It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it. And it was one dirty race track, but Carl Skerlong, driver of the ...
It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it. And it was one dirty race track, but Carl Skerlong, driver of the #14 Pacific Motorsports King Taco car, got the job done, running the fastest lap of the session at 1:10:801 to take the provisional pole for Sunday's race. In fact Americans swept the top three positions, an achievement sure to be appreciated in New Jersey.
"It's been going great so far," Skerlong said. "(Engineer) Burke (Harrison)'s done an awesome job with the car all weekend and the same with the guys. The morale has been good all weekend. Hopefully, we'll be able to take it tomorrow. The weather is going to probably going to play a part in it. There is possibly going to be some rain tonight, and we saw how that affected the track this morning. Hopefully we can keep it going and finally have that win that we've been looking for."
Perhaps the rain will clear up some of the dirt. At any rate, Skerlong, prominently featured in Mazda's racing commercials in the US, hopes to retain that position through the final qualifications for Sunday's inaugural Formula X race at Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsport Park. Second quick this afternoon was Florida's Jonathan Summerton, driver of the #36 car for Newman Wachs Racing, who was close behind Skerlong with a lap of 1:11:194.
"As I've said all weekend, it's fun to be out there," said Summerton. "It gets dirty very quickly, though, when people drop a wheel, it brings the dirt on. We were struggling with that in the last couple of laps and couldn't go any faster. It was a little disappointing, because we had the speed to be on pole. Hopefully, tomorrow it stays dry and we can be on pole."
Indeed, weather seems to be the big variable this weekend, whether it's the Formula One contest at Monza with its rain drenched qualifying course, or the threat of rain and how it will impact this first Atlantic Champs ship Series race on the Eastern seaboard. While doubtless the European drivers, such as 4th-quickest Marcus Niemela will favor rain, all the warm-weather guys are hoping the opposite, including California's Dane Cameron, the third-place qualifier.
"We're really happy to qualify third," Cameron said. "We've been struggling a little bit throughout the weekend. We missed the second practice with a throttle cable issue, so we're trying to make up for lost ground here. The track conditions have been pretty tough with the weather and all that. We made some big changes for qualifying to see what would happen, because we've got two sessions, and it really paid off for us this time. I'm glad to be in the top three. Hopefully, now we found something that works and we can improve on this and try to start on the front row on Sunday."
Cameron, the reigning Star Mazda champion, is driver of the #19 Mazdaspeed/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx racing car for Genoa Motorsports and would relish that front row start.
Other standouts during the 2008 season did not fare as well, with points leader Jonathan Bomarito qualifying 6th and Laguna Seca winner James Hinchcliffe in 7th.
Of course, all could change because the second qualifying session will take place early Sunday morning, only hours before the race.
Editor's note: Sunday final qualifying update
Sunday morning qualifying round two saw Skerlong continue his domination at the new venue in New Jersey. Skerlong hold the pole after landing a flying lap at 1:10.211.
Markus Niemela slots on the front row with his best lap at 1:10.422. The second row was taken by Kevin Lacroix (1:10.585) and Jonathan Summerton (1:10.606).