Road Atlanta: AWR race summary

All Four Andersen Walko Racing Entries Finish Hard-Fought Star Mazda Race at Road Atlanta BRASELTON, Ga., April 16 - Although all 16 of their tires were much worse for the wear, all four Andersen Walko Racing drivers finished ...

All Four Andersen Walko Racing Entries Finish Hard-Fought Star Mazda Race at Road Atlanta

BRASELTON, Ga., April 16 - Although all 16 of their tires were much worse for the wear, all four Andersen Walko Racing drivers finished Saturday's hard-fought, non-stop Star Mazda race at Road Atlanta Motorsports Park Saturday afternoon.

Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio had the best result, qualifying eighth and then blasting into fifth at the start before finishing a solid ninth in the No. 12, which is sponsored by The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch, Norwalk Furniture and Renier Construction.

Robbie Pecorari qualified one spot ahead of Rahal Saturday morning to share the fourth row with his teammate for the start of the 30-lapper around Road Atlanta's 2.54-mile road course. The Aston, Pa. driver slipped to 13th at the start but worked his way back up to 11th by lap 11. He had the SAI Hydraulics car as high as tenth for four laps, and then ran in 11th place the rest of the way to finish in that spot.

Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. had engine problems Thursday and Friday in his regular mount so he started the race in 37th spot in a car rented from Racer's Edge Motorsports. His mechanics put his regular bodywork on the car so that his sponsors, Nexus Distribution Corp., Midwest Steel and Services, Ironclad Performance Wear and ProStar, got their exposure, and then the hard-charging Klein battled his way through the field to finish 13th in the race.

Pablo Donoso of Santiago, Chile qualified tenth and was right behind Rahal in eighth place by lap seven before slipping to ninth. He was 13th when he spun in turn one on lap 15, dropping to 18th. His car wasn't handling well, and he had his hands full with the Cristal Beer entry to just finish the race in that position.

The race was won by Raphael Matos followed by the surprise pole-winner and new track record holder, Scott Jenkins; Matt Jaskol, Jonathan Bomarito and Ryan Justice. The race was a support event to the Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta American Le Mans Series (ALMS) headliner on Sunday.

In a late schedule change, Klein is now scheduled to appear on SPEED's Speed Freaks show on Saturday, April 23, not tonight. Tonight's program will feature Allan McNish, Randy Pobst and Tony Kanaan. On Saturday, April 23 at midnight ET (9 p.m. Pacific) the line-up will be Ron Fellows, Klein, Helio Castroneves, Buddy Rice and Boris Said. The April 23 show is also scheduled to be replayed the following Wednesday morning, April 27, at 8 a.m. ET, 5 a.m. Pacific.

TV viewers can see the Star Mazda season opener at Sebring on SPEED from 11 a.m. until noon Eastern time on Sunday, April 24. Saturday's Star Mazda race at Road Atlanta is scheduled to be aired on SPEED from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, May 29. Prior to that the third of 12 races will be held, however, as the series travels to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio for a race on Saturday, May 21.

Andersen Walko Racing's office is in Fairfield, N.J. and its shop is in North Versailles, Pa. For more information please see www.andersenwalko.com, www.starmazda.com, www.americanlemans.com and www.restartcommunications.com or call (973) 244-1900.

Driver quotes follow:

Graham Rahal: "I blistered my front tires.

"The start was awesome; I got up to fifth. But then my tires blistered, and I just had to concentrate on finishing.

"The car was good for a few laps, but then suddenly the push kicked in, mainly on the right-handers. My tires are all gone, but especially my left front.

"I had one close call when somebody didn't give me much room, but no real contact.

"I'm surprised there were no full-course cautions. There were cars off everywhere. Robbie Montonola flipped; it was a rough race. [Montonola wasn't hurt.] There were cars off the course everywhere but no real debris on the track; a little bit, but nothing big."

Robbie Pecorari: "The car lost balance from what we had this morning. I think we didn't compensate enough for how much hotter it was this afternoon than what it was this morning.

"It was understeering in the slow corners and oversteering in the high-speed corners. But at least we finished. To do well in the championship you have to finish as many races as you can, and at least we finished and got some points.

"I didn't have contact with anybody. My biggest problem was my tires overheated, especially my left front. Just keeping it on the track was hard towards the end.

"I was surprised there were no full-course yellows. We kind of struggled going down the straights, so that hurt us a little too."

Jonathan Klein: "I have to thank Rossella Manfrinato and Scott Gates and the entire Andersen Walko team, and also Jon Mirachi of Racer's Edge Motorsports, who rented us the car for the race.

"This was Rossella's first weekend with us and her first weekend working on these cars, and I'm really impressed with the work she and Scott Gates did this weekend. That was the best race car I've ever had in Star Mazda, including last year. It was totally consistent. I think I equaled my fastest lap right before the white flag.

"I had a little bit of contact right at the start with somebody, but nothing major. The start was really wild. Then after that I just concentrated on finishing the race. We started 37th and finished 13th, so that's not bad.

"I really have to thank Rossella and Scott though. They worked harder than any mechanics I've ever seen work. They just did a huge amount of work.

"We'll just regroup from here. We have to figure out the motor issue, and then we should be in good shape."

Pablo Donoso: "I don't understand it; we had problems with our suspension and our traction the whole race. I passed four guys in the first turn at the start, but then on the straight they all passed me again.

"It was oversteering, and then the tires went away and I spun in turn one. I didn't have contact with anybody.

"I just don't understand it. The car was perfect in practice and qualifying, and then two laps into the race, I lost the grip."

-awr-

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Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Allan McNish , Boris Said , Bobby Rahal , Tony Kanaan , Ron Fellows , Graham Rahal , Randy Pobst , Buddