Millgrove, ON (August 30, 2020) – Kevin Lacroix had a solid NASCAR Pinty’s event at Flamboro Speedway last Saturday, claiming second place in the first race and clinching the win during the second race.
Team Bumper to Bumper entered uncharted territories as the series made its Flamboro Speedway debut this past Saturday. However, it was a rewarding weekend for the Saint-Eustache based team, who finished runner-up during the Pinty’s 125 and claimed victory during the 125 PartyCasino.
The day got off to a rough start, with rain delaying track activities. However, testing was positive as the driver of the #74 Bumper to Bumper / Total / PFC Brakes / Lacroix Tuning car set the 9th fastest time, “our goal was to adjust the car for the two events of the evening,” explained Kevin. “As it was a track that was still unknown to us, it was important to focus on the car and find the best possible adjustments.”
With the new 2020 race format adopted by the Canadian NASCAR series at Sunset Speedway, drivers were invited to draw their starting positions randomly.
“I had drawn the 7th place, but I started from 6th as a competitor was sent to the back of the field. As soon as the green flag dropped, I started to make my way up to the second position. I thought I could catch up with Jason Hathaway, the leader, but a latecomer gave me a hard time and lost valuable time. However, I am pleased with my second position.”
It was a quiet race for the Saint-Eustache native, “passing is difficult on this oval, there is only one race line that works, and it’s hard to be two cars wide.”
For the other 125-lap race, Kevin was second on the grid, starting on the outside of the first row. “After the start, I took the lead as I went came out of turn one, passing D.J. Kennington. After about two-thirds of the race, Jason Hathaway caught up with Kennington but was still ten car lengths behind me.”
Kevin continued his explanation, “we had a caution with about 30 laps to go, I was a little nervous because I knew Hathaway was fast. It was very close racing in the first ten laps after the restart, there was a little bit of rubbing, but I was able to pull away and ensure my lead.”
Scott Larson • Saskatoon StarPhoenix
Publishing date: July 28, 2016
At just 27 years of age, Kevin Lacroix seems much too young to be making a comeback in his auto racing career.
But Lacroix, who got out of the driver’s seat in 2008 and didn’t return until last year to compete in a few NASCAR Pinty’s Series races, is doing just that and shows little rust in his immense abilities.
“I tried to forget about racing all this time and it didn’t happen,” said Lacroix before taking part in Wednesday night’s Velocity Prairie Thunder 250 at the Wyant Group Raceway.
Rookie sensation Cayden Lapcevich, just 16, barged to the lead halfway through the race and hung on to his first win after a late caution. LP Dumoulin came from outside the top 10 to finish a strong second and Alex Labbe was third. Lacroix finished eighth.
Lacroix began racing at the age of eight and was involved in karting until he was 15 and earned a scholarship to the e BMW Racing School in Valencia, Spain, in 2004. From there, he finished second in the American Formula BMW Championship in 2005 with four wins in 14 races and went on to compete in the Star Mazda Series and Champ Car Atlantic Championship with John Walko Racing.
“Then in my first full season in Atlantic cars in 2008, it was tough with the sponsorships,” he said of the economic depression that hit just about everywhere in the world. It was tough for everybody. So I stopped racing in 2008 and started working in the family company selling auto parts.”
But last year, the family bought a car with a family friend and when he retired, Lacroix got back behind the wheel for six races in the series.
Not only was Lacroix competitive right off the bat, but he won at ICAR and Trois-Rivieres to become the first rookie in series history to win two races.
They had planned on just racing two or three times a year, “but when we won at ICAR the plans got bigger. Now here I am with sponsors and a good team and here all season,” Lacroix said. “It’s pretty nice to be back in racing, that’s for sure.”
Lacroix has yet to win this year, but is fifth in the driver’s standings with 211 points, just 38 points behind leader Andrew Ranger going into Wednesday’s race.
“I didn’t lose my speed with all these years being away from the race track, but the experience of racing and the action and traffic I have lost it a little bit,” said Lacroix, who grabbed his first pole position in Edmonton on the weekend.
“With the wins last year the expectations are maybe high and it gives us some pressure. But the goal this year is to learn and be strong in the next few years.”
He said the hardest part about coming back is “trying to be as good as you were before. I didn’t lose speed, but I lost concentration capabilities or managing the races and the traffic and being calm. I have to gain that back and it takes a lot of time.
“People think that if you are fast you are going to win, but it is not only that — you have to work on the car, work with other drivers, be respected and respect other drivers.”
He’s looking forward to racing for the first time in Saskatoon.
“The track is nice and wide, not as tight as Edmonton, so I think drivers will respect each other more. So far it is one of the nicest (tracks) I have seen in Canada. It can offer good side-by-side racing.”
Lacroix was tempering his expectations, admitting he is still more comfortable on road courses than racing on ovals.
