Phoenix, AZ, March 22, 2003 - Mark Taylor continue his streak today, taking his second straight Infiniti Pro Series race. Two out of two so far. And he cleaned house in style, capturing the pole yesterday and leading every lap of today's hundred mile Phoenix 100.
"The car was actually perfect."
Second place was taken by Thiago Medeiros. Yesterday Madeiros was very disappointed with his ninth place qualifying position, but today proved himself with a determined run through the field, culminating with passing Brandon Erwin on the inside in Turn 2 on the 38th lap to capture second place for good. Thiago atributed both the poor qualifying run and the good race run to setup.
"We had problems to find a good setup in the beginning of this weekend. We didn't have a good qualifying. It was a pretty long race. We found a good setup in the warm-up.
"I'm very happy because we started in the back and and finished second. It is a great result here."
Tony Ave, a veteran of multiple classes of cars at Phoenix, ran a solid, professional race advancing from his fifth place start to third. Tony's drive was more impressive than might be inferred from advancing just two places. One of those spots was accomplished the long way around, going outside of Brandon Erwin in Turns 3 and 4 on lap 50.
"The guys did a great job," Tony said. Panther obviously has their act together. I knew the guys ahead of me were going to have solid cars. I drove the thing as hard as we could go, and that's where we ended up."
Brandon Erwin was satisfied with his fourth place finish. "The number 99 Natural Golf Sam Schmidt Motorsports car ran great today. We struggled some on the setup. We couldn't quite get through Turns 1 and 2, so we were losing most of our time there. As the day went on, from 50 laps on, the car was really a handful. We missed two wrecks right in front of us, and we did well to avoid those. We brough it home all in one piece."
While Erwin brought his car home in one piece, the race itself could not be viewed as a single piece. The day looked promising with a textbook perfect start, all cars in precise rows as they came to the green. Unfortunately, before two laps were done it looked like it was going to be one of those days.
Tom Wood brought out the first yellow by hitting the inside wall in Turn 2, ending his day. After a brief cleanup, there were a dozen laps of green when Gary Peterson's blown engine left an oil streak around the whole track. Cory Witherill, who had worked his way up to fifth from his seventh place start, spun to the inside of Turn 2. His car was undamaged, but the spin put him to the rear of the field.
The oil caused problems for everyone, including leader Taylor. "The main problem with the race was the oil," Taylor said. Oil all the way around the track. Very difficult to drive through. I felt that I was struggling with it. I'm sure that everyone else was finding it hard, as well, just not knowing how the car feels."
The safety team took 15 laps to clean the oil, with the green flying on lap 36. The green was short lived, lasting only six laps before Ed Carpenter encountered the Turn 2 wall. It was a good six laps of racing, though, with Mark Taylor showing his dominance by pulling out a lead while Thiago Madeiros charged to second place.
The green came out on Lap 48, and stayed green for 44 laps. After Ave's move into third on Lap 50, the front four of Taylor, Madeiro, Ave and Erwin held position, often separated from each other by three to four seconds during the long run. It looked like it was going to run out that way.
On Lap 92, Marty Roth's encounter with the front stretch wall brought out the final yellow. Cleanup was quick, but the green and white waved together for a final lap of racing.
On the restart, not much happened among the leading cars - their speed was established and nobody was asleep for the green. At the back, though, the field stayed closely bunched through that lap. As they crossed the finish line, Cory Witherill and Jonathan Urlin touched. Matt Beardsley and Arie Luyendyk were part of the pack, but managed to slip through unscathed while Witherill and Urlin went hard into the Turn 1 wall. It was a classic "Green-white-checker" bunch-up incident, leaving the participants puzzled as to what went wrong.
"I really don't have a clue as to what happened," said Urlin. "I took the checkered, started to slow the car down, and the next thing I knew I was caught up with two or three or however many cars and it was stuck in the outside wall. It's unfortunate, but you're going to have these through the season, I guess. I don't know if it was somebody's or everybody's stupid mistake, but that's kind of what racing is."
As Cory saw it, "Luyendyk was slowing down in Turns 3 and 4. A few cars in front of me split him. One went to the left, and one went to the right. I went tot he far left. Next thing I knew someone, I guess, bumped me from the rear. That's what they told me on the radio. I don't know. The race was all right for us. It was going quite well for us, but this kind of put a damper on our whole weekend."
None of the drivers in today's incidents were injured.
Highlights of today's race will be telecast on ESPN2 at 1 pm EST on March 28. The next race in the Infiniti Pro Series will be May 17, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.