Long Beach: Series Friday qualifying report

Bomarito Takes Provisional Pole for Imperial Capital Bank Atlantic Challenge of Long Beach LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 18, 2008) -- American racer Jonathan Bomarito put the wraps on an eventful off season in fine fashion on Friday at the...

Bomarito Takes Provisional Pole for Imperial Capital Bank Atlantic Challenge of Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 18, 2008) -- American racer Jonathan Bomarito put the wraps on an eventful off season in fine fashion on Friday at the Imperial Capital Bank Atlantic Challenge of Long Beach by taking the provisional pole position for Sunday's 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season-opener.

Bomarito posted a best lap at 1:16.830 (92.214 mph) in the No. 26 RLM Investments/Discount Tire Centers/Stone Brewing machine, nearly three-tenths of a second quicker than his closest competitor, to secure a front-row starting spot for Sunday's 25th Atlantic race on the streets of Long Beach. It will be Bomarito's first Atlantic start with Mathiasen Motorsports, which he joined just prior to the final preseason test session at MSR Houston--which he also led--last month. The Monterey, Calif. native is looking for the second pole position of his Atlantic career this weekend.

"It feels amazing," Bomarito said. "It's been a whirlwind off-season, for sure. I have to say thanks to (team owners) Ray and Leslie Mathiasen and the whole Mathiasen Motorsports team. They're great people and have been so accommodating. This all happened real late. We got to do the last series test in Houston and here we are. I was quite surprised by the time, because I did that time with a used set of tires from this morning's practice. When the first red flag came out, we needed to go back out on the old set to re-baseline the change that we made to the car. That put us in an eight-minute window when we went to the new tires. Actually, I was on a lap that was better than my pole time when the red flag came out at the end. I think we have a little bit in our back pocket still for tomorrow. It was good. The track actually didn't keep progressing. The track conditions were similar to this morning. Usually on Fridays, you see a big change in speed from first practice to qualifying. I think some of that can be attributed to the American Le Mans Series cars practicing on Thursday. When we got on-track this morning, it was pretty good straight away."

Second-quickest in provisional qualifying was Finnish rookie Markus Niemela in the No. 8 Mr. Jones Bar & Kitchen entry for Brooks Associates Racing. Niemela logged a best lap at 1:17.114 (91.874 mph) late in the session to earn a spot on the provisional front row. The Finn comes to the Atlantic Championship after competing most recently in various international series--including GP2--last season.

"Of course, I am quite happy with the second place today," Niemela said. "It would have been nice to have been first, and I would sleep much better because I know I would start from the front row anyway even if I crashed into the wall on my first lap in qualifying tomorrow. Second place is nice. It's my first Atlantic qualifying and my first qualifying on a real street circuit. I'm happy with that. Actually, in the beginning of the session, we had some problems with the engine. I thought we wouldn't be able to run the whole qualifying session, but luckily we got it right and I was able to run. I'm definitely satisfied. Everybody did a great job to get this done."

Third on the provisional grid is another rookie making his Atlantic debut this weekend, Jonathan Summerton in the No. 36 Nuclear Clean Air Energy entry for Newman Wachs Racing. The American clocked a best lap at 1:17.266 (91.694 mph). Summerton's Atlantic Championship debut comes just a week after he became the first American driver to win an A1GP race, which he achieved last weekend in Shanghai, China.

"Today went really well," said Summerton. "Basically, in practice I was trying to learn the track. It's my first time here, and I haven't been in the car in a long time. Coming here straight from Shanghai, I've got a little bit of jetlag still. It was a great session. We did some changes that didn't quite go in the direction we were hoping, but we were able to pull out a decent lap time. Hopefully, tomorrow we can improve in the session and get up to the front row."

Canadian racer James Hinchcliffe was fourth-quickest with a lap at 1:17.266 (91.694 mph) aboard the No. 3 Indeck/Tire Rack entry from Forsythe Petit Racing. Second-year driver Carl Skerlong made it three Americans in the top five with a lap at 1:17.355 (91.588 mph) in the No. 14 King Taco machine for Pacific Coast Motorsports. The top-12 drivers in provisional qualifying turned laps within one second of Bomarito's provisional pole-winning time.

-credit: atlantic

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Series Atlantic
Drivers James Hinchcliffe , Jonathan Summerton , Carl Skerlong