“Normally the goal as a driver is to win — that’s my goal on road courses — but on ovals I’ll be really happy to be on the podium.”
TRAFFORD, PA (February 8, 2007) – Defending a Championship in a series as hotly contested as the Star Mazda Championship Series can be a daunting task. John Walko Racing recently took a huge step forward in that effort however, resigning two of the team's three drivers from its 2006 Team Championship winning roster.
Teammates Charles Anti and Russell Walker return for a second season each under the tutelage of the experienced JWR crew. Each driver will be part of their own three man unit, paired with an engineer and mechanic, within the overall team for the entire season. This is a continuation of the approach that helped guide JWR to the Team Championship in their rookie season.
John Walko, team owner, believes this approach is crucial in developing young talent in to consistent front running contenders.
"There is something to be said for continuity, working with the same engineer, already speaking the same language, knowing the team, knowing the car, knowing what to expect from everything. It is more than just knowing the tracks. People don't understand how human this is, it is more than just sticking the best drivers in the best cars and going fast. There is a lot to the relationships involved."
For Pittsburgh native Anti, those relationships will include Steve Dreizler returning as Engineer and Mechanic Caleb Stream. While Anti and Dreizler have a long history together, Walko noted that his driver and Stream have also worked well together as part of a quite successful off-season testing program. A program that has revealed an all together different driver than the one that made his professional debut at Sebring just last season.
"We have already done a winter testing program with Charles and I can see a difference in him already. He knows the tracks now and the whole concept of Pro Racing is nothing new now, so the second year we expect to see a big difference in him. Last year was really his first season of Pro Racing at any level so part of the learning curve last year was learning to deal with the intensity level of a Pro weekend."
Walker enters the 2007 season with a very familiar system as he is reunited with both his engineer and mechanic from his rookie season, Eric Langbein and Scott Gates. The Dallas, Texas based racer looks to build on a strong finish in 2006 that resulted in three top ten finishes in the final four races. After several strong runs in testing, Walko believes his second year driver will be a threat this season.
"From the beginning of testing, Russell, Eric and Scott picked up right where they left off at the end of last season. Sebring in particular showed that as a team they were communicating very well and Russell was on top of his game behind the wheel."
The return of two veteran drivers, and the chemistry readily apparent between them and their crews, has Walko excited about the team's prospects in the coming season.
"With a full year under their belt I think they'll be completely different drivers this year. And we have seen great speed already this year in winter testing. Both Charles and Russell should be competing for wins and championships in 2007. If these two drivers are able to capitalize on their chances we should be in contention for the Team Championship as well. Although, we would like our chances even better if we were able to secure a third driver to round out the team"
"I'll be working with Steve Dreizler again and Caleb Stream as mechanic. Caleb's car finished second in the Championship last year with Kevin Lacroix driving. I like to keep my expectations open but I think we can run for wins and maybe even the Championship."
"I'm happy to be joining John Walko Racing for another year. I'm confident they are a Championship level team and I'm excited to be working with them. The team continuity will be better than ever. That is going to play a huge role in the Championship this year."
Eric Langbein, Engineer for Russell Walker:
"I think there is an advantage in a specific driver working with a specific engineer and mechanic combo as a team. I know Russell, Scott and I are all looking forward to moving in to next year and having some continuity. It is a very rare thing at this level of racing for this kind of opportunity to be available."
Steve Dreizler, Engineer for Charles Anti:
"Obviously it says a lot for the team that both Charles and Russell are returning to the team for their second year with us. I look forward to both of them challenging for the Championship this year. Charles and I will be working with Caleb this year. His cars have finished second twice in two years for the Championship so we'll see if we can't do one better for him this year."
The team continues their preparations for the upcoming season with a test at Virginia International Raceway. Opportunities are still available to join the 2006 Star Mazda Team Champions for the upcoming test and also for the 2007 season.
Drivers interested in participating in the VIR test or other upcoming tests are encouraged to contact the team soon. Also, drivers interested in discussing their 2007 racing programs should contact John Walko Racing at firstname.lastname@example.org .
TRAFFORD, PA (February 1, 2007) – Just one year ago the newly formed John Walko Racing had yet to turn a lap of practice. Despite the late start compared to their opponents in the Star Mazda Series, the team walked away at the end of the year with the Team Championship.
While the turnaround makes a great story, the team has no intentions of repeating the scenario in 2007 and has started with an aggressive testing program that has the team looking toward another Championship winning season.
The most recent testing stop brought the team to Sebring for a preview of the opening round of the 2007 schedule. The test took place on the Paddock course which is a shorter layout than the race takes places on but incorporates several of the key components of the full course as team owner John Walko explains.
