AWR's Prendeville Second in Saturday's FF Zetec Race at Road Atlanta

BRASELTON, Ga., April 24 - Andrew Prendeville of Monroeville, Pa. had the best results of the Andersen Walko Racing (AWR) drivers in a pair of Cooper Tires championship races at Road Atlanta Saturday.

The team, which is based in Fairfield, N.J. and North Versailles, Pa., has three drivers entered in SCCA Formula Ford Zetec events and three drivers in Formula SCCA races on the 2.5-mile road course here this weekend.

Although he lost fourth gear just when he needed it most, Prendeville still hung on to finish second in the first of two FF Zetec races on the weekend schedule Saturday in the AWR Racelink/Roos Racing School Van Diemen Ford No. 25.

One of his teammates, Adam Pecorari of Aston, Pa., gave him a good run for his money until he was involved in an accident while running fourth that knocked him out of the race.

Their other teammate, Mike Andersen of Green Pond, N.J., finished fourth after starting tenth. He was making his first start of the year and his car was oversteering. The team is busy making changes Saturday night so he won't have that problem tomorrow and can hopefully advance one more spot and get on the podium.

Two of Andersen Walko Racing's Formula SCCA drivers - Chris Meredith of Potomac, Md. and Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. - qualified second and third for the companion Formula SCCA race and both led that event before they encountered problems and finished eighth and tenth, respectively. Their teammate, Danny Abbale of Northport, N.Y., unfortunately dropped out early with gearbox problems.

Prendeville started third in Saturday's FF Zetec race, with Pecorari right behind him in fifth. Prendeville ran in second or third in the early laps, and by lap five those two AWR teammates were running third and fourth, respectively.

Andersen, rebounding from a crash on Thursday, was charging through the field too. He was sixth - and closing on fifth place - by lap nine.

Prendeville charged into second place on the frontstretch on lap 10 but slipped back to third on lap 16 when he lost fourth gear.

Friend or not, Pecorari was about to take advantage of Prendeville's vulnerability and pounce, but unfortunately with just minutes to go Wade Cunningham spun out, tried to come back on the course, and was hit by Prendeville. Pecorari tried to miss the spinning Cunningham but couldn't avoid him either, and as a result he crashed and wasn't able to finish.

"Andrew lost fourth gear and I was about to pass him, but then Wade Cunningham spun out," Pecorari explained later. "Andrew hit him and I had nowhere to go. I T-boned him. The car is banged up a bit, but we'll be OK for tomorrow."

"I ran second for awhile, and then my fourth gear blew up on the backstretch," Prendeville said. "It was an 18-lap race, and on lap 16 Wade [Cunningham, the polesitter] spun out in turn seven. I clipped his nose when he tried to come back on the track, and Adam had nowhere to go."

With the best results, Prendeville was naturally the happiest of the AWR drivers.

"By finishing second I'll start on the front row tomorrow, so we'll see if we can improve that spot by one position," he said. "I picked up some points, so that's good. I was satisfied; I ran a 25.8 without fourth gear and a 24.9 was my best lap, so that was pretty good."

"We're playing catch-up since this is my first race, but we're getting there little by little," said Andersen of his Valvoline/Pi Research/Performance Friction AWR Van Diemen Ford No. 9. "After qualifying we made a bunch of changes but we went too far and my car was oversteering in the race, so we'll make some more changes and try again tomorrow."

Bobby Wilson won the race. Behind Prendeville was Jason Bowles in third.

In the FSCCA race, Meredith got the lead on lap two with his MII Security Consultants-sponsored car and was pulling away before he encountered some problems on lap five.

"I went in a turn too fast and spun, so I went from the front to the back," he noted. "I came back up to fourth, but then I did a 360 [spin].

"Then coming out of seven on the last lap, I hooked a tire on the rumble strip and put it into the wall," he said. "I broke the front wing and the front nose, but we can fix it. The car handled great, really."

Klein had an exciting race too, taking the lead on lap 12 on the frontstretch. "I made passes almost 10 times for the lead, and at the very worst I thought I'd be third," he said afterwards. "But then in the last turn on lap 15 I got the left-side tires over the rumble strip, and the car had an electrical failure and I was out.

"I learned what not to do, so that was good experience," he said wisely, an attitude which should please his sponsors, Nexus Distribution Corp., Midwest Steel & Services, Ironclad Performance Wear, ProStar, Kalfact Plastics and Fettes, Love & Sieben.

Although he's going to have to start last tomorrow, with all that action Abbale knows he could end up on the podium tomorrow too.

"I lost my gearbox in the middle of the second lap," he said of Saturday's event. "It wouldn't go in, so I had to sit this one out. All I can do is just try again tomorrow."

Like Andersen, Abbale was also rebounding from an accident during practice on Thursday.

Polesitter Elivan Goiulart continued to rule the division, winning over Franklin Futrele and Enzo Potolicchio.

Twin races are on the card again on Sunday, with the finishing order today determining the starting grid tomorrow in a straight-up format.

-awr-