FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TRAFFORD, PA (December 17, 2007) -- The John Walko Racing team rolled in to Firebird International Raceway with no experience at the facility but plenty of expectations. Driver Mike Hill scored an impressive sweep at the previous event, scoring two wins at Buttonwillow, but had never raced at Firebird either.
In addition to the lack of previous data to work with from the facility, the lack of a practice day preceding the event meant the team would have to come off of the trailer strong and be able to adapt to the track and conditions quickly. With the Star Mazda Winter Series running practice, qualifying and a race each day there would be little room for error.
According to John Walko the team was confident in their preparations and that of their driver but they were also dealt an additional variable on Saturday morning.
"It was another good weekend. We would have liked to have run on Friday as we were there and prepared but to no avail. To make matters more interesting on Saturday, we were met with a wet session first thing in the morning. Mike proved that he came ready as well holding down the top spot by a few seconds."
The rest of the weekend proved to be a test of the team's ability to adjust to a constant series of changing weather conditions and track conditions. Even with a dry track, the bumps and grittiness of the surface was akin to street racing.
"We had little time to make many changes but we were fortunate enough to have excellent street course and wet set-up data to work from. Mike provided good feedback and adjusted quickly, setting out to an early lead on Saturday. He later had a pretty good dice for the lead, but the race ended up finishing under yellow with us in second. A good second place finish there with little testing or time to rub on the car much to tune for the track."
Sunday was more of the same as the day started with everything from wet to drying conditions. With the rains stopped, the sun starting to shine and the race ready to roll the team decided to take their chances on slicks.
"It was a wet morning leaning towards drying and we did get the morning practices on slicks. By race time the sun was coming out and the track was starting to dry so we made the call to go with slicks. During the pace lap it started to rain tough and we were one of the only front runners on slicks. Mike put on a great drive and came home third, not only finishing on slicks but beating most of the rest of the field that was on rain tires. By the end of the race he was running times within a half second of the leaders which was really impressive."
The Gilroy, California driver looks to the final round at Phoenix International Raceway with his eye on a potential Championship after scoring two wins, a second and a third in the first four races. JWR has a second car available for drivers interested in joining the team for the final race weekend at Phoenix. Drivers interested in discussing the final Winter Series event and/or winter testing should contact John Walko Racing as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org
"It was a really good weekend. We were surprised by the track to a degree initially but it turned out to be a great test of all that racing involves. We had a commanding lead in the first race but it was really the first dry session so I was trying some different lines and got caught and passed only to have the race end under yellow on the next lap. In the second race we went with a dry set-up but it rained again during the race which made every turn a gut check and a challenge! I still finished third, keeping a good pace despite being one of the only cars on slicks. We worked our tails off all weekend to get the car to work right in all the different conditions. The crew was fantastic again and I was able to learn so much working with everyone. I definitely drove to my abilities as well so I was really proud of that."
John Walko -Engineer for Mike Hill
"Mike was unbelievable. Sunday in particular in the rain was a really impressive drive. I was actually more impressed by that drive than the two wins at Buttonwillow. It was fun to watch, it was that good. Mike is a talented driver, and this event was a true test of his abilities in a variety of conditions as well as his ability to adapt to street race-like track conditions."
"This Winter Series has turned out to be really good. It is so much more productive than testing, to get out there and run in a race environment is a tremendous way to learn. I hope more people sign up and do this next year as it is just a great off season tool."
PHOENIX, Oct. 6 2004 - Seventeen-year-old rookie Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. took the checkered flag in third place in the Star Mazda race Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway. Unfortunately his Andersen Walko Racing entry did not pass the post-race technical inspection and was disqualified.
The problem was a simple human error. Team members mistakenly didn't install the designated oval-track sway bar required for this event, run on the only oval the series visits in 2004. Instead the usual road-course sway bar was inadvertently still in the car. Although the sway bar that was used actually made the car slower on an oval, it was not the correct one to be used here and the series officials disqualified the effort.
"It was a simple human error; we made a mistake," said team co-owner Dan Andersen. "Although it didn't give Jonathan a performance advantage, it was not the correct sway bar. The series officials followed the rules; we don't fault them for having to enforce them."
"We all feel badly that Jonathan did not get the podium finish which he deserved at PIR, but this is a team sport and we'll stand together as a team," he added. "We're proud of the run than Jonathan gave our entry and we're proud that we prepared a car that was definitely a contender in this race. Now we'll look ahead to the season finale at Laguna and try our best to get on the podium there."
Klein has to have added confidence going into the season finale due to how well he ran at Phoenix. Although it was his first oval track race ever, he handled both the traffic and a slipping clutch with the expertise of a seasoned veteran.
"Right at the start of the event my clutch started slipping, so when I stepped on the throttle I had no drive from the rear wheels," Klein explained. "Restarts were difficult and I lost a position to [Daniel] DiLeo on the second restart, but the car worked well and I was able to negotiate traffic and work my way back around him."
Michael McDowell led every lap of the 75-lap race, which was presented by Goodyear.
Klein's entry is sponsored by Kalfact Plastics; Fettes, Love and Sieben; Nexus Distribution Corp.; Midwest Steel & Services; Ironclad and ProStar.
Klein qualified sixth with a lap in 26.365 seconds for an average speed of 136.545. He was second in the warm-up session Saturday morning with a 26.313 (136.815 mph), second only to McDowell.
The season finale will be held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. on Oct. 16.
"With running second at Road Atlanta prior to a tire failure and running third at Phoenix before the problem in tech, we know we'll be strong at Laguna Seca and even more so for the entire 2005 season," Klein said. "Even with the wrong sway bar and the handling being worse than everyone else's, Eric [Langbein] and John [team co-owner John Walko] set the car up well enough to finish third. On to Laguna!"
The recent Road Atlanta race will be televised on SPEED at noon Eastern time on Oct. 10.
Saturday's race from Phoenix will be broadcast on SPEED on Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. Eastern time
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