"The Paddock Course at Sebring takes in turns 16, 17 and 1 which are three of the four most important turns on the track. They are the hardest ones to come to grip with - turn seventeen is wide open, like a parking lot with no reference points, while turn one is probably one of the most intimidating turns in motorsports."
JWR brought two drivers from their successful 2006 team for the test, Charles Anti and Russell Walker. The chemistry between all of the returning team members was evident from the start according to Walko.
"It was probably the best test we've ever done. The team worked well as usual and everything clicked from the very start. The time we have under our belt together is really showing. Both cars turned nearly 200 miles each day with no problems at all. They ran from morning to night - no crashes, neither put a tire wrong."
Anti's last visit to Sebring was his first ever professional level race so returning to tackle the toughest aspects of the racetrack was a perfect way to prepare. Walker on the other hand, joined JWR after Sebring last season so this was his first opportunity to work with his engineer Eric Langbein and mechanic Scott Gates at the season opening facility.
Much of the success of the Sebring test can be attributed to team continuity, a rare commodity at this level of racing. In addition to Walker, Langbein and Gates returning as a unit Anti will once again be paired with engineer Steve Dreizler. Caleb Stream, mechanic for Kevin Lacroix's Rookie of the Year and Championship runner-up effort last season, moves over to join Anti and Dreizler for the entire 2007 campaign.
"I think the short course was better the way it worked out because the two most difficult turns that we run in the race were in that course and we were able to hit them twice as often. The test could not have gone any better. I think the worst I did was drop two tires off the entire two days. We made changes, some worked while some did not as is expected, and we were able to run a lot of miles. I really don't think we could have asked for anything more."
"We got up to speed immediately and had no problems at all, the cars were beautiful. The team worked really well together. Charles and I even ran a race simulation from a standing start for twenty laps, swapping positions, running together. Overall a perfect test, it exceeded all my expectations."
Eric Langbein, Engineer for Russell Walker:
"I was very pleased with the test; it was one of the most successful tests I've been involved with, ever. We had no mechanical failures, we went fast and the drivers were able to get used to the two most difficult corners at Sebring. Two of the past three years, Championships have been won by driver and team combinations that were in their second year together so that is a very powerful tool that we are trying to take advantage of."
Steve Dreizler, Engineer for Charles Anti
"Everybody was thrilled with the way both guys ran and both cars performed. The impression I have is that both men showed up ready to work and both set about doing the job at hand with a professional demeanor. I look forward to the VIR test and getting back to work!"
The team continues their preparations for the upcoming season with a test at Virginia International Raceway. Opportunities are still available to join the 2006 Star Mazda Team Champions for the upcoming test and also for the 2007 season.
Drivers interested in participating in the VIR test or other upcoming tests are encouraged to contact the team soon. Also, drivers interested in discussing their 2007 racing programs should contact John Walko Racing at email@example.com
TRAFFORD, PA (October 24, 2006) – While some members of the John Walko Racing team have been together for many years, 2006 marked their first together under the JWR banner. It would have been natural to envision a season involving a steep learning curve and the many pitfalls that are normally associated with a rookie effort; particularly considering the fact that the team barely pulled the pieces together in time to make it to the season opening race at Sebring.
No one apparently told this group though that a difficult season would not only be expected but acceptable to most. The result at the end of the final race at Laguna Seca was nothing short of astounding:- 2006 Star Mazda Team Championship - John Walko Racing
"This was a great season for our young team! It was amazing that we even made it to Sebring, let alone compete for the Championship and win against such tough competition as World Speed. I want to congratulate the team and their driver Adrian Carrio, they truly deserved the Championship. Adrian is a really good driver and the team did a great job once again."
Despite the success, Walko knew the entire season would come down to the Star Mazda season finale at Laguna Seca this past weekend.
"There are so many good teams and drivers in this series right now that we knew everything would hinge on the final race. This is a tough deal that had me nervous right up until the very end with the points system the way it is. With someone as fast as Adrian in World Speed's car coupled with the bonus points awarded for only running a single car we had to continue to post two cars in the top ten in entrant points to hope to keep pace. We were the only team able to do that race in and race out."
Laguna Seca was no different and the team responded with another pair of top ten points finishes from Kevin Lacroix and Charles Anti, securing the Team Championship in the process. The race was stalled by several full course yellow flags that resulted in just six laps of green flag action.
Those six laps were all Lacroix needed to rebound from an uncharacteristic eighth place qualifying effort however.
"In the race we only ran six green flag laps so it was very hard to gain positions. But in six laps I moved from 8th to 4th. Maybe we could have had a podium but there just wasn't enough time. The car was very good, we were very fast but there was just not enough laps."
The qualifying issue was unfortunate according to Walko particularly in light of how fast Lacroix has been to that point despite not participating in the previous week's private test.
"Kevin was near the front the whole time, second or third quickest in each session just a tenth or two off. Until qualifications however, when a miscommunication resulted in sending Kevin on track with less fuel than we had planned. He missed three laps probably and that was enough to drop him to eighth on the grid."
