Millville I: Newman Wachs Racing qualifying report

WEATHER THROWS A WRENCH IN QUALIFYING AT NEW JERSEY FOR NWR Millville, New Jersey (June 12, 2009) - Qualifying for round three of the Atlantic Championship at New Jersey Motorsports Park is in the books. Newman Wachs racing...

WEATHER THROWS A WRENCH IN QUALIFYING AT NEW JERSEY FOR NWR

Millville, New Jersey (June 12, 2009) - Qualifying for round three of the Atlantic Championship at New Jersey Motorsports Park is in the books. Newman Wachs racing drivers Markus Niemela and John Edwards will start 4th and 8th, respectively, for the first race on this double-header weekend. Race #1 will take place tomorrow (Saturday) at 3:05 EST and can be viewed live on HDnet. Qualifying for race #2 will take place tomorrow morning at 9:30am with the race airing live Sunday at 3:05pm.

Track time today was precious. With only one practice this morning that was shortened for oil clean-up, teams did not have much time to work on qualifying set-ups in the warm, muggy conditions. As the qualifying session began this afternoon, it began to drizzle, sending teams and drivers into frenzy. Most drivers were only able to get two laps in before rain really started to fall. With everyone sitting in the pits, just waiting for the rain to stop, strategy and tire choice became a crucial part of the outcome.

Reigning Atlantic Champion, Markus Niemela, started out the session on new slick tires, which proved to be the desirable option. He was sitting fourth when the rains came down and had only two laps on his fresh Cooper rubber. Markus, along with the rest of the field, waited for the track to dry, and went out again on his already scrubbed tires. The track was drying very quickly, and every time Markus crossed the start/ finish line, he was in first position. It was only after he had been given the checkered flag that three competitors crossed behind him, bumping him back to 4th.

Markus Niemela, #1 Mr. Jones/ Nuclear Clean Air Energy/ Entergy/ Newman Wachs Racing: (P4 1.12.291)

"That was a bizarre session. The weather here changes so much. It made for an interesting run, definitely, for all of us. I'm happy with 4th right now. With the way the checkered fell, the others got another half a lap than me and that really made a difference out there today. The track was drying so quickly, every lap was faster and faster. We know where we stand so we should be good for the second qualifying tomorrow and the race as well."

For current points leader John Edwards, the weather was a detrimental aspect of his qualification run today, and he will have to start 8th for tomorrow's race. The team made a gamble and had John start on rain tires, which ended up being the wrong decision. When it became clear that the track was going to go dry, there wasn't enough time to do a full five-lap stint on new slick tires. He was just getting up to speed as the drivers on the sharp end of the grid were turning their fastest times of the day. John's only chance at moving up was spoiled when David Garza had an off-track excursion and came back on the track right in front of John out of turn three. Don't count out the 18-year-old. He had a win and a 3rd place last year in Star Mazda here at New Jersey and he hasn't finished off the podium thus far in the Atlantic Championship in 2009.

John Edwards, #36 MAZDASPEED/ Nuclear Clean Air Energy/ Entergy/ Newman Wachs Racing: (P8 1.13.173)

"We took a risk and it just didn't work out for us today. If the rain had been just 10 minutes earlier it would have been the right decision. But, that's just how things go. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it just doesn't. We do know we have a fast race car. We were quickest this morning in practice, so we'll get another shot at pole tomorrow (for race #2)."

-credit: nwr

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Series ATLANTIC