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Mid-Ohio: John Walko Racing race report

TWO IN THE TOP TEN FOR JWR AT MID-OHIO LACROIX EARNS SECOND PODIUM, SMITH TENTH TRAFFORD, PA (May 22, 2006) -- On the strength of two top ten finishes among the team's three drivers at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, John Walko Racing jumped from...

TWO IN THE TOP TEN FOR JWR AT MID-OHIO
LACROIX EARNS SECOND PODIUM, SMITH TENTH

TRAFFORD, PA (May 22, 2006) -- On the strength of two top ten finishes among the team's three drivers at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, John Walko Racing jumped from seventh to third in the STAR Mazda Series Team Championship Standings.

Rookie Kevin Lacroix earned his second podium finish in as many tries, placing third to back up a strong debut showing in Houston just one week ago where he finished second. Lacroix qualified sixth and worked his way up to third, eventually dueling for second place with Championship leader Adrian Carrio in the closing laps.

The two drivers raced close but clean to the end according to Kevin, "Adrian and I had some close calls in the final laps as we came up on lap traffic and we almost made contact."

The seventeen year old Canadian improved his times in every dry weather session throughout the three day event leading up to the race. He credits the rapid learning curve to the chemistry he is building with his crew.

"I didn't get to do any preseason testing with the team so these past two races I have been learning how to communicate with my engineer and team and things are working really well."

Despite running in just two of the three races this season, the Quebec native finds himself seventh in the Championship hunt just 32 points behind Carrio courtesy of the highest points per race average in the series.

Ross Smith has had fast cars and fast sessions so far this season, but everything came together at Mid-Ohio for a solid event from start to finish. From the opening practice on Thursday, where he was second quickest to race day where he qualified eight and finished tenth, Smith was never out of the top ten.

With two top ten finishes now on the season, Smith vaults to a tie for ninth in the Championship. The Plano, Texas driver indicated they could be even a little higher with some better luck in the race.

"I had tenth in the race despite struggling with some handling issues, - I was hit during the race and it upset the car a little bit, but we still drove off with a top ten finish. Overall it was a pretty good weekend, I practiced fast all week and in the race we survived through the issues and still ended up with a top ten."

"It was an up and down weekend," according to Charles Anti, driver of the #86 John Walko racing machine. Opening practice saw Anti seventh on the charts while a practice session in the rain ended with the Rookie driver posting the fourth fastest time. The confidence continued to build as each session saw quicker and quicker times culminating in an eleventh quick time in qualifying.

"That was my second time driving the car in the rain ever, to run those times was pretty good. Then in qualifying a penalty for a spin dropped me back to nineteenth. That was the story of the weekend."

Anti was working his way through the field early before an off track excursion forced him to the pits briefly and an eventual 22nd finish.

"Without the spin and penalty in qualifying, it would have been an entirely different race. Despite that, I had moved to fifteenth in the race before an off forced me to the pits. It was an up and down weekend but overall we are running much better.

Over the last three weeks the team has tested for five days at two different facilities and raced together at both Houston and Mid-Ohio. As a result, John Walko can see a big difference in his team.

"The developing chemistry between the crews and the drivers is evident. Ross was at the top of the charts all weekend and Charles ran his most competitive times of his season by far. Of course Kevin and his crew could not have started out any better, particularly considering they spotted the entire field pre-season testing and one race."

The team continues their torrid schedule with two days of testing at Milwaukee this week followed by the lone oval race on the schedule at the Milwaukee Mile in conjunction with the Champ Car World Series event.

-jwr

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Series PWC
Drivers Ross Smith , Adrian Carrio , Kevin Lacroix , Charles Anti