TONIS KASEMETS FINDS COMFORT ZONE, LEADS FRIDAY ATLANTIC QUALIFYING AT ROAD AMERICA ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin (August 19, 2005) -- There's no place like home. Just ask Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama driver Tonis Kasemets (...
TONIS KASEMETS FINDS COMFORT ZONE, LEADS FRIDAY ATLANTIC QUALIFYING AT ROAD AMERICA
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin (August 19, 2005) -- There's no place like home. Just ask Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama driver Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil).
The Estonian-born Kasemets now makes his home in Mundelein, Illinois -- just two-and-a-half hours from the 4.048-mile Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Over the last few years the classic road course has served as a home track for Kasemets, racing and winning in numerous events in various series at the venue. Friday, Kasemets demonstrated just how happy he was to be back at the friendly confines of Road America as he led the opening-round of Friday qualifying after carding a top lap of 2:02.059 (119.391 mph).
Considering the dramatic and heartbreaking struggles that Kasemets has endured in his last several Atlantic events, this weekend's homecoming might be just what the doctor ordered. In the last three series races, the 31-year-old racer has suffered either an accident or spin while running at the front of the pack, including last weekend in Denver when he spun and finished eighth after trying to make a pass for the lead in the final turn of the event.
With Friday's effort, Kasemets secures a front-row starting spot for Sunday's BOSPoker.com Toyota Atlantic Grand Prix of Road America (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel -- Saturday, August 27 at 2 p.m. ET) and he earned a championship point as he now trails series leader Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) by 41 markers, 268-227 entering Saturday's final round of qualifying. After falling to third in the standings after his recent foibles, Kasemets will take every point he can get and he's hoping today's will be the first of many this weekend as he tries to prevent his rival Zwolsman from wrapping up the title at his home course.
Another driver looking to make sure that Zwolsman doesn't capture the crown in this weekend's penultimate round of competition is German rookie Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors). Last week, Wirth grabbed his first series victory on the streets of Denver, moving up to second place in the series standings. With his first Atlantic win fresh in his mind and a good history at Road America, where he won and finished third in two Formula BMW USA events last season, Wirth entered the weekend with a lot of confidence and it showed on Friday. He clocked the second-fastest qualifying lap at 2:02.803 (118.668 mph).
David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/US RaceTronics) of Mexico enjoyed his best road course qualifying performance since racing at his home track in Monterrey, Mexico earlier this season. Martinez owned a top time of 2:03.131 (118.352 mph) to finish third in the provisional qualifying order.
A couple of rookies seeing their first Atlantic action this weekend also had strong efforts on Friday. Former Barber Dodge Pro Series standout Daniel Di Leo (#54 Armsup Motorsports) wound up with the fourth-fastest lap with a time of 2:03.288 (118.201 mph). Oconomowoc, Wisconsin native Bobby Wilson (#5 Ocala Gran Prix/BW Race Schools) was second in the morning Atlantic practice session and the 23-year-old driver who clinched the 2004 Formula Ford Zetec title at Road America, was fifth in Friday qualifying with a fast lap of 2:03.556 (117.945 mph).
After posting a time of 2:03.604 (117.889 mph), Canadian racer Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) slotted in sixth, while Chris Menninga (#55 Armsup Motorsports), also making his series debut this weekend, was seventh at 2:03.901 (117.616 mph). Al Unser III (#10 BOSPoker.net/PKV Racing) owned a time of 2:04.195 (117.338 mph) in eighth place.
Perhaps the most shocking result of the day was that Zwolsman finished ninth in the running order. The talented Dutchman typically spends the first practice getting familiar with new course and not worrying about his results, but he never managed to find his speed in his qualifying this afternoon. He had a top time of 2:04.243 (117.293 mph) and if he were to finish in the same spot tomorrow, it would represent his worst starting position since Round 1, when he was forced to start from the back of the grid due to a penalty.
After becoming the youngest driver in series history to win an Atlantic pole last week in Denver, 17-year-old rookie Alan Sciuto (#27 Dean's R/C Products/Sparco) rounded out the top 10 with a lap of 2:04.243 (117.293 mph).
Three-time series winner Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) had a tough go of it in qualifying. After finishing fourth in morning practice, Legge suffered damage to her car when she went off course in Turn 14 on just her second qualifying lap. She was able to make it back to pit lane but was unable to continue the qualifying session and wound up 12th in first-round qualifying.
Saturday will feature a 30-minute morning Atlantic practice session, beginning at 10:50 a.m. Central Time with the final round of qualifying slated for 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Follow all of this weekend's action from Road America at www.toyotaatlantic.com through the live Timing link.
ATLANTIC QUALIFYING NOTES
* Daryl Leiske (#63 Speedway Motors) of Bite Racing posted the fastest time among the C2 competitors this weekend with a lap of 2:06.412 (115.280 mph) that put him 13th overall.
* Local driver Chris Prey (#2 Gehl Company) of Oshkosh, Wisconsin made his Atlantic debut on Friday. Prey finished 11th in qualifying with a time of 2:04.546 (117.007 mph).
* Two drivers did not post qualifying times on Friday due to mechanical issues. Kyle Kelley (#24 UP Racing.com) experienced suspension problems while Bob Siska (#18 RJS Motorsports) struggled with a bad gearbox. Both drivers hope to have their respective problems fixed for Saturday.
Quotes from the top three drivers from today's qualifying session follow:
TONIS KASEMETS (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil) -- Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis: "Things are going good. The team did a good job, I know this track very well. It all depends on karma now. We've been faster before and had a chance of winning in other races, and we ended up nowhere. We're fast here again, but I just don't know what will happen. (On changing his bad luck of late) I have people throwing horseshoes at me, we're trying holy water, but nothing is working, so I'm drinking alcohol, going to shrinks ad rehab, and we'll see what happens. (On trying to catch Zwolsman in the championship chase) Charles (Zwolsman) is from Europe, he reads books, he's a smart dude. He knows all he has to do is start and finish mid-pack, and the championship is all his. In my mind, I think he's our series champion."
ANDREAS WIRTH (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors) -- Brooks Associates Racing: "We had a good qualifying session, but I had a bit of bad luck at the end. I couldn't get a draft. I don't know if I have enough speed to beat Tonis. It could be better, but I'm happy with second place. (On the uncertain weather forecast in Elkhart Lake) You never know what will happen tomorrow, if it rains, it could change everything. We'll see. (On the pressure to win with Charles Zwolsman on the verge of clinching the championship) There's no pressure. I'm just doing the best I can, and at the end, what happens, happens. I'm still a rookie, I'm only 20 years old. I have plenty of time. I'm happy with my results in the last few races."
DAVID MARTINEZ (#7 Roshfrans) -- US RaceTronics: "It was an okay qualifying session. We've been growing stronger as a team and it starting to show. It is good motivation for the end of the season and it will give us confidence on the fast tracks were we have struggled in the past. The team has done a great job and we are looking forward to improving for tomorrow. I am grateful to Roshfrans for their help this season."