Laguna Seca report

Round 6, Star Mazda Series North American Championship Round 12, Star Mazda Series West Division Championship Busy PR Week Doesn't Distract Bradley From Win SUNDAY, SEPT. 8, 2001/MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA--The week leading up to the sixth...

Round 6, Star Mazda Series North American Championship
Round 12, Star Mazda Series West Division Championship

Busy PR Week Doesn't Distract Bradley From Win

SUNDAY, SEPT. 8, 2001/MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA--The week leading up to the sixth round of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship was hectic for San Jose resident Scott Bradley. As part of pre-race promotional activities, the American Le Mans Series hosted a couple events on the Wednesday preceding the weekend, including a stop at Caesar Chavez Park in downtown San Jose and at the local Speedring go-kart track. Bradley agreed to attend and was joined by fellow series drivers Marc De Vellis, Oliver Rowen, Bob Negron and Ed Zabinski at the go-kart track for some friendly competition between drivers from the different ALMS series, as well as local media and fans. With the help of his father, Jack, Bradley and his World Speed Motorsports race car made stops at both functions.

Despite the demanding schedule and on-track challenges, Bradley still managed to claim his second pole and second win of the season, thus collecting the maximum number of points for the weekend. "The car was awesome this weekend thanks to the entire World Speed crew," Bradley said. "Climbing to the top of the podium at this track in front of my friends and family was just incredible."

Going into the Monterey race, Bradley led Valley Motor Center's Chad Block by five points, but increased that cushion to 13 after this weekend's win and pole awards. It wasn't as easy as it looked, however, as Bradley struggled in practice Friday, battling minor mechanical problems that put the World Speed team behind on its usual set-up schedule. Then, after qualifying, mechanics noticed the transmission wasn't quite right and opted to change it before Sunday's race. "Unfortunately, the replacement gearbox we used wasn't as crisp on the upshifts and hung up between second and third gears," Bradley explained. "That's how Oliver (Rowen) and then Marc (De Vellis) gained ground on me after the restarts."

As the 46 cars heading for a start, about a third of the drivers were still navigating down the hill through Turns Nine and 10, but the front portion of the field was tidy and the green flew to start the race. Bradley immediately took command with second-fast qualifier De Vellis in pursuit, followed by Valley teammates Rowen and Block, and Racers Edge rookie Luis Schiavo. Just behind them, however, SierraSierra's Moses Smith and Racers Edge teammates Jeff Wallace and Michael Stephens were already battling hard as the pack tried to navigate Turn Three. In all the maneuvering, Smith and Wallace ended up in the tire wall with Valley's Scott Kusy also getting caught in the mishap. Everyone was OK, and Smith and Kusy limped back to the pits for repairs. While Stephens was able to continue, Smith's and Kusy's crews worked on their cars in the pits, however, 17-year-old Wallace was the race's first DNF. Almost immediately, a full-course yellow was called, which lasted until lap four when the green flew for the second time.

In what would be the longest stretch of green-flag racing (11 laps), Bradley held off De Vellis and then Rowen, despite his uncooperative transmission. "It really started to hang up on that first restart," said Bradley. "Coming out the Corkscrew, it was tough and I know Oliver almost hit me a couple times." Behind the lead pack of four cars (Bradley, Rowen, De Vellis and Block), the field was still relatively tight with Schiavo, Team Bucknum's Scott Jenkins, Valley's J.J. Fisher, DARE's Mike Anderson, TBR's Pierre Ehret and Lightspeed's Tom Nastasi rounding out the top 10 at about the halfway point. On lap 14, however, there was a change in the top three when De Vellis got by Rowen as the pair raced into Turn Eight.

An incident involving Dan Tomlin III and Jon Brownson brought out the second full-course caution. On lap 15, Schiavo went off track after what may have been a rear suspension failure and high-centered his car on the outside of Turn 11. As cars slowed to observe the local yellow, some contact was made which send Tomlin III spinning into the outside wall and Brownson headed toward the inside barrier. Although no one was injured, Brownson definitely got a little airborne before coming to a rest next to the inside wall.

With that incident cleared, the race got back underway on lap 19. Up front, Bradley was hoping his gearbox would last long enough to hold off the charging De Vellis. "I knew I had a fast car," said De Vellis. "I got close to Scott on the restarts, but he covered his line every time." Rowen, meanwhile, was setting up for a last run on the rookie De Vellis, but contact between the two left De Vellis holding onto second and Rowen headed to the pits for a new front wing. As bad luck would have it, though, the last full-course yellow came out for an four-car collision in Turn Four involving Bob Hatle, Rob Walker, Dan Weyland and Glenn Bjorkman. After passing Weyland and Walker, Hatle got a little sideways in Turn Four, sending the drivers scurrying to avoid him. Weyland got launched over Hatle and Walker while Bjorkman also got innocently collected, sustaining major damage to his race car. Fortunately, injuries were minor with Hatle sustaining a slight concussion and Walker favoring his right wrist.

With time expiring (the schedule allowed a 45-minute racing window), officials checkered the race behind the pace car. "Somehow we avoided all the incidents," said Bradley. "Oliver and Marc were definitely my biggest challengers out there today, especially on those restarts."

When Rowen headed to the pits, Block moved into third to claim the final podium position behind Bradley and De Vellis. "I think I had one of the best cars out there today," said Block. "I was just waiting for something to happen between Oliver and Marc, though." Jenkins finished fourth with Mike Anderson fifth, however, a post-race technical infraction moved Anderson to 45th finishing position. That development moved Nastasi into fifth, followed by Fischer, Aaron Ogus, Bob Negron, Ehret and David Stover, who started next-to-last.

Other notable drives were turned in by Matt Beardsley, who started last and finished 14th after he was forced to change tires following a qualifying session spin into a tire barrier. And, despite a spin on lap 11 in Turn 11, Bryan Willman finished 18th from his 26th starting position.

The Speedvision telecast of the Sept. 8, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event, featuring commentator Greg Creamer and pit reporter Calvin Fish, will be shown Monday, Oct. 8, at 8 p.m. and then at midnight on Oct. 9, Eastern time. In the Pacific time zone, the race will be shown during prime time at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Oct. 8. Please check your local listings to confirm the dates, airtimes and any repeat broadcasts.

The next race is Oct. 6, at Road Atlanta, in conjunction with ALMS' Petit Le Mans slate of races.

-www.starmazda.com

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