Race Day Report (9/15/19)

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Former NASCAR and IndyCar driver makes debut in the Downforce class

Accomplished driver Anthony Lazzaro joins the field but isn’t enough to stop Patrick Wilmot

For the second consecutive month, the Downforce class started in reverse order of their qualifying times which, along with the inclusion of former NASCAR and IndyCar driver Anthony Lazzaro, made for some very exciting racing Sunday afternoon at Atlanta Motorsports Park.

August race day winner Patrick Wilmot captured the fastest qualifying time for both races followed by Lazzaro in each instance. In Race 1, Wilmot came from the back of the pack to win with Lazzaro right behind him to finish in the runner-up position.

Race 2 went a little off script with Paul Parker spinning out in Turn 11 on Lap 3 stalling his car and resulting in three caution laps as the AMP crew needed to tow his SR1 Radical car off the track.

This incident was preceded by a lot of movement on the track starting with John Pearson making a move on the inside of Turn 1 to go from third to first just seconds after the green flag waved to start the race.

The biggest mover of the opening lap was Wilmot starting from dead last in seventh place and making his way all the way up to second after just one lap following a bold move on the back half of the track.

However, that same bold racing ended up costing Wilmot on Lap 2 as the entire field made itself back around Wilmot’s No. 78 car pushing him back to where he started the race. By the time the caution came out on Lap 3, Wilmot had made his way back up to fourth place to conclude a very eventful three laps for the driver.

Other track action saw Michael Gatto make some textbook passes on various sections of the track. After starting fourth, Gatto made his way up to third before sizing up John Intile in the carousel on Lap 2, using the draft to get around and into second place. On Lap 3, shortly before the caution, Gatto dove on the inside of race-leader Pearson down into Turn 11 for a picture-perfect clean pass into first place.

The running order following the caution was Gatto, Pearson, Intile, Wilmot, Kevin Clifford and Lazzaro. Gatto got off to a fantastic restart to continue a great day of racing for the driver. Pearson, perhaps trying to keep up with Gatto, took his car too deep into Turn 1 and into the dirt forcing him to reluctantly watch the entire field pass him.

With the caution shortening the race, there were only two laps remaining after the restart on Lap 7 causing the drivers to frantically fight for positions. No one was able to catch Gatto, however, as he hit all his marks keeping the field behind him to take the win in Race 2. Wilmot made a strong push in the final laps to finish in second place followed by Intile with Lazzaro passing Clifford at the line to finish fourth. Pearson was never able to recover from his mistake on the restart and finished sixth.

After a win and runner-up finish, Wilmot captured his second-straight race day win. After having to retire early in Race 1, Gatto’s impressive win in Race 2 was enough to place him on the second step of the podium followed by Lazzaro, whose accomplishments also include a start in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in third place.

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Jason Bergstrom utterly dominates Spec Miata class

A shortened field in the Spec Miata class Sunday took away some of the drama, but that didn’t take away from Jason Bergstrom’s dominating day winning the two races by over a combined two minutes (49.797 and 1:17.278).

Bergstrom finished ahead of Steve Tynor and Mike Pascoe in both races, and while Tynor was running about a second a lap faster than Pascoe, Bergstrom was in a class of his own lapping over five seconds faster than both Tynor and Pascoe.

The more commanding of the two races for Bergstrom was Race 2. After winning the pole with ease, Bergstrom got through Turn 1 without incident and drove away from there building a six-second lead after the first lap.

By Lap 3, Bergstrom’s advantage was up to 15 seconds as he kept ticking off consistent lap times despite the huge lead. Bergstrom hit every corner like there was a driver right on his tail which allowed him to extend his lead to over 30 seconds at the halfway point of the race.

As long as Bergstrom kept it clean the rest of the way, the outcome would not be in doubt and that’s exactly what the veteran driver did ending Race 2 almost an entire lap up on the competition to sweep the day and finish atop the podium with Tynor in the runner-up position and Pascoe capturing the last spot on the podium in third place.

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