Andersen Walko Racing Pikes Peak race report

AWR's Pecorari and Rahal Finish One-Two In Star Mazda Race Sunday At Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., July 3 - Although it was the first oval-track race for either of them, Andersen Walko Racing's Robbie Pecorari and Graham ...

AWR's Pecorari and Rahal Finish One-Two In Star Mazda Race Sunday At Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., July 3 - Although it was the first oval-track race for either of them, Andersen Walko Racing's Robbie Pecorari and Graham Rahal finished side-by-side to place first and second, respectively, in a thrilling Star Mazda race Sunday at Pikes Peak International Raceway.

The official margin of victory after 75 laps of competition was a mere 0.038 of a second for Pecorari, of Aston, Pa., over Rahal, of New Albany, Ohio. It was by far the closest margin of victory so far this season in the series and it was a fitting conclusion to an event that saw cars three abreast numerous times on the 1-mile oval.

The only laps Pecorari led were the last two but he certainly made them count for his sponsor, SAI Hydraulics. Rahal led 13 laps in his car, which is sponsored by The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch, Renier Construction and Norwalk Furniture, and he also set the fastest lap of the race with a lap in 26.048 seconds for an average speed of 138.206 mph.

AWR's other two drivers in the race finished sixth and seventh, only 0.294 of a second apart. Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. was sixth in the No. 26 sponsored by Nexus Distribution Corporation, Midwest Steel & Services, Ironclad Performance Wear and ProStar. Pablo Donoso of Santiago, Chile was seventh in the green and yellow Cristal Beer entry.

James Hinchcliffe sat on the pole and led 60 laps of the 75 but his car went away from him as the race progressed and he finished fourth, right behind Sean Guthrie. Michael Potekhen finished fifth, right in front of Klein and Donoso.

The starting line-up was shuffled a bit after qualifying on Saturday and it worked out to AWR's advantage. The driver who was originally posted in second place, Brian Thienes, was later disqualified for a technical infraction and everyone behind polesitter Hinchcliffe moved up one spot. That put Pecorari and Donoso second and third, Klein in sixth and Rahal in eighth for the green flag.

Pecorari bided his time in second place for the first 51 laps, although he t ested Hinchcliffe several times in turn one. "I tried him a couple of times, but I knew if it didn't work out and I lifted, two or three cars could go by me, so I just waited for the right moment," he said later. "My car was better on cold tires today. It was just good, clean racing, and I'm glad Graham and I could finish first and second."

Rahal was already sixth by the end of lap one. He got fifth by passing Donoso on lap three and fourth by passing another one of his teammates, Klein, on lap four. He ran in fourth until Klein got him back on a restart on lap 13 after Mark Patterson spun and hit the wall in turn two.

Rahal passed Klein again on lap 15 to get back into fourth place, and he got third on lap 24 by passing Adrian Carrio right before another yellow waved for two cars that spun in turn two.

Two other yellows slowed the field for a couple laps, and then Rahal passed Pecorari for second on lap 52.

Rahal took the lead from Hinchcliffe on lap 61, showing the way despite a close call when Scott Jenkins hit the wall in turn four on lap 68.

Rahal's move pushed Pecorari to third but he retook second on lap 64, setting up the thrilling finish.

Pecorari got by Rahal with an inside move in turn four on the white-flag lap. Rahal made one last run on his teammate, but Pecorari held him off for the victory.

"If I had to lose to somebody, I'm glad it was to one of my teammates," Rahal said. "When I woke up this morning I knew that Robbie's car was the one I had to beat."

Klein was as high as fourth two different times (laps one through three and laps 13 and 14), but his car didn't handle as well as it did on Saturday. "I had a big push the entire race, and contact with Guthrie," he said.

Donoso said his car had too much downforce and it oversteered most of the race. "I had good, clean fights though," he said. "I was three-abreast several times. It was my first race on an oval but I really liked it. You must be really focused."

All of the drivers had to deal with strong gusts of wind throughout the race.

"It was bad enough when you were behind another car, but when you were running by yourself you never knew where the car was going to end up when a gust hit," the winner said.

Raphael Matos still leads the overall point standings but he finished 12th Sunday. Unofficially Matos has 203 points after Sunday's race followed by Pecorari with 175 and Rahal with 172. Klein is still in seventh place (137 points) and Donoso is eighth with 120.

This race is the only oval on the 2005 schedule of the Star Mazda series presented by Goodyear.

The next Star Mazda event is a doubleheader coming right up July 15-17 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. A race at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore. July 28-30 rounds out a busy July.

-awr-

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Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Graham Rahal , Michael Potekhen , Robbie Pecorari , Mark Patterson , Pablo Donoso , Adrian Carrio , Jonathan Klein , James Hinchcliffe , Brian Thienes