JWR's Kate Gundlach Honored as Star Mazda Crew Member of the Year Zartarian Scores Top Five at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TRAFFORD, PA (October 29, 2007) -- The 2007 Star Mazda Series closer at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was a successful effort for the John Walko Racing team both on and off the track with a top five finish, two top tens and a highly coveted year end award for crew member Kate Gundlach.
Gundlach, JWR's data acquisition engineer for all three entries, was awarded the Performance Friction Crew Member of the Year Award at the season ending awards banquet, a consensus award for the most valuable member of a particular team whose efforts have also benefited other teams and the series. For team owner John Walko, it was a much deserved award for an integral member of the team.
"We had a very good race weekend but the high point had to be Kate winning the Star Mazda Crew Member of the Year Award. It was a total surprise to everyone so it was very exciting for the team as well as Kate. This award is particular significant I think as it is voted on by peers and then the final decision is made by Star Mazda management. To even be considered for the award, let alone win it, requires impressing a lot of people along the way."
The award was also particularly important in that Kate is truly a homegrown talent. Like Walko, she is a Pittsburgh native with family ties to the local racing community. Her first professional work though was as an intern with JWR while working toward her mechanical engineering degree at the University of Pittsburgh. Along the way she has parlayed the opportunity in to a full time career that also involves the roles of team parts manager, test engineer and soon race engineer of the team's third car.
"I am proud of what Kate has accomplished. She came to the team with the raw tools and has developed in to an integral part of our organization. Kate is the second member of the team to have earned the Star Mazda Crew Member of the year award along with Caleb Stream. Developing talent outside of the car as well as inside is very important to our team and something we take considerable pride in."
Kate echoed the sentiments of her team owner regarding the team's approach.
"Winning this award was a big surprise to me! I have to thank John and the whole crew; they are responsible for developing me to where I am today and deserve the credit for this award. >From John to engineers Steve (Dreizler) and Eric (Langbein) to mechanics Caleb and Scott (Gates) each has invested time in helping me develop as part of this team. Their commitment to the overall team is what makes this group successful. I also have to thank John Walko Sr. and drivers Charles (Anti) and Russell (Walker) as well as their families. It has been a very rewarding experience working with everyone associated with John Walko Racing."
Of course the trip to Monterey, California involved more than the awards banquet as the team returned to a three car effort with Californian John Zartarian behind the wheel of the third car for the first time since the second round in Houston. Zartarian lead the way with a fifth place finish followed by Russell Walker in tenth.
According to Walko, the return to a three car effort always seems to provide an extra spark for the team.
"As usual the team works better with three cars, things were automatic, the atmosphere was more upbeat, everybody was doing their normal jobs and everything worked great. In all it was a pretty good weekend."
"Johnny did a great job, for only driving the car twice this year and to finish top five in this field is an accomplishment. He was actually second in one of the early sessions and that always helps to get all the cars moving forward. Russell had a good race as well, picking off some spots in the race and running a smart, clean race"
Both drivers found speed early, netting second fastest laps in different practice sessions. JWR's other full time entry Charles Anti had an uphill battle at times but was very fast on race day.
"Russell followed John's lead, setting the second fastest lap in the following session, and stayed in the top ten almost all weekend. Charles had a slow start on the weekend but moved up some spots early in the race and was running very quick laps. He was just all by himself after going off in turn five so his results didn't actually reflect how competitive he was in the race.
The team now moves in to the off season but does not plan on resting for long. Testing has already begun at BeaveRun Motorsports Complex with more dates being added to the schedule soon. There are also ongoing discussions about racing in the Star Mazda Winter Series that begins in November at Buttonwillow in California followed by dates at Firebird Raceway and Phoenix International Raceway in December and January respectively.
Drivers interested in testing or discussing racing plans for the Winter Series or the 2008 season should contact John Walko Racing as soon as possible.
It was a great weekend overall, I was really happy with a fifth particularly after our qualifying run. We picked up a few spots and hit my goal of a top five finish. All in all I was really happy with the way the race went but honestly thought I could have podiumed if it had stayed green. I have to thank John and the crew for a great weekend again."
"It was good to have a solid run at Laguna Seca to close out the season. We were quick early in practice and stayed close to the top ten all weekend. We missed a little in qualifying but I was able to drive back to tenth in the race. I was as fast as the cars directly in front of me but with the yellows near the end of the race, I never had a chance to move up any farther. I'd like to thank the team for this season; it was great to work with this crew for an entire year."
"Unfortunately we didn't end the season on a high note, finishing outside the top twenty, but we had a very fast race car that was able to run times as fast as the leaders as the laps wore down. At that point I was a lap down though after an off in to the gravel trap and was too far back to make up the ground to challenge for position. I learned a lot this year and had some great runs. I want to thank John and the team for a good season."
