120.930 mph) in the No. 77 Stargate Worlds/Cheyenne Mountain Games/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies entry. Friday's race will be Bomarito's first in Atlantic competition since the season opener at Sebring in March, and he is filling in for the injured Frankie Muniz.
Rookie of the Year points leader Frederic Vervisch completed the top five in the No. 17 Quartier/Isomo/Shinokki machine for Genoa Racing. The Belgian driver's best lap was a 1:15.645 (120.880 mph). The top eight cars were covered by less than one second.