For Anti, the event could not have gone any differently. After finding himself near the top of the charts in most sessions in the latter half of the season, Anti was mired in the bottom half of the time sheets in each practice session at Laguna Seca. The rookie driver ended up in the slow qualifying group as a result.
According to Charles the split groups finally gave him some clear track to work with.
"In practice every time I would get around slower traffic I'd catch another before the end of the lap. We did not have a single clean lap until qualifying when everything finally came together. I made a small mistake even on my fast lap; otherwise we may have started even further up the grid."
After finally turning things around in qualifying, Anti spent as much time in the race avoiding accidents as racing noted Walko.
"Charles set the pace in the first group by more than two seconds and was as fast as Kevin had run all weekend. It was awesome, all the sudden he was right there where we expect him to be. In all the craziness of the race Charles ended up thirteenth overall which was good for tenth in championship points. The cause of all the yellows seemed to be happening right in front of him. He was on the brakes hard and picking his way through the incidents and did a good job staying clear of everything and scored important points for us. He did a good job."
Russell Walker was on the move once again at Laguna Seca, running inside the top ten on race day before ending up in the middle of one of the yellow flag incidents.
"We were making excellent progress, absolutely. I think just about everyone in front of us was at the private test so we were doing well. I had a good start and a solid race car. I was in a chase for position, and I guess do to the nature of the race having so few green flag laps and so many cautions, I didn't want to hesitate when I had a chance to make a pass after being held up for a few laps. I made an aggressive move and unfortunately it cost me."
While the end result was not what he hoped for from a rapidly improving Walker, Walko was still impressed by his young driver's performance.
"Russell was in the top ten and passing another car when they made contact, ending his race. He was good again and improved every session. He just kept getting faster and faster and is constantly improvement. Russell is just a small step away from the podium and getting closer every time he runs."
Walker agreed and credited the JWR team with providing him the tools and expertise to make strides toward the front of the pack in their short time together.
"My time with the team and each member of the team providing their expert knowledge and attention to detail gave me the tools to develop my skills to be nothing less than a champion. We were so close to finding that final piece to finish on the podium. The team championship reflects that pretty well, it was a good year."
Lacroix echoed Walker's sentiments regarding what was essentially a total rookie season for all involved from the brand new team to three first year drivers.
"The season was very good even though we missed the first race. We won the team championship which was very good for John Walko Racing. The cars were getting better at every race which was why we were fast at Atlanta and Laguna Seca. The cars were going good and the team is getting better. It was a great learning year for the team and for me, a great first year for everyone."
According to Anti, his first year at this level of competition was a big adjustment but was made easier by the atmosphere at JWR.
"It was an incredible year, I learned so much from everyone on the team. The results weren't bad but they don't truly reflect how far we advanced as a team and how much I learned. The whole season was so much fun and I can't thank everyone on the team enough for how they helped me to grow and improve this season."
For Walko, the Team Championship was not only a reflection of his rapidly improving trio of young drivers but the team on the whole.
"We have just an incredible group of racers and I'm proud to be associated with all of them. Not only do they do their jobs well but each member of the team, regardless of which car they are assigned to works together. Winning the Team Championship our first year out of the gate is a testament to what this crew does all season long."
Walko also paid tribute to all of the drivers that the team had an opportunity to work with over the course of the season.
"I'd like to thank Kevin Lacroix, Charles Anti and Russell Walker and their respective families for a tremendous season. This is a very talented group of young drivers and it has been a lot of fun to work with them and watch their progress throughout the season. In addition to these three drivers I also want to say thank you to Ross Smith, Robbie Pecorari and Casey Neal, each of which helped to contribute to our success this season."
It is a short off season for the 2006 Star Mazda Team Champions as the off season testing schedule for John Walko Racing is set to kick off in just a few short weeks. Drivers interested in participating in the off season testing program are encouraged to
contact the team soon. Also, drivers interested in discussing their 2007 racing programs should contact John Walko Racing at John@johnwalkoracing.com .
Laguna Seca Results:
1. .Ryan Justice
2. .Mike Potekhen
3. .Adrian Carrio
4. Kevin Lacroix
13. Charles Anti
36. Russell Walker
Star Mazda Driver Championship:
1. Adrian Carrio 433
2. Kevin Lacroix 394
3. Ryan Justice 366
14. Charles Anti 236
16. Russell Walker 222
Star Mazda Team Championship:
TRAFFORD, PA (October 2, 2006) – With a recent private test under their belts at Road Atlanta, the John Walko Racing team looked forward to the eleventh race of the season as part of the Petit Le Mans event in conjunction with the American Le Mans Series. The anticipation was rewarded with another pair of top ten finishes and a firm grasp on the Team Championship.
