|Saturday, July 11, 2009 8:00AM||In The News|
Smrz Returns to Dominate Round Seven Laps Run on Original 2.5 Mile Configuration
Saturday, July 11, 2009, Sonoma, CA â€“ Using the original 2.5-mile track configuration, racers prove experience pays in round seven of the Jim Russell Championship Series at Infineon Raceway. Racers who previously ran in the Jim Russell Championship demonstrate what it takes to set fast lap times. Brett Smrz, 2008 Jim Russell Champion, returns to dominate every session.
Not letting its drivers become complacent, the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School opted to run the original 2.5-mile track configuration for Saturdayâ€™s race. Cooler temperatures during the morning qualifying showed that competitors were using one of two strategies. Either they were using all the time allotted to build their speed and develop their rhythm, or they opted to lay down several quick laps early in the session and conserve tires then and wait for the race.
During qualifying, Smrz knocks off two seconds from his best practice lap time to earn the pole position. Nic LeDuc, 2008 Jim Russell Championship Series runner-up, knocks off more than a second and half to earn outside pole. Nick Galante, the 2008 Jim Russell Masters Champion, is quick enough to earn inside second row and Thomas Asseo rounds out the second row.
Rookies, Aleks Altberg and Greg Liefooghe ease up during qualifying to conserve tires and their energy, saving both for the race.
At the green flag, the formation of the cars is picture perfect. Smrz leads out of Turn 2 but is surprised by LeDuc who takes the lead on the first lap at Turn 6. Asseo capitalizes on Galanteâ€™s stumble in Turn 7 to get the third spot. Further back in the field, rookie Altberg makes a bold move going around Masters Class competitor Will Hill and rookie Greg Liefooghe. As the race progressed and the field spread out, Smrz started his attack on LeDuc. By lap five, he was able to gain the top spot from LeDuc in a good pass at Turn 7. Smrz continued to extend his lead and looked like he was walking away from LeDuc.
Half way through the race, it appeared every competitor had backed off by a second or more. The resulting gaps in the field reinvigorated those racers who still had something left to pursue their leaders. As the race leader, Smrz found that he could ease up as LeDuc wasnâ€™t able to fill Smrzâ€™s mirrors. Galante was first to try to close the gap with LeDuc, but ran wide and couldnâ€™t put a lap together to get the job done. Meanwhile, it was Asseo who locked on to LeDuc and began the pursuit. Further back, Rookie Altberg dropped Liefooghe like a hot potato and gained two positions while Hill had an off road excursion at Turn 4. By Lap 11, Asseo took advantage of LeDuc wide run through Turn 7 and dove underneath LeDuc for third spot.
At the finish, Smrz finished first, Asseo gains two spots to finish second, and Galante finishes third overall, first in Masters Class. LeDuc earns third place points for the Championship.
Round eight runs on Sunday, July 12, 2009 here at Infineon Raceway.