JWR's Kate Gundlach Honored as Star Mazda Crew Member of the Year Zartarian Scores Top Five at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
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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."
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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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MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 20 - Andersen Walko Racing (AWR) had a good showing but mixed results in the Star Mazda series' season finale last Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The highlight of the weekend came after the race when one of its drivers, Jonathan Klein, walked away with the series' "Most Improved Driver" award for 2004.
Klein, of Long Grove, Ill., had the best finish of the two AWR drivers at Laguna. He placed sixth in the event, which was presented by Goodyear.
His teammate would rather remember qualifying. Robbie Pecorari of Aston, Pa. qualified fourth, only seven-tenths of a second off the pole. Another competitor hit him from behind in turn one at the start of the 28-lap/45-minute race, however. The contact broke Pecorari's car's left-rear suspension and he had to drop out, ending up 38th in the final rundown.
Klein's day went the other way. Before he finished sixth he qualified 15th in the very competitive, 40-car field. His best lap in quals took just 1.4 seconds longer than polewinner Michael McDowell's did in getting around the challenging, 2.238-mile road course.
Luis Schiavo, last year's champion, won the race over this year's champion, McDowell. Brian Frisselle, Scott Jenkins and Daniel Di Leo rounded out the top five. The race was part of the Audi Sports Car Championships and was a support event to the American Le Mans Series headliner.
"We really believe Robbie had a shot to win the race, and barring unforeseen difficulties would have at least had a podium finish," noted team co-owner Dan Andersen. "Jono had his usual great start, picking up several positions. He then drove a great race, making good passes on [Raphael] Matos and getting by [Nick] Steele despite being held up for awhile."
Klein was driving the No. 97 AWR entry sponsored by Kalfact Plastics; Fettes, Love and Sieben; Nexus Distribution Corp.; Midwest Steel & Services; Ironclad and ProStar.
Pecorari was in the No. 98 AWR car, which was sponsored by SAI Hydraulics.
In the two practice sessions Friday Klein was 21st and third and Pecorari was eighth and fifth. In the three sessions on Thursday, the optional promoter's test day, Klein was 11th, 19th and 12th while Pecorari was 14th, 15th and 10th.
"We will have to work on our qualifying set-ups over the winter; we're great with our race set-ups though," Klein noted afterwards. "We started 15th, and for a good portion of the race we had the fastest lap. I gained nine positions and got up to sixth; I had the quickest car for many laps. That's as far as I got though, because the track really started to fall off at the end. "
"We seemed to have good cars in the afternoons, but we didn't get too many good times laid down in the morning [practice] sessions," he pointed out. "But my car was great in the race. Eric [Langbein] and Scott [Gates] did a fantastic job all year. I think towards the end of the year they were the two best crewmembers in the paddock. John Walko always has good advice to offer, and I want to thank him and Dan Andersen for giving me the opportunity to drive for their team this year. I was just going to do Barber Dodge nationals this year, but Paul Dana told me to check this team out. I did, and it was love at first sight with the team and me. I don't want to go to any other team and I don't even have any second thoughts about that; I'm really looking forward to next year with Andersen Walko."
Andersen Walko Racing will focus on the Star Mazda series next year in addition to fielding cars in SCCA Club Racing events. The team also won the 2004 Formula Ford Zetec team championship this year.
AWR will begin an extensive off-season testing program next month in preparation for the 2005 Star Mazda season opener. That event will be on March 18 as part of the 12 Hours of Sebring program in Sebring, Fla.
"I finished the season 15th in points, but without us missing the first race and having some problems in two other events, I would have had a healthy fifth," Klein said. "I'm extremely excited about next year. I am hoping that Robbie and I can run together as Andersen Walko teammates in Star Mazda next year; we work well together. Our team will head into the winter with an open mind, looking to learn as much as we can and have fun while we do it. We want to go into 2005 as prepared as possible. We have our work cut out for us, but I truly believe we can run for the championship next year. I'm extremely excited!"
The Laguna Seca race will be televised on SPEED at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, Oct. 31. The Oct. 2 race from Phoenix will be broadcast on the same network at 11:30 p.m. Oct. 23. AWR's office is in Fairfield, N.J. and its shop is in North Versailles, Pa.
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