Successful USF2000 Championship Debut by Afterburner Autosport at Sebring
 March 18, 2012| 
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Megenbier and Choi overcame lack of testing to highlight squad's speed and skill


MINNEAPOLIS, MIN. – Afterburner Autosport commenced its inaugural season of Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda competition in fine fashion this past week (March 15-16) with a strong debut outing in the season-opening doubleheader at Sebring International Raceway. Series returnee Timmy Megenbier further reinforced his talents behind the wheel with two spirited top-10 drives, while rookie Heamin Choi gained valuable experience in his full-time transition to North American action.


Unlike the majority of their championship rivals, Afterburner Autosport entered races one and two on the USF2000 Championship calendar with no pre-season testing of note. Given this fact, the goal for the Sebring doubleheader was to gather valuable experience and data each time the cars rolled on-course. Thanks to some hard work by the talented Afterburner crew, Megenbier quickly surmised he could steer his No. 17 Caputo Cheese/Rahal Foods/Power Stop/Afterburner Autosport entry up the speedcharts, ultimately cracking the top-10 in event testing. That being said both the test runs and practice sessions were all about learning, with Choi steadily coming to grips with not only his new No. 21 F1Pilot.com/Afterburner Autosport racing steed, but the fast and bumpy Sebring road course in central Florida.


The lone qualifying session, which set the grid for Round One, proved to be a chaotic and frustrating affair for the Afterburner duo. Already chasing their opponents with regards to overall seat time, two caution periods in the timed run prevented Megenbier and Choi from getting in any sort of rhythm and turning a true flying lap. The end result was the 11th (Megenbier) and 22nd (Choi) quickest times in the shortened session.


With the continued goal of finding more speed and developing each time on-course, the mood was upbeat under the Afterburner Autosport awning entering race one of the Sebring doubleheader a few hours after qualifying. The start proved to be chaotic affair, with two of the leaders contacting on-another. Megenbier promptly made the most of the subsequent opening, vaulting into the fight for the lead. Choi likewise showed good racecraft, advancing several positions in the opening few corners. Unfortunately, the duo's charge up the timecharts was quickly halted due yellow flags waving around the course for the turn one incident. 


Not surprisingly, when the action resumed via a green-white-checker, Megenbier and Choi immediately were part of multi-car fights for position. Dueling all the way the stripe, Megenbier came home with a strong sixth place result, while Choi took the flag 16th in his series debut.


After advancing several places in the shortened opener, the Afterburner Autosport drivers and crew were keen to go racing once again in Round Two. Utilizing each driver's fast time from race one to set the grid, the green flag waved with Megenbier in ninth, and Choi in 20th. Unlike the opening affair, the 30+ field made it successfully through turn one, allowing the talented duo to push their way up the standings. Megenbier, having impressed onlookers last season with his family-run team, once again displayed good racecraft lap after lap, battling for a place among the top-five. Choi, utilizing the skills that led him to two Korean sports car titles, was also engaged in a spirited battle for position. Once again the racing action came to premature end via a back-to-back full-course cautions. Taking the checkered flag behind the safety car, Megenbier added another top-10 result via a second consecutive sixth place finish, crossing the line ahead of Choi, who came home in 18th.


"Fantastic driving by both drivers," stated Afterburner Autosport principal Tim Walsh. "Timmy powered his way to the front of the pack in both races, showing great skill. Heamin quickly adapted to the new car, learning both the car and the track at the same time. A very tough thing to do without any testing prior to Sebring. Brian Tomasi, Gib Gibson, and Chris Walsh all worked long hours to get the cars ready for Sebring. They all did whatever it took to get the cars and drivers ready. I'm very happy with everyone."


"It was a great opening weekend at Sebring, " commented Megenbier. "Though it was just as tough as last year, being behind with no seat time in the car, no laps on this track since last year, and not being in the Winterfest races. We put in a lot of long nights at the shop to get the cars prepared for the first race.


"My team did a hands down awesome job getting Heamin and I settled in the car fast and professionally. Brian worked with Gibby and I a lot with the data and debriefing after every session in order to get the car faster and more to my liking. Tim and Chris Walsh did a lot more then a team owner usually does on a race weekend. They made us all feel like family and asked all the time how we were doing and what we wanted the team to improve on. That was very important to Heamin and I, knowing that we can share what we want and the team to deliver like they did. I could not be happier with my decision to race for Afterburner Autosport and knowing we all have the same goal to win and make a name for ourselves.


"Every session out we improved our time and used data to set the car up the best we could. The race itself was a blast, I loved being back in the car racing and doing what I love the most. I would like to say thank you to everybody at Afterburner, Caputo Foods, Powerstop and my family for all the support you given me."


"It's good to finish the weekend without any real problems since I got a new car," said Choi. "I came to the U.S.A. a week before the season started, so I did not have any preparation or testing before the races. Sebring is great track, challenging, fast, and fun to race. The USF2000 Championship is the most competitive series I have ever experienced. More seat time will definitely allow me to score better results. Thanks to Afterburner Autosport and my dad for all the support."


Afterburner Autosport has little time to reflect on its series debut, as the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title chase resumes this coming weekend (March 24-25), with Rounds Three and Four on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The squad enters the IZOD IndyCar Series season-opening event currently fourth in the team points. Live timing and scoring will be available at www.f2000.com/Multimedia/Live.aspx.


Additional information on Afterburner Autosport is available from the team’s website @ www.afterburnerautosport.com For direct contact, please email afterburnerautosport@gmail.com or call 630-251-1709.


For additional Information on Timmy Megenbier visit www.timmymegenbier.com For direct contact info please contact Patrick Burke at patrick@pmbmotorsports.com or 815-693-2564.


Learn more about Heamin Choi at www.f1pilot.com.


Keep up to date via Twitter @ ABautosport1 @ H3amin @ TimmyMeg17 and Facebook pages @ Afterburner-Autosport @ Heamin.Choi @ Timmy.Megenbier.


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About Afterburner Autosport:

Afterburner Autosport was formed in 2010 with the sole purpose of leading the way in the USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda competition. Under the guidance of two-time SCCA Formula Continental National Champion Brian Tomasi and fellow F2000 racer and engineer Tim Walsh, the team has over 20 years of experience in open-wheel competition. The Minnesota, Min.-based squad, having captured two podium finishes in its inaugural pro racing season last year, will make its USF2000 Championship debut in 2012, fielding multiple cars in the top Championship class.



 

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