"Coming down early for the test was a huge help for me getting comfortable here," noted Russell Walker. "It was a great weekend if you take out the one lap in the final practice. The car felt great from the opening practice and just kept getting better."
Road Atlanta proved to be a breakout event for Walker although the results didn't truly reflect his speed on the 2.54 mile circuit. The Dallas, Texas racer started practice seventh on the charts and moved up to second quick by the final practice before misfortune struck as team owner John Walko explained.
"Russell was amazing! We had a good setup on the car and when he showed up he was awesome from the time he got there. He had a problem with turn one though late in the final practice, caught the curb and backed in to the wall hard. This was after setting the second quick time of the final session."
The car was damaged too badly to repair in time for qualifying. According to Walko the team was confident enough in their young driver though to secure another car despite having to qualify without ever turning a lap in the car previously.
"We rented a car from another team and Russell spent qualifying in the rain getting comfortable with the car. In the race though he was back! It was like he was in the last practice session, running competitive times and passing cars every lap in to turn one. It was fun to watch."
Walker qualified 23rd after just a handful of laps in qualifying but rebounded nicely under the circumstances.
"The race was slow going thanks to starting so deep in the field but I was able to work up to eighth picking up a position or two almost every lap. It was still a very good weekend though and I look forward to getting back on track at Laguna Seca for the season closer."
Kevin Lacroix, currently second in points, also benefited from the testing which resulted in his leading the opening practice. After that point though, Lacroix was forced to battle with an underpowered race car. A situation that the team rectified before the final practice as Walko noted.
"The engines haven't been that consistent. At Road America and Mosport we had a really good handling car but just didn't have the lap times. Our other cars have been killing Kevin on the straight despite not carrying as much exit speed. We finally decided to put a new engine in and it made a big difference as we led that practice. The car was a whole lot better."
In the race Lacroix moved in to the top three early and held on to the spot for his first podium finish since Portland, a result good enough to clinch the 2006 Star Mazda Rookie of the Year title.
"We swapped the engine for the race and, although it was still tight, it was much more powerful. I overtook two positions on the first lap and was looking to take the lead but could not find any room," Lacroix stated. "That was my season, staying out of trouble and carving my way up in the standings instead of taking chances. I still have one left in Laguna, the track where I was most successful last year in BMW. With a healthy car, I will give my best shot to finish my season with a flash!"
Charles Anti was the lone driver of the JWR trio that was unable to attend the Road Atlanta test. Despite a bigger learning curve at the start of the event, Anti found himself right back in the top ten just a few laps in to the race. Unfortunately for Anti though his day ended early with a rare mechanical DNF.
"I never really felt up to speed all weekend until the rains came for qualifying. I thought that would be the equalizer for me, and it was, up until the track started to dry out. We slipped a little further down the charts each lap it seemed as it dried. I was in the top ten early in the race though, hoping to capitalize on other's mistakes as the race progressed. A hole in an oil line developed though and sidelined us early."
The team now moves on to Laguna Seca where they not only look to clinch the Star Mazda Team Championship but hope to secure that elusive first win.
"This past race gave us a huge jump in the points. We have the biggest lead in the Championship that we have had all season," noted Walko. "So I'm looking forward to Laguna Seca to see if we can win the Team Championship in our first season. It should be a good weekend as all three drivers have experience there and they all really like the track. We are all looking forward to this race!"
The twelfth and final race of the 2006 Star Mazda Championship Series takes place at Laguna Seca on October 21-22.
Road Atlanta Results:
1 Ron White
2 Mark Wilkins
3 Kevin Lacroix
8 Russell Walker
27 Charles Anti
Star Mazda Driver Championship:
1 Adrian Carrio 395
2 Kevin Lacroix 360
3 Ryan Justice 322
14 Charles Anti 211
15 Russell Walker 210
Star Mazda Team Championship:
1 John Walko Racing 223
2 World Speed 208
3 Northwest Autosport 159
4 Apex Racing 154
5 Andersen Racing 154
TRAFFORD, PA (September 4, 2006) – Mosport was a much anticipated venue for John Walko Racing. The team had what they felt was a strong handle of the storied Canadian circuit. However, the remnants of Hurricane Ernesto turned around the best laid plans of all teams when torrential rains fell on Saturday's race.
The weekend started out well despite the team being one of the few not to test at the facility in the weeks leading up to the event. The opening day of practice saw all three cars run in the top fifteen for much of the day with Kevin Lacroix dipping in to the top five once again.
John Walko, the team owner, was confident his team would be able to overcome the obstacle of not testing at Mosport previously.
"Obviously we would like to test at every track before each race, as most of our competitors have been doing, but for one reason or another we have not been able to do so since earlier in the season. We are confident though that regardless of circumstances, our crews and drivers are going to have the right package to be competitive when the green flag falls on race day."