John Walko, Engineer for John Zartarian
"Johnny did a great job all weekend. He was second quickest in practice in just his second time behind the wheel of our car all year. To be able to hold his own, let alone compete with this field is an accomplishment in itself. With a few more laps of green flag racing he could have been looking at a podium finish. Hopefully we are able to work with John more in the future as he has the talent to compete and win in this series."
Eric Langbein, Engineer for Russell Walker
"We started the season with a goal of top ten in points and Russell did exactly what he needed to do to make sure we met those goals at Laguna Seca. He picked up five spots in the race and looked to have the speed to pick up more. Rather than taking unnecessary chances in the closing laps of the race though he showed the maturity to stay focused on the goal and finished with a tenth in the race and the Championship."
Steve Dreizler, Engineer for Charles Anti
"We didn't get up to speed as quickly as we needed to be which put Charles in the slow group in qualifying. Unfortunately that played a big role as the first qualifying group had a wet track to deal with and ended up drying the track for the fast group. Charles was considerably faster than anyone else in the first group but still a second and a half behind the slowest car in the second group. In the race we were as fast as the leaders but a lap down so the end result didn't reflect how good of a car we had."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TRAFFORD, PA (October 15, 2007) -- The John Walko Racing team headed to Road Atlanta with a lot of confidence that this could be a weekend to remember in the 2007 season for teammates Russell Walker and Charles Anti. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a memorable weekend for the wrong reasons however according to team owner John Walko.
"It was an unfortunate ending to what was a good event at Road Atlanta. There is an unwritten rule in racing that regardless of what else happens, don't take out your teammate. At the end of the day though that is exactly what happened as Charles got in to the rear of Russell ending both of their days. At that point all we could do was pack up and look forward to the finale at Laguna Seca."
The incident occurred late in the race as the duo was moving to the front of the pack. An opening lap melee involving six cars was deftly avoided by both drivers. The evasive action kept them in the race but dropped both entries to the very tail of the field.
After moving methodically through the field and in to the top ten in the closing laps, Anti attempted a bold move that backfired as the two JWR drivers made contact, sending Walker airborne. Walker's day was over and Anti was penalized as a result dropping both drivers to finishing positions that did not reflect their competitiveness in the race.
While the ending was obviously not what the team was looking for, Walko noted that both drivers had performed very well to that point.
"Leading up to the race it was a fairly solid effort on the part of everyone. Both drivers stayed consistently in the top ten in nearly every session and the cars worked flawlessly. It was fairly uneventful with just a good overall team effort. We did miss a little on the qualifying set-up but it only cost us a few spots, something we were confident that would be overcome by our drivers based on our race package."
While the results did not meet expectations at Road Atlanta, the team heads to the season closer at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California with the knowledge that they have fast race cars along with an added presence in the return of their third car.
"We are really excited about getting back to Laguna Seca; it is a great event at a fantastic venue. I'm also looking forward to welcoming back John Zartarian to the team as our third driver for the weekend. Our whole effort seems to elevate it itself when we run the third car so we are looking forward to a great race for all three drivers."
Zartarian will make his second start for the team in 2007, having finished twelfth at Houston in the second event of the season. John is a native Californian and looks to the race at Laguna Seca as having home field advantage.
Testing programs for 2008 resume shortly after the finale. Drivers interested in testing or discussing racing plans for the 2008 season should contact John Walko Racing as soon as possible.
"The weekend had been going fairly well. Eric and I worked on the package all weekend and got faster each time out. The car performed well and everything looked good for the race. At the start someone spun in the pack and I had to go off track to avoid being caught up as well. The car came through clean but I ended up at the tail of the field. Charles and I had moved up to the top ten before the accident. We just have to put that race behind us and look to Laguna Seca. I am really excited about that race and the potential to end the season on the podium!"
"Road Atlanta didn't turn out well obviously. I have to apologize to Russell and his family first and my team as well for what was an avoidable situation. You don't ever want to take anyone out of a race, particularly not your teammate. Hopefully we can go to Laguna Seca and have a finish that will make it easier to forget about last weekend."
Eric Langbein, Engineer for Russell Walker
"Russell did well leading up to the race. We had some speed issues in the fast sections of the track but worked hard to get Russell comfortable and continuously faster. He was really at his very best in the race, avoiding the big accident at the beginning and then picking his way through the field and I to the top ten. The accident was just one of those things that you learn to deal with in racing -- it happened so we just learn from it and move on to the next race."
Steve Dreizler, Engineer for Charles Anti
"There isn't a whole lot to say about this past weekend. Charles made a mistake and he knew it the second it happened. He is a smart driver though and will learn from the situation and won't make that mistake twice. Other than the accident it was a good weekend. Charles was consistent and worked hard in every session. He was well on his way to a very solid top ten finish but unfortunately it didn't turn out that way."
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