Niemela Takes Provisional Pole at Miller Motorsports Park TOOELE, Utah (September 19, 2008) - After a season full of second-place results in practice, qualifying and races, Finnish rookie Markus Niemela found his way to the top of the charts...
Niemela Takes Provisional Pole at Miller Motorsports Park
TOOELE, Utah (September 19, 2008) - After a season full of second-place results in practice, qualifying and races, Finnish rookie Markus Niemela found his way to the top of the charts in provisional qualifying for Sunday's Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda race at Miller Motorsports Park.
Driving the No. 8 Mr. Jones Bar & Kitchen/Rauma Town/Turku Karting machine for Brooks Associates Racing, Niemela posted a best lap at 2:28.915 (108.448 mph) to take the provisional pole for the SunRichGourmet.com 1000. Niemela, who is currently third in the championship standings, earned a bonus championship point for his efforts, and he is guaranteed a front-row starting position for Sunday's penultimate round of the 2008 Atlantic season. He started second last weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
"It was good," said Niemela. "I got P2 time pretty much in the beginning, then I felt my tires started going out and they told me that I'm two tenths (of a second) from the pole and I have one more lap left. I just thought, ‘I have to throw down everything I have.' I got the pole by two tenths. I still got one more lap, actually, with the fuel that was going to be a little bit better, but then I made a mistake in the third from last corner and lost a couple of tenths. Anyway, I'm so happy with this. I know there is qualifying tomorrow and this is not the definite pole, but it's so good to be first on some time sheet. Nobody has been really dominating this year's championship, but I've been definitely dominating the second position. So many times I've been second in qualifying, practices and races, and I've never been first on any list, pretty much. This is just so good already. Hopefully, tomorrow goes good. I'm going to have 30 minutes of enjoying this and then start thinking about tomorrow."
Rookie Jonathan Summerton was second quickest in the No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing entry at 2:29.230 (108.220 mph). Summerton is currently second in the overall championship standings, 16 points behind leader Jonathan Bomarito, and now leads Niemela by five points in the battle for Rookie of the Year honors. The American led Friday morning's practice session, which was run in warm and sunny conditions, but a light rain prior to the session, coupled with cooler temperatures and a steady breeze created a new challenge in qualifying.
"It was quite a big difference between this morning's session and now," Summerton explained. "We definitely didn't have a car for this track temperature and weather. I think the rain really hurt us big time. I was really struggling with the car, and the time we did surprised me when we did it. Hopefully, we can do better tomorrow. I know the car is capable of it, as we saw this morning. We've just got to get it right for the temperature."
Dane Cameron made it three rookies in top-three spots with a lap at 2:29.500 (108.024 mph) in the No. 19 MAZDASPEED/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing machine for Genoa Racing. Cameron heads into Saturday's final qualifying session looking for his second career Atlantic pole position and the 2007 Star Mazda champion is also searching for his first career Atlantic victory.
"I'm pretty happy with third in qualifying," Cameron said. "I would have liked to have been a little bit better, but we're a lot better than we were in the morning, so we're pretty happy with the improvement we made. It was pretty slippery because it just rained right towards the beginning of the session, but the car is getting a little bit better and a little bit better, so we'll see how it all ends up. We still need a little bit more to catch up to Niemela and Summerton, but we'll see what we can do."
Simona De Silvestro was fourth on the provisional grid with a lap at 2:29.560 (107.981 mph) in the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Energy machine for Newman Wachs Racing. De Silvestro won the 2008 Atlantic season-opener at Long Beach in April and has started inside the top-four spots twice this season.
Dutchman Junior Strous completed the top five at 2:29.636 (107.926 mph) in the No. 6 NEM/Shell/HTP/Muermans Group/Red, White & Bluezz entry for Condor Motorsports/Team Holland. Strous has finished in the top five in each of his last two starts and is looking for his second career Atlantic win this weekend. His first victory came at Mont-Tremblant in June.
* After scoring his first career Atlantic win last weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Carl Skerlong was sixth in provisional qualifying at 2:30.185 (107.531 mph) in the No. 14 King Taco entry for Pacific Coast Motorsports. Skerlong is currently fifth in the championship standings.
* One week after earning a career-best result of seventh at New Jersey Motorsports Park, rookie Greg Mansell once again found himself well inside the top 10 in provisional qualifying. Mansell turned in an eighth-best lap at 2:30.193 (107.526 mph) in the No. 5 Sunseeker machine for Walker Racing.
* Points leader Jonathan Bomarito was quickest in Thursday's promoter test day and was third in practice on Friday morning, but he slipped to ninth in provisional qualifying. Bomarito turned a best lap at 2:30.592 (107.241 mph) in the No. 26 Del Taco/Stone Brewing/Discount Tire/RLM Investments entry for Mathiasen Motorsports.