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."
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
BRASELTON, Ga., March 27 - Andersen Walko Racing had a first, a second and a third in SCCA national events at Road Atlanta Motorsports Park over the Easter weekend.
Sunday morning Graham Rahal had the perfect tune-up for the Star Mazda race at Road Atlanta April 17 when he won a SCCA national event on the same course. That race featured both Formula Continental cars and Formula Mazdas.
Tim Dunn finished second in the Formula Ford race. He had to deal with a broken third gear, but he still managed to bring the car home second.
Scott Willard was in the same race as Rahal but in the Formula Continental class, not Formula Mazda. He ran second in his class for most of the race, spun, and then worked his way back up to third in his class.
Rahalís victory came in the Andersen Walko Racing No. 12, the same car he'll drive at Road Atlanta in a few weeks in the Star Mazda pro event. The car is sponsored by The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch and Norwalk Furniture.
The 16-year-old son of Bobby Rahal had a perfect weekend, as he also won the pole on Saturday. His qualifying time was some 1.3 seconds faster than the lap Ryan Justice ran to earn the second starting spot.
Sunday's race had its issues, however.
"I led right from the start, but three laps from the end I spun," Rahal related. "There was a guy right on my tail when I spun. I shot through the grass; it was damp and I was on slicks. I went through a gravel trap but I kept on going, and when I got back on the track the guy was about four seconds ahead of me."
"The guy" was veteran Jacek Mucha in a Formula Atlantic car.
"I just kept trying," Rahal continued. "I caught up with him in Turn 10, and I was able to pull underneath him and win."
"It was good!" he added enthusiastically. "With this victory and the podium finish at Sebring, it gives me more confidence going into the Star Mazda race at Road Atlanta in a few weeks."
There were 41 entries in the group and 15 in Rahal's class Sunday.
FAIRFIELD, N.J., Sept. 22 - Andersen Walko Racing, which topped the team point standings for 2004 in the Formula Ford Zetec championship, will field two Star Mazda cars in the latter series' race Friday as a support event to the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Motorsports Park in Braselton, Ga.
The cars will be driven by 17-year-old rookies Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. and Robbie Pecorari of Aston, Pa., the younger brother of one of AWR's Formula Ford Zetec drivers, Adam Pecorari.
Klein has competed in all but one of the Star Mazda races held this year and has been doing extremely well. He is currently in ninth place in the overall point standings out of 39 drivers. To date his best finishes are a fourth at Lime Rock Park and a fifth at Mosport.
Pecorari will be making his first start ever in the Star Mazda series this weekend. In July he stepped into an AWR entry in a Formula SCCA doubleheader at Lime Rock, and although he'd never been in one of those races either he finished second in the first race and won the second one.
The Star Mazda car that Pecorari will drive at Road Atlanta is owned by Doug Prendeville, another one of AWR's Zetec drivers and the brother of the AWR driver who finished second in the Zetec championship this year, Andrew Prendeville.
"I've never raced in the Star Mazda series before, but the cars are some of the best cars out there for the price and Road Atlanta is definitely a fun track," said Robbie Pecorari, a senior at Garnet Valley High School in Concord, Pa. "It's a driver's track; it'll take a good driver to win there. I enjoy racing with Andersen Walko. We'll just try our best and see how it goes."
The 45-minute race, which will be taped for broadcast on SPEED at noon Eastern time on Oct. 10, is one of three remaining events on the 2004 Star Mazda schedule. It is scheduled to get the green flag at 1:35 p.m. Eastern time on Friday.
After Road Atlanta the series, which is presented by Goodyear, travels to Phoenix for a race on the oval at Phoenix Int'l Raceway Oct. 2 and then on to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. for the season finale on Oct. 16.
Klein, who is sponsored by Kalfact Plastics; Fettes, Love and Sieben; Nexus Distribution Corp.; Midwest Steel & Services; Ironclad and ProStar, recently participated in a two-day test on the Phoenix oval in his Star Mazda car.
"There were 11 cars testing there, including mine," Klein reported. "We were second-quickest throughout the two days.
"We had some gearbox problems on the first day and we had some engine overheating problems and broke a half-shaft on the second day," he continued. "Luckily that happened when I was coming out of the pits and wasn't up to full speed.
"Unfortunately the second day I did end the day with a crash in turn one when one of my tires failed," he continued. "We weren't on Goodyears, and the tire went down and I went into the wall."
Although the right side of Klein's car was damaged, luckily he wasn't hurt.
"It was the biggest oval I've ever been on," Klein added. "John [Walko, team co-owner and chief engineer] and Eric [Langbein, an engineer] did a great job setting up the car. To post the second-fastest time before we made any changes whatsoever shows how good our team is."
This weekend's Star Mazda schedule shows practice today at 10 a.m. and 2:50 p.m. Tomorrow (Thursday) practice is slated for 9:15 a.m. followed by qualifying at 4:25 p.m. The race time is 1:35 p.m. Friday.
Andersen Walko Racing's office is in Fairfield, N.J. and its shop is in North Versailles, Pa.
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