Carl Skerlong was the quickest driver throughout Friday and Saturday at New Jersey Motorsports Park's Thunderbolt Raceway, claiming the provisional pole for Sunday's Mazda Formula X event, round nine of eleven in the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.
Driving the #14 King Taco machine for Pacific Coast Motorsports, Skerlong logged a best lap at 1min 10.801secs to take the number one position by nearly four tenths of a second over rookie Jonathan Summerton. Skerlong earned a bonus point for his efforts and will be looking to claim the second pole position of his Atlantic career in final qualifying on Sunday morning.
“It's been going great so far,” Skerlong said, “[Engineer] Burke [Harrison]'s done an awesome job with the car all weekend, and the same with the guys. The morale has been good all weekend. Hopefully, we'll be able to take it tomorrow. The weather is going to probably going to play a part in it. There is possibly going to be some rain tonight, and we saw how that affected the track this morning but, hopefully, we can keep it going and finally have that win that we've been looking for.”
Summerton took second with a lap at 1min 11.194secs in the #36 Newman Wachs Racing entry. The rookie of the year leader will be looking to cut into the 28-point deficit to overall championship leader Jonathan Bomarito with his third victory of the season on Sunday.
“As I've said all weekend, it's fun to be out there,” Summerton said, “It gets dirty very quickly though - when people drop a wheel, it brings the dirt on. We were struggling with that in the last couple of laps and couldn't go any faster. It was a little disappointing, because we had the speed to be on pole. Hopefully, tomorrow it stays dry and we can be on pole.”
Dane Cameron made it a sweep of the top-three positions for American drivers when he clocked the third-quickest lap of the session in the #19 Genoa Racing entry, but heads into Sunday's race looking for his first career Atlantic victory.
“We're really happy to qualify third,” Cameron said, “We've been struggling a little bit throughout the weekend, and missed the second practice with a throttle cable issue, so we're trying to make up for lost ground here. The track conditions have been pretty tough with the weather and all that. We made some big changes for qualifying to see what would happen, because we've got two sessions, and it really paid off for us this time. I'm glad to be in the top three. Hopefully, now we found something that works and we can improve on this and try to start on the front row on Sunday.”
Finnish driver Markus Niemela made it three rookies inside the top four, looking to break a tie for third in the overall championship standings with James Hinchcliffe. The Brooks Associates Racing driver also trails Summerton by eight points in the rookie of the year standings. BAR team-mate Tom Sutherland was fifth, while Bomarito took sixth, followed by Hinchcliffe, Junior Strous, David Martinez and Kevin Lacroix.