Summerton takes Atlantic pole
In weather conditions that alternated between wet and dry at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Jonathan Summerton scored his second pole position of the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season for Saturday's first race of a doubleheader weekend at the Mazda Formula X presented by Cooper Tires (HDNet, Live, 6/13 at 1 p.m. ET).
As the track dried rapidly in the final minutes of the 30-minute qualifying session, Summerton clocked a best time of 1:11.417 (109.386 mph) in Genoa Racing's No. 19 Barker Specialty/Geller Group/Genoa machine on the final lap of the session. It was Summerton's third career pole in Atlantic competition. He has qualified on the front row for every race thus far in the 2009 Atlantic season, and for the fifth consecutive time dating to a second-place qualifying result the penultimate round of the 2008 Atlantic Championship at Miller Motorsports Park.
"From here, I just need to get a decent start," Summerton said. "I've never done a rain start, and it would be interesting, so hopefully it stays dry. The car is pretty good. We've got a little bit of tuning to do, but overall, I'm happy. I think we can win this weekend. We came in after we did four laps (early in the session) and we were P2. It was drizzling at the beginning, but it was still a dry track. Then, of course, the rain came and wet the track, so we decided to sit in. Nobody was going quick on rain tires, so we decided to wait until it was within five seconds a lap. Then, we decided we'd go putt around for a few laps, and then my engineer, Geoff (Bushor), came in and told me that the track was going quicker and he told me to push. That's what I did. I've got to thank Barker Specialty and Geller Group for helping me out this weekend."
Joining Summerton on the front row for the second consecutive race is Simona De Silvestro in the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies entry from Team Stargate Worlds. De Silvestro, who started the race at Miller Motorsports Park last month from the pole, posted a best qualifying lap at 1:11.592 (109.118 mph) to take second on the grid. She heads into Saturday's race looking for her second straight victory.
"It was pretty wild," said De Silvestro. "We went out on slicks and we caught traffic on the fast lap we had, and we could have been P1 (early in the session). Then we put the rain tires on. I think we were doing pretty well in the rain, so if it rains tomorrow during the race, we'll be pretty good. At the end, we put slicks on and I went out just behind Summerton. I tried to gap myself, but I should have stayed with him so I would have gotten one more lap on new tires. I wasn't really sure if I could push it, really, but once I was in the corner, I was like, ‘Oh, I could have gone through it way faster.' I'm happy, though. The front row is going to be good. I think I can get a good start for the first race and try to pass Summerton. We'll see."
Qualifying third for the third time in as many Atlantic races was Belgian rookie Frederic Vervisch in the No. 17 Roularta/Isomo/Genoa machine with a best time of 1:12.098 (108.353 mph). The Genoa Racing driver heads into Saturday's race hoping to extend his Atlantic career-opening streak of podium finishes to three consecutive races.
"It didn't look so great this morning, and also early in this (qualifying) session," Vervisch said. "I was sixth or seventh, so I'm quite pleased with third place. I had third place also (at Sebring and Utah), but here, the track time is so small and it was also difficult, so I'm happy with the performance. Now, I will do a good start and try to win this race."
Defending series champion Markus Niemela recorded his best starting position of the season to date with a fourth-place performance in the No. 1 Mr. Jones/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NWR machine at 1:12.291 (108.063 mph) with Newman Wachs Racing. Starting fifth will be Spanish rookie Borja Garcia in the No. 6 Celebfilms.co.uk.CJConsulting.us entry for Condor Motorsports. Garcia's best time was 1:12.726 (107.417 mph).
Saturday's race at the Mazda Formula X presented by Cooper Tires is scheduled to roll off from a standing start shortly after 3:00 p.m. ET. The 45-minute race will be televised live on HDNet.