Unfortunately for Walko and the rest of the crew, Friday practice proved to be unkind and would set their whole approach back a few steps. According to Walko it was a day to forget despite placing all three cars in the top twelve in morning practice.
"At the end of the day on Friday we ended up with three crashed race cars, it was a rough day. All three cars went off in succession early in the final session, each bringing out a red. So not only did we have broken race cars and missed practice, each guy was docked ten minutes in the next session for bringing out a red flag. It was a long day, and a long night."
Missing the final practice also forced the teams to revert to previous set-ups which were one cycle behind all of the other cars that did run a full practice. Combined with the shortened qualifying session thanks to the red flag penalties from Friday, the limited development resulted in the three cars qualifying deeper in the pack than expected.
Lacroix, who qualified an uncharacteristic eighth, noted that the he was a bit off the pace of the quickest cars.
"I wasn’t able to clock laps under 1:15 all weekend. We tried every possible setup in the five practice sessions on Thursday and Friday, to no avail. The #74 UniSelect was very good in the corners but was short on speed in the long straights. Mosport is a fabulous track where I would have liked to put more time in order to start on the two first rows."
Charles Anti qualified tenth while Russell Walker earned the twelfth spot on the grid for the race.
The race on the 2.65 mile circuit itself turned out to be an all together different affair than the drivers had to deal with all weekend as Hurricane Ernesto brought a deluge just in time for the start. Walker in fact was turning some of his first laps in competition in the rain in the Star Mazda Series. According to Walko it was a good effort for his newest racer.
"It was one of Russell's first rain races, he hasn't run much in the rain at all actually, and he did a great job of staying conservative and steady and he found himself in the top ten at the end of the day as a result. A great effort for him."
Walker was satisifed with his performance in the harrowing conditions.
"It was a foggy, torrential downpour, about the worst conditions you could imagine. I had a little bit of experience in practice at Mid Ohio but this was my first race in these conditions. It was pretty intense! I just brought it home; that was what we wanted to achieve. I could have been more aggressive but then I could have easily been caught out like a lot of other people."
After spotting the entire field a race in the Championship standings, Lacroix, who has been the aggressor all season, found himself solidly in second place at the start of the weekend. An opening lap miscue resulted in the Montreal native having to be aggressive enough to stay ahead of his Championship competitors yet conservative enough to ensure he finished the race.
"I’m still happy but I was looking for a podium, if not a victory. In the rain, I knew I would get some positions back because I’ve always been comfortable in wet conditions. I started seventh and took two positions in the first corners. But to avoid a drifting car, I had to brake and did a 360 spin that set me back in ninth. We ran only six or seven laps under green out of the 21. Every time a car is off course, we go full course yellow. With more green laps, I could have stepped on the podium.”
The drive of the weekend though belonged to Anti according to Walko.
"Charles was the man in the race, he was unbelievable. He was pushing for the win, worked hard to get up there and went for the lead. Each time there was a restart he picked off one or two cars and went straight to the front, it was awesome."
Anti's bid for his first series win as well as the first team win for JWR came up a lap short however as he made contact with the leader while attempting to take the point.
"I started ninth and was up three spots on the first lap. We had a lot of one lap stints thanks to drivers going off early and I was able to pick off a car or two each lap. I was trying to work around the leader under braking in turn five and I carried just a little too much speed in and locked it up. It was too bad because I felt it was my race to win."
Despite the incident, which relegated the Star Mazda Rookie to thirteenth overall, the performance was a confidence booster.
"It was amazing. The only other wet conditions we had this year was a practice at Mid Ohio and I was second most of the session. So we went in to the race with a lot of confidence. I knew after the first lap we had the potential to do something special. Doing well in the wet is really a big deal. The results don't show it obviously but now I know we are among the fastest cars. This was a great confidence builder.'
Overall Walko was happy with the weekend, which saw JWR move back to the top of the Team Championship standings, and looks forward to the next race at Road Atlanta where the team will take a slightly different approach in hopes of securing that first win.
"It was a pretty good weekend, nearly bringing home three top tens despite the ups and downs, and we have the team points lead back. Also, we are going testing this week at Atlanta in hopes of finding that last little bit that will take us to the next level.
The test at Road Atlanta is in preparation for JWR's next event as part of the American Le Mans Series at the Petit Le Mans weekend on September 27-29 at the famed circuit in Braselton, Georgia.
1 Ron White
2 Gerardo Bonilla
3 Mike Potekhen
4 Kevin Lacroix
9 Russell Walker
13 Charles Anti
Star Mazda Driver Championship:
1 Adrian Carrio 361
2 Kevin Lacroix 320
3 Ryan Justice 293
14 Charles Anti 193
17 Russell Walker 180
Star Mazda Team Championship:
1 John Walko Racing 192
2 World Speed 189
3 Apex Racing 154
TRAFFORD, PA (July 24, 2006) – Following the season opening race at Sebring, the John Walko Racing team found themselves tied for seventh in the Team Championship standings. While this was not a bad start for a young team that featured two rookies among three drivers, it was not a position that the team intended to stay in for long.
