|Tuesday, September 15, 2009 10:31AM||Press Releases|
The 2009 Jim Russell Championship Series resumed over the weekend (September 12-13), with Rounds 11 and 12 taking place at Infineon Raceway in Northern California. Defending series champion Brett Smrz was the driver to beat in the doubleheader, leading Aleks Altberg and Gregory Liefooghe to the checkered flag in race one, before scoring the win ahead of Nick Galante and Altberg in race two.
After a day of pre-event testing for the majority of the Jim Russell Championship Series competitors, wet weather conditions on Saturday morning required the Jim Russell crew to change tires for practice laps. The weather improved later in the morning however, allowing racing slicks to again be mounted on the FJR-50 race cars for qualifying and the race.
During qualifying, Smrz opted to lay down several quick laps early on and conserve his tires. Smrz pitted early thinking he had claimed the pole position, but ended up on the outside of row one. Altberg, having decided to wait until the last half of the session to lay down his fastest laps, turned the quickest lap of the session just prior to the checkered flag waving, earning the rookie his first series pole position.
When the opening race of the weekend got underway, Smrz quickly fell in line to maintain second place. Immediately sizing up Altberg, Smrz tried to pass by going wide at the exit of the Carousel turn. While the initially attempt only briefly worked - relinquishing the position one turn later - he was ultimately successful on his second attempt. Once in the lead, Smrz steadily increased his lead over Altberg. By lap eight, Smrz had set his fastest lap of the race, building a multi-car advantage. Much like his qualifying run, Altberg increased his pace as the race went on, closing the gap to Smrz. The second place driver however never got within striking distance, giving Smrz his fifth series win in a row. Behind the lead duo, Liefooghe maintained a comfortable third place position from start to finish, giving the Rookie of the Year leader another podium result.
Returning to the well-like Infineon Raceway road course one day later, wet weather conditions gave way to colder temperatures for the morning practice and qualifying sessions. During qualifying, Smrz laid down a lap time of 1:31:845, narrowly earning the pole position over Masters Champion Galante and Altberg.
At the start of the race, it was Galante that jumped into the lead ahead of Smrz. The race one winner tried to get a good run on Galante in the early laps, but couldnâ€™t put anything together. After being all over the back of Galante, Smrz finally was able to get around Galante in turn seven. Once in the lead, Smrz controlled the race until the end, completing the weekend sweep for a third consecutive event, setting a new series mark for consecutive wins at six. Behind the race winner, Altberg and Galante enjoyed a spirited battle for position throughout the second half of the race. Altberg, having initially found a way past the Masters standout in turn 11, held the position for several laps, before Galante retook second place via an aggressive yet clean move in turn seven.
The Jim Russell Championship Series resumes on October 17-18, with Rounds 13-14 of the 16-race schedule taking place at Infineon Raceway. Entering the doubleheader, Smrz and Liefooghe are tied for the championship lead with 86 points, one ahead of Galante.