Utah: Jeff Segal race report

Segal Takes Mazda to Victory in Thriller at Miller Motorsports Park Last to first effort grows Segal's 2009 Rolex Series win count (Tooele, UT) 21 September 09--Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato took their second Rolex Sports Car Series race win of...

Segal Takes Mazda to Victory in Thriller at Miller Motorsports Park
Last to first effort grows Segal's 2009 Rolex Series win count

(Tooele, UT) 21 September 09--Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato took their second Rolex Sports Car Series race win of the season after emerging from a thrilling late-race battle at Miller Motorsports Park on Saturday evening.

The victory was the second in three races for Segal and Assentato in the No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 and marked an impressive comeback, as a precautionary last-minute motor change forced the machine to start from the back of the field.

The result moved the No. 69 SpeedSource-prepared entry up to fifth in the overall team championship, and was the eighth consecutive top-six finish for the duo including three consecutive podium appearances ahead of the Rolex Sports Car Series season-finale at Homestead in October.

"The weekend started off on the wrong foot with one thing after another," said co-driver Assentato. "We just had a bad start to the weekend and as a result, we didn't get much time on the track for set-up work. So we kind of guessed at what would work, and made a change before the race, and it turned out really well. We played it pretty conservative at the start and just stayed in the lead pack after starting from the back. Jeff got in the car, and just took it to the lead."

Segal took it to the lead twice, as he moved to the head of the pack on lap 29 before a caution period dissected the GT-class field as a wide scope of pit strategy played out on the 23 turn, 4.4-mile circuit outside of Salt Lake City.

But the final hour of the race saw the lead contenders all on the same strategy in the closing laps as Segal put his head down and fought his way past previous GT champions to put himself in podium position in the closing laps of the race. That effort was paid back fully as the two leaders eliminated themselves, with Segal perfectly placed to race to victory lane in a thrilling conclusion.

"We had some question marks on the set-up, but I could tell right away that we had a good car," said Segal, who received a congratulatory phone call from Mazda's John Doonan before he even reached the podium. "The last few laps were just insane. The guys were driving crazy. I had a blast and I hope the fans enjoyed it. I had a good time racing with Andy (Lally) and Paul (Edwards), those guys are some of the best in the business so to come out to be up there is great. The last few laps, things played our way and it made up for all the bad things we experienced this weekend up to that."

While Segal knows that his 2009 Rolex GT championship hopes were extinguished with some unfortunate set-backs early in the season, he still would like to continue this strong form to close out the year as he has a mathematical opportunity to move the No. 69 up to second in the championship to close out the year.

"I wish we had a few more races to go yet in the season because with the run we've been on since May, we have some great momentum going," said Segal. "Everything has just been clicking. At Watkins Glen we showed what we could do. Montreal was nice to be on the podium but we all knew that we could have won that race, so I was disappointed to end up third.

"Even though this weekend started off about as poorly as you could have thought, this SpeedSource team didn't give up one bit, Emil did a great job at the start, and we were right where we needed to be to take the win at the finish. It feels fantastic to come out on top like this, and now I just want to finish the year off right and do it again at Homestead."

The Rolex Sports Car Season finale will take place just outside of Segal's adopted hometown of Miami at Homestead Miami Speedway on October 10th.

-credit: sgm

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Emil Assentato , Jeff Segal
Teams SpeedSource