Qualifying for Race One, SBNC

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Thursday, March 17, 2005 SEBRING, Fla. – It’s no shock that Sebring wizard Gerado Bonilla took pole position in wet conditions (2:46.292) this morning. Equally unsurprising is to find Matt Varsha third-quick (2:50.200). But Skip Barber National rookie Casey Neal’s best lap has him second on the grid for this afternoon’s season-opening Round One.

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Wet but not wild was Gerardo Bonilla, taking pole for the first Skip Barber National Championship Presented by RACER of the year.

Neal, at 17 the same age as Varsha, comes out of the Snap-On Stars of Karting ranks and has all of two R/T 2000 races under his belt; Laguna Seca, in December. He’d not seen Sebring’s historic 3.7 miles until this past Tuesday.

Varsha is one of this year’s leading title contenders, as is Lorenzo Mandarino, who will start sixth. But, at least for this opening round, Skip Barber Regional standout Lucas McConnell (fourth) and U.S. Regional Run-off champion Adam Tran (fifth) are threats, and a win or podium result for either or both could give them the confidence they need to be season long contenders.

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Casey Neal’s age and experience belie his car control skills; he’ll start alongside the cagey vet Bonilla in this afternoon’s race.

Another karting star, Garrett Zine is seventh, followed by Richard Heistand, Cole Nelson (a Skip Barber Karting Scholarship runner-up) and Peter Ludwig, a multiple race winner in Barber’s Regional Series.

1. Gerardo Bonilla, Orlando, Fla., 2:46.292/80.100 mph
2. Casey Neal, Middletown, Ohio, 2:47.934
3. Matt Varsha, Atlanta, 2:50.200
4. Lucas McConnell, Springfield, Va., 2:51.459
5. Adam Tran, Vancouver, B.C., Can., 2:51.580
6. Lorenzo Mandarino, Burnaby, B.C., Can., 2:51.780
7. Garrett Zine, Rio Linda, Calif., 2:51.986
8. Richard Heistand, Sunny Isles, Fla., 2:52.294
9. Cole Nelson, Atwater, Calif., 2:52.415
10. Peter Ludwig, New Paltz, N.Y., 2:53.281
11. Alan Sciuto, Orange, Calif., 2:53.289
12. John Angelone, Bridgewater, N.J., 2:53.394
13. Jordy Vorrath, White Rock, B.C., Can., 2:53.550
14. Winston de Wardt, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 2:54.037
15. Andy Rossetto, Grafton, Wis., 2:55.330
16. Pablo Sanchez Lopez, Xochimanga, Mexico, 2:55.748
17. Paul Albert, Ottawa, Ont., Can., 2:56.499
18. Terrick Mansur, Oranjestad, Aruba, 2:56.960
19. Chris Cook, Coopersburg, Pa., 2:58.821
20. Eoin Ryan, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, 2:58.922
21. Jimmy Holden, Tiona, Pa., 3:00.963
22. Jimmy Locke, Center Barnstead, N.H., 3:01.891
25. Rick Carlino, Deerfield Beach, Fla., 3:11.285
24. Alain Roger Matrat, Annapolis, Md., 3:12.860
23. Jeremy Morales, Glen Head, N.Y., 3:20.005

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Matt Varsha spent half a year in the National in 2004, and won this year’s Southern Regional title. He’ll put his experience to use to try to get around Neal.

Photos by Rock Rizzo

Rick Roso

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