The addition of Kevin Lacroix was the first jolt that the team needed as the Canadian rookie reeled off a string of six straight top six finishes. With each event, the team crept closer to the top until fellow rookie Charles Anti provided another boost with three top ten runs in a row over the last three races.
The culmination of the turnaround came this past weekend at Portland International Raceway where Anti scored a career best fifth and Lacroix matched a season best with a second place finish, his fourth top three points finish in just six tries this season.
As a result JWR found themselves in first place in the Team Championship standings - a six position gain in just six races. Making the rise that much more impressive was the fact that JWR did so without the benefit of the five bonus points available to single car teams. A loophole that some teams were able to utilize to garner as much as 35 additional points so far this season.
Team principal John Walko was understandably thrilled with the performance of his drivers and his crew.
"I am very proud of what this group of people has been able to accomplish in such a short time. Despite many members of the team having a long history together, John Walko Racing is truly a brand new team. To be in this position so soon is a testament to hard work and determination they display whether they are at the track or in the shop."
Anti's fifth place finish was a season best and helped him move to ninth in the Championship. The surging driver gives credit to the team while noting that he is now delivering results on his end as well. Sometimes the improvement involves off track driving as well!
"We had another crazy first lap incident; I just drove off in to the grass and somehow managed to miss almost everything. I feel like I'm improving each week though. The team has been together since the start but it has taken awhile for me to acclimate myself to this level of competition and the new environment."
"Charles just keeps improving. He gets better every time he steps in the car," noted Walko. "And what can I say about Kevin, he was never worse than fourth all weekend."
While Anti's performance can easily be measured in the standings, Lacroix has also shown measurable improvement according to Walko.
"We qualified and finished pretty much in the same position with Kevin. Only this time we closed the gap from seconds per lap from the leader to tenths of seconds per lap at most. In the case of both drivers, credit needs to be given to Eric Langbein who is normally the engineer on our third car. Eric coached the drivers while observing from different spots around the track. They each responded well to Eric's input and it really showed in the results."
Langbein was available in this capacity due to the unfortunate loss of driver Ross Smith to an ankle injury at the previous race. The relationship with the Smith family continued however, as the team entered a third car for driver Russell Walker. Walker ran solidly in or near the top ten in practice, eventually qualifying fourteenth. His race day would end prematurely however after becoming involved in the opening lap accident that unfolded directly in front of him.
Lacroix moved solidly in to third place in the points following his second straight second place finish. He also maintains the highest average finishing position in the series at 3.3. There is just one step remaining on the podium for Lacroix to conquer and he would like nothing better than to do just that when the series returns to his native Quebec.
"I am confident for my next race that will be held at Trois-Rivières in two weeks. As far as the season progresses, I keep getting good results. I can't wait for my first victory in Star Mazda Series. My team John Walko Racing is doing a great job."
The Grand Prix of Trois Rivieres is the scene for the eighth round of the Star Mazda Championship Series. This event, in the town of Trois Riviere, Quebec, puts the Star Mazda series in the spotlight as one of the headlining events in a diverse schedule of events culminating with the August 6th race.
Contact John@johnwalkoracing.com for more information regarding testing programs available for the 2006 season.
TRAFFORD, PA (May 4, 2006) – It has been a long two months since the opening round of the STAR Mazda Championship Series. However, the John Walko Racing crew has not been letting any of that down time go to waste. With three new drivers for the 2006 season, two of which are rookies, preparation, testing and coaching has been in full swing.
Team owner John Walko indicated the testing sessions serve a much greater purpose than just the track time alone.
“Our drivers completed over 3000 trouble free miles of testing in total over the last few sessions. The momentum just builds and builds the more you run.” Walko also noted that the benefits aren’t just relegated to the drivers, “When the guys on the crew see the cars run mile after trouble free mile and watch their drivers improve with each session, it inspires confidence. It is an intangible value that should help the whole team climb to the next level.”
Most recently, the JWR hauler rolled out of the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course following two more days of intensive testing. All three drivers participated in the test on the newly repaved 2.25 mile track alongside drivers from AIM Autosport and Phenom Racing. Newcomer to the team Kevin Lacroix set the pace for the JWR trio with Ross Smith close behind.
Smith’s confidence and speed is as high as it has ever been thanks in part to the rapport he is building with his crew, “I love working with my engineer Eric, we are really meshing well and the communication between he and I and Scott is getting better and better.”
