Sebring: Genoa Racing qualifying report

Genoa Racing's Summerton Wins Pole With New Track Record; While Vervisch Will Start Third In Friday's Atlantic Season Opener at Sebring SEBRING, Fla., March 19 - It didn't matter to Genoa Racing that the 2009 season opener of the Cooper Tires ...

Genoa Racing's Summerton Wins Pole With New Track Record; While Vervisch Will Start Third In Friday's Atlantic Season Opener at Sebring

SEBRING, Fla., March 19 - It didn't matter to Genoa Racing that the 2009 season opener of the Cooper Tires Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda was being held at Sebring International Raceway, a track that has hosted only one other race in this series' history, some 21 years ago.

It also didn't matter that the Indianapolis-based team's driver roster for this event wasn't firmed up until just days before its transporter arrived here, or that one of its two drivers would be making his first series start and appearing in his first race ever at this facility.

Genoa Racing and its drivers were up to the task.

After two rounds of qualifying on Wednesday and Thursday, Jonathan Summerton will start from the pole Friday in the Genoa Racing No. 19 with a new track record. His teammate, rookie Frederic Vervisch, will start third in the Genoa Racing No. 17 in Friday's 45-minute race, which will begin with the sound of screaming Cooper tires in a standing start at 2 p.m.

The Genoa Racing drivers were first and second after the first round of qualifying on Wednesday to earn both spots in the provisional front row. In the second round of qualifying on Thursday Summerton's time of 1:53.571 (117.283 mph) from Wednesday held up to ensure he'd start first. His new track record came on the 11th of 15 laps he ran in Wednesday's qualifying session.

John Edwards topped the charts on Thursday to earn the right to start second in the race, although his time was slower than the lap Summerton ran on Wednesday. Genoa's Vervisch will start third in the 19-car field, in Row 2 but right behind his teammate, thanks to taking only 1:53.625 to travel around the 3.7-mile road course at an average speed of 117.228 mph on Wednesday.

Summerton, 20, of Kissimmee, Fla., earned $1,000 and one point for his Cooper Tire Pole Award.

Vervisch, 22, the driver who will be making his first series start, hails from Kortrijk, Belgium.

"It was fun!" Summerton said after the first round of qualifying on Wednesday. "It's a ride and a half out there. When you're going through Turn 1, it's bumpy as heck. You've got to keep your line perfect, and basically make sure you miss the bump in Turn 1 and Turn 17. It's like a rollercoaster.

"We worked hard between sessions. [Crew chief] Geoff Bushor, [team manager] Thomas Knapp and everyone at Genoa really worked hard. The car was great. I'm sure we still had another two or three tenths, easy.

"I'm happy with the car, but traffic really slowed us up today," Summerton said after taking off his helmet following Thursday's qualifying session.

"Starting from the pole tomorrow will be fun," he added. "You get to start from the front row, see the lights, and have a clear first corner. For me, it's going to be keeping it clean at the start, get a good start, and then just drive away. I know we have a car that's fast. I've just got to keep my head down, keep it planted, and we'll be good for the win. Today I think we were about a tenth of a second off, but all in all I'm happy. The track was better yesterday."

Although everything here this weekend is new to Vervisch, he's been a fast learner. "I think we've done a good job so far," he said after Wednesday's qualifying session. "I can't say there was more in it. We did a change and I thought the car felt better, but then there was a yellow flag. I'm really enjoying this though. I never did such a long qualifying session. Back in Europe qualifying is very short, but here you have to drive, drive, drive. The car gets better the more you drive, so it's interesting. It's something that also suits me, so I'm happy."

Summerton had the second-fastest time on Thursday with a 1:54.185 while Vervisch was third on that chart with a 1:54.232.

"The track conditions were worse today," Vervisch said after Thursday's run. "We made some changes to the car. We still have to analyze it, but it wasn't perfect. I had trouble with traffic today too. But it's still a good result for my first time here and my first time in this car and in this series. We cannot complain. I'm thrilled, excited, and looking forward to the race."

"We're super-pleased with the pace of both drivers," said team manager Thomas Knapp. "Jonathan continued his reputation for being super-quick, and Frederic has been very fast as well. Frederic's feedback has been excellent from the moment he stepped into the car to test with us."

-credit: gr

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Frederic Vervisch , Jonathan Summerton , John Edwards