TRAFFORD, PA (May 1, 2007) – John Walko Racing fielded just two cars at Virginia International Raceway in the third round of the Star Mazda Championship with regular drivers Russell Walker and Charles Anti again showing they have the speed to compete at the front of a very competitive field.
Anti placed highest in the race among the two JWR drivers but reaching that point did not come easily for the New York University freshman according to John Walko.
"Charles struggled a little at the start of the weekend compared to how well he has been doing to this point in the season. He is in the middle of finals at NYU now in addition to being on the road racing the last three weeks between testing and races at Houston and VIR. It has been a bit overwhelming but he was really getting back in to his groove in the final practice after qualifying twelfth. Unfortunately he crashed hard that session in a very fast section of the track."
In a rare occurrence for the defending Star Mazda Team Champions though, the team was not running their third car. The car was in the transporter fully prepared allowing Anti the chance to still compete in the race.
"Fortunately for Charles our third car was not running this weekend and was in the transporter ready to go, otherwise he would have missed the race. The crew was able to quickly convert the car to the setups from Charles' car and make the appropriate adjustments. I was a little nervous about putting a driver in a car in race conditions with no previous laps but Charles did a great job. He turned competitive laps and methodically worked his way through the field picking up 16 positions. Other than a small issue with the "shift without lift" that Charles was able to fix on his own on the fly the car was flawless off the trailer."
While Anti had the better finishing position, teammate Walker had a very impressive showing as well before his raceday was cut short by an engine failure.
"Russell was competitive all weekend. He and Eric worked well together again staying in the top four or five in practice then qualifying fifth. At the start of the race he picked up a few spots, moving to third and challenging for second. Unfortunately following a long yellow the engine went off song then a lap later blew up. It was just a really solid performance by Russell from the beginning of the weekend to the end."
To Walko, this group is really coming in to its own and is on the cusp of a breakthrough race.
"We are seeing more of these kinds of performances from Russell. He is just really getting up to speed quickly each week. That whole team is strengthening; the chemistry between Russell, Eric and Scott is really clicking. Although this result wasn't really what we hoped for, we still came away feeling it was a good weekend. He is becoming a really good student of the sport, always learning and listening and trying new ideas. He just gets better and better."
The maturation of the two young drivers is a point Walko is excited about particularly considering their background in comparison to other more experienced drivers in the field.
"Russell and Charles are both kids that didn't grow up on karts or do Pro racing before coming here. They are both continuing to make progress and are on par with where they should be. I think the experience level of the members of this team combined with the drive to succeed that these two have is what makes this program work."
The JWR crew has begun preparations on the three team cars for the upcoming west coast swing. Drivers interested in joining the defending Star Mazda Team Champions for the upcoming races or tests are encouraged to contact the team as soon as possible Upcoming plans include the fourth race of the season at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah followed by testing and the fifth race at Portland.
"It was an up and down weekend. We were disappointed with qualifying but starting twelfth would have beat starting at the back after the crash. It took the pressure off though and the race went as well as could be expected. It was fun to work through the field and a tenth place finish considering we had no time in that car was really good for the team."
Steve Dreizler, Engineer for Charles Anti
"Charles certainly was showing good speeds in parts of the race track and was putting it all together in final practice but unfortunately had an off at a very fast part of the track and crashed hard. Caleb and the team prepped the third car in short order since it wasn't being used, putting the set-up on from the other car and fitting everything for Charles. He started last and frankly did a great job. I don't think we could have asked for anything more. He salvaged everything possible out of the situation and earned a lot of points. The team needs to be commended as well for having that third car 100% ready to run when it came off the transporter. That kind of preparation is what wins Championships."
"It was another great weekend coming off of the momentum from Houston despite losing the engine. I think we are really making a name for ourselves, it's exciting! We still have good momentum despite the final result. In fact we were running solidly in third and battling for second when the engine quit. We showed everyone that we belong at the front for sure. Scott, Eric and I are all really clicking and building a lot of energy. I'm looking forward to getting back to Miller as we should be able to apply a lot of what we learned at VIR."
Eric Langbein, Engineer for Russell Walker:
"We were fast again. Russell, Scott and I all did our job to the best of our ability and we were proud of the result. Unfortunately the final standings do not reflect how strong we were but that was a result of circumstances outside of our control. I'm excited that we were able to show what we are capable of though and look forward to continue this momentum as we look toward the next race at Miller Motorsports Park. Russell is starting to think like a champion and a winner and is showing a lot of maturity, particularly considering the stout, experienced competition he is running against."
1 Dane Cameron
2 Ron White
3 Marco Di Leo
10 Charles Anti
22 Russell Walker
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