Charles Anti has also shown tremendous strides in the last two tests, particularly at Mid Ohio where the Series races in just two weeks. Success at Mid Ohio is not new to Anti however, “I've run this course in the Skip Barber cars and have won three races there previously.”
Adding to the momentum the team is building on their own, JWR has been fortunate to acquire the services of much sought after driver coach Mike Zimicki. Zimicki has a long history as a coach with everyone from the Skip Barber Series to his current role as a driver coach to Rahal-Letterman Racing and Graham Rahal.
Walko is ecstatic about the addition and feels the impact will be realized immediately, “It is a real feather in our cap that Mike chose to work with us. He will be invaluable in helping to sharpen the learning curve, particularly with our rookie drivers.”
This slate of testing culminates with a stretch of three races in four weeks starting with the Grand Prix of Houston May 13-14 followed by a return trip to Mid Ohio the following weekend. A much needed weekend off is then followed by the lone oval on the schedule at the fabled Milwaukee Mile.
The street race at Houston is new to all three drivers but each has had a degree of experience in similar situations. Anti likened his experiences at Watkins Glen, where he is a two time race winner, with the tight quarters racing that is expected at Houston, “The closest thing I've done to a street race is running Watkins Glen where the walls are just a few feet from the track. The competition level is elevated in this series though and the track time is limited so we have to be up to speed right away. That is one thing I have been working on in testing.”
Smith ran Montreal last year and anticipates the same feel to the event, “This should be very similar, concrete barriers and not much run-off. I expect a lot of traffic and probably a lot of yellows so getting up to speed quickly and qualifying well are going to be very important.”
While he has just one street race under his belt, last season’s Formula BMW race in Denver, Lacroix is looking forward to his first race with JWR, “I think we learned a lot last year in what to expect at these events and I know what I need to work on. I’m excited about my first race with the team in Houston.”
All of the hard work recently hopefully will pay dividends soon according to Walko, “The miles and miles of testing our drivers have turned, the solid cars are crews continue to turn out and the addition of Mike Zimicki as driver coach should help us move up the charts in the coming events.”
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information regarding testing programs available for the 2006 season.
TRAFFORD, PA (April 20, 2006) – To be successful in the STAR Mazda Series, and contend for the Championship, requires much more than participating in twelve races. John Walko Racing is keenly aware of the challenge at hand and as such continues to strive for every advantage.
All three cars and drivers participated in a three day test at BeaveRun Motorsports Complex, including the latest addition to the team, Canadian rising star Kevin Lacroix. Lacroix joined JWR drivers Charles Anti and Ross Smith on the 1.8 mile road course that is essentially the “home field” for John Walko Racing.
Plano, Texas driver Smith set the pace early, eclipsing the quickest time’s ever run at BeaveRun in a STAR Mazda machine. This was particularly impressive considering the drivers who have tested at this facility under the guidance of John Walko as the engineer for Andersen-Walko Racing including 2005 Series Winners Graham Rahal, Robbie Pecorari and Pablo Donoso along with Indy Pro Series driver Jonathan Klein.
“Today we beat the track record so we are ecstatic obviously.” Ross noted though that these tests involve much more that just a search for fast time, “Eric, Scott and I are working on chemistry still but really the setups for this track and Mid Ohio are very similar so it is important in that aspect as well.”
Anti, who got his start in racing driving karts just a few hundred yards away at BeaveRun’s Wilson Circuit, was striving to work through his rookie learning curve at this test.
“Right now we are working mostly on track time as a team but something I am working on myself is improving the mental aspect of getting up to speed. Usually it takes a few laps to do so and I want to minimize that.”
John Walko concurred with Ross Smith regarding the application of testing at BeaveRun, “We find this is a really good test track for Mid Ohio which is just two races away. Sometimes we'll even stop here on the way to Mid Ohio as a shakedown.”
Walko also utilized the time to promote the team’s interest in the local karting program at BeaveRun by providing track time to select up and coming racers.
“I'm always glad to help promote the karting program here at BeaveRun. As we are seeing with Charles signed on this year in our program, there is the potential to work with more local drivers to help develop the talent in this area.” Walko continued, “With a start at a world class facility like BeaveRun, young racers can see there is a ladder that can be climbed in their racing careers.”
Two previous Champions in the BeaveRun Karting Series enjoyed this incredible opportunity including Sam Hanley, the 2004 ICA Champion and Stephen Sokol who dominated the 2005 TaG class.
Sam commented, “I can't imagine this going any better. Working with John's team has been excellent. I have only been in a full size race car one other time and that was whole different world than this car and this team.”
“I have to thank John for the opportunity. I really like this group of people and I'm thrilled to be part of this experience,” exclaimed a smiling Sokol.
Next on the schedule for drivers Charles Anti, Ross Smith and Kevin Lacroix is testing at Mid Ohio followed by the second race of the season, the Grand Prix of Houston.
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