Portland: Race notes

KASEMETS CAPTURES WIRE-TO-WIRE VICTORY ON SUNDAY TO SWEEP ATLANTIC PORTLAND DOUBLEHEADER PORTLAND, Oregon (June 19, 2005) -- The dream weekend for Tonis Kasemets ( ...

KASEMETS CAPTURES WIRE-TO-WIRE VICTORY ON SUNDAY TO SWEEP ATLANTIC PORTLAND DOUBLEHEADER

PORTLAND, Oregon (June 19, 2005) -- The dream weekend for Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK ind./TMI/Redline Oil) had a storybook ending Sunday as the Estonian-born racer led all 35 laps to complete a sweep of the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama doubleheader at Portland International Raceway.

Kasemets, who produced his first series win Saturday in the first of two races this weekend on the 1.964-mile Portland road circuit, started from the pole and was never seriously threatened today as he won the BOSPoker.com Toyota Atlantic Grand Prix of Portland.

In stark contrast to Saturday, when he moved from fourth to second place at the start and passed Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors) for the lead with 10 laps left in the race, Kasemets clearly had the fastest car on track Sunday and he didn't waste any time proving it. He led the 20-car field smoothly through the difficult PIR Festival Curves at the start of the race and he quickly began to pull away from the pack. Building a lead of more than 15 seconds at one point during the race, Kasemets went on to win by 11.764 seconds over Wirth.

The win capped a nearly perfect weekend for the 31-year-old racer, who currently resides in Mundelein, Illinois. He won his first series pole on Saturday morning and followed it up with his initial Atlantic win in the afternoon. He not only led wire-to-wire in today's race, but he also earned a bonus championship point for setting the fastest lap of the race -- a new course record of 1:07.977 (104.012 mph) on Lap 7. With the impressive weekend performance, Kasemets seized control of the series championship chase for the first time in his two-year Atlantic career.

Wirth also had a strong weekend, competing for the Brooks Associates Racing team. After posting his first podium finish by coming home third on Saturday, the German rookie got a good jump at the start of today's race, moving from fourth to second in Turn 1. He tried valiantly to keep up with Kasemets but just didn't have the speed to stay with the new series leader. Wirth crossed the finish line in second place for his second consecutive podium result.

American first-year driver Kyle Kelley (#24 UP Racing.com/T. Christy) saw his weekend come to a disappointing ending on Sunday afternoon. Kelley posted his best series result of 2005 on Saturday when he finished fourth. He looked to have bettered that result by one position in the second race of the weekend for his first series podium, but his car failed a post-race technical inspection. Kelley was disqualified from today's race for the infraction.

Kelley's misfortune benefited British racer Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing). On Saturday, Legge suffered her worst result of the season to date, taking the checkered flag in ninth position. She bounced back with an impressive performance Sunday moving from her 10th-place starting position to finish third overall. The result marked her second podium finish of the season and first since she won at Long Beach in April's season-opening Atlantic race.

After battling for position with Legge for a good part of the race, promising, young Mexican racer David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/Aviacsa/RocaAcero/Multigama/Martiga) claimed fourth place for his third consecutive top-six finish to start his '05 season for US RaceTronics. Antoine Bessette of Canada came home fifth for Polestar Racing Group as he now has four straight top-five results to begin his Atlantic career.

On Saturday, Al Unser III (#10 BOSPoker.net/PKV Racing) recorded his best finish among his five Toyota Atlantic career starts when he crossed the finish line in seventh place. The driver known as "Just Al" upped his performance and finish by one position in the second race of the doubleheader with a sixth-place result for Brooks Associates Racing.

Seasoned road racer Chris Dyson (#16 Thetford/Norcold) finished eighth for the second consecutive race this weekend while Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports), who entered the weekend leading the championship standings, wound up eighth. Zwolsman got together with Bessette on Lap 11 of the race and suffered front wing damage as he dropped from fifth to his worst finishing position of the season.

Lee Atkins (#48 Advanced Medical, Inc.) finished ninth overall but emerged as the top finisher in the Yokohama Tire C2 Cup. The Woodinville, Washington native had a strong performance on the track where's seen a lot of action in SCCA competition and he also recorded the fastest C2 race lap. Fellow C2 racer Justin Sofio (#15 RLM Investments) rounded out the top 10 finishers for Sunday's race. Today's race was run caution free and was completed in a PIR Atlantic record time of 40:25.992.

After four rounds in the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship, Kasemets moves into the series points lead with 109 points. Zwolsman falls to second in the title chase with 103 points while Bessette is third, 13 points behind the leader. Legge's podium effort keeps her in the championship hunt, just 17 markers in back of Kasemets in fourth place.

Both of this weekend's races from Portland will air on SPEED Channel on Saturday, June 25, beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

Quotes from the top three qualifiers from today's session follow:

TONIS KASEMETS (Flexovit Abrasive Prods/MK/TMI/Red Line Oil -- Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis): "We were very lucky to guess the right set up. Everybody in the team works really hard and helps each other out so this is a great reward for our hard work. The first key people are Flexovit that has been supporting me since 98 and then we put the deal together with Dan Cobb. It takes a good chemistry to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and to surround with good people in order to be successful. It is great to be the points leader but my goal is to lead the championship until the end of the season and I am going to keep working really had until I achieve my goal."

ANDREAS WIRTH (Wurges Windows & Doors -- Brooks Associates Racing): "It was a great race. It was just a little bit tight in the first corner so I hope that everybody made it without too many problems. I tried to follow Tonis' pace at the beginning of the race but he went away and then, with the traffic, I never got a chance to try and gain time on him. So I just concentrated on driving my second place home. Maybe a caution would have helped me to try and pass him, you never know. We struggled in Long Beach, Monterrey was better and this was a very good weekend. I hope we'll keep going this way."

KATHERINE LEGGE (PKV Racing -- Polestar Racing Group): "It was a tough race, coming from 10th position like I did. It was a disappointing weekend for me overall so it was good to end it on a high note. It's not the way you want to move up to third, with someone being disqualified, but we'll take the points however we can get them. We need the points. This was certainly one of my best races. It was tough here because it's such a difficult place to pass. It took me quite a while to get past the #7 car (David Martinez). If I could have had another 10 laps I think I might've been able to finish as high as second."

-atlantic-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Katherine Legge , Kyle Kelley , David Martinez , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Justin Sofio , Andreas Wirth , Lee Atkins , Dan Cobb , Chris Dyson , Al Unser III