Lacroix & Anti Shine at Miller Motorsports Park TRAFFORD, PA (July 18, 2006) -- The John Walko Racing trio of Ross Smith, Charles Anti and Kevin Lacroix rolled in to Miller Motorsports Park with high hopes despite not testing at the facility...
Lacroix & Anti Shine at Miller Motorsports Park
TRAFFORD, PA (July 18, 2006) -- The John Walko Racing trio of Ross Smith, Charles Anti and Kevin Lacroix rolled in to Miller Motorsports Park with high hopes despite not testing at the facility in advance. The team experienced a roller coaster weekend that had season highs and lows.
Plano, Texas native Smith was looking to bounce back from a recent run of bad luck that saw him miss the Milwaukee round due to illness and then exit the Montreal race after being tangled in the first lap accident. Unfortunately for Smith, the trend would continue as he broke his ankle in an incident in the first practice session of the weekend. Smith was unable to continue and will miss the remainder of the 2006 Star Mazda Championship.
Anti on the other hand had the most impressive showing of his rookie season, consistently running in or near the top ten in each session and qualifying thirteenth, over nine seconds faster than his opening practice times.
The best effort was saved for the race however as Anti worked his way in to the sixth position in short order.
"We didn't have many racing laps but I got up to sixth and was challenging for fifth when the engine started overheating on the last lap."
The impressive run was not reflected in the final results as the ailing engine just made it to the end of the race, dropping Anti to tenth overall. Despite the loss of a few positions, the Pittsburgh native was excited to net a second top ten in a row.
"We have shown a lot of improvement these last few races with the driver in particular," laughed Anti. "This race has turned the Championship upside down."
Anti moved to eleventh in the Championship hunt just one point shy of the top ten while the team made another jump as well, this time to second place overall in the Team Championship standings.
Team owner John Walko is happy with his young team's progress despite the events that sidelined his veteran driver.
"With Ross out, Eric his engineer went out on the track to observe/coach and Charles really responded well. It was a way to make the best of an unfortunate situation; they performed very well"
Rookie hot shoe Lacroix suffered through a series of issues leading up to the race according to Walko but unlike Anti, his brightest moments came late in the race.
"We didn't test at this track like most teams had. With a test day scheduled before the event, we thought we would be fine. Unfortunately the schedule did not work in our favor regarding Kevin. He was only able to run one of the sessions on Wednesday then in the first session on Thursday he made contact with another car. To compound issues, he lost an engine in that session as well and spent the following session doing installation laps. Friday's schedule was also cut short as Kevin was penalized for the Thursday incident and missed the morning session."
Lacroix still was able to find speed in a hurry as he has done all season. A great qualifying effort put him fifth on the grid and he ended the day with yet another podium, finishing second.
"When Kevin rolled on to the track for qualifying he had no more than eight laps at speed on the track at that point and he qualified fifth, noted Walko. "He had the least amount of seat time of anybody on track. He did a great job, particularly considering the lack of track time."
The young Canadian took advantage of other drivers' mistakes and moved to fourth in the Championship points, second among all rookies. Following the race, Lacroix left Salt Lake City for England and a test with Team Canada's A1GP program.
"I have to be happy with that result. We had very little testing on Thursday and Friday because of little encounters with the car and qualifying in fifth was already the best I could get out of the #74 UniSelect machine. But it was very strong in the race. I have to be pleased with the results and the tireless work of the JWR crew. "
Round Seven of the STAR Mazda Championship Series at Portland International Raceway will be run as part of the American Le Mans Series event on July 20-22. Joining Anti and Lacroix in the third car will be Russell Walker who finished eighth in the series this past weekend in Utah, his second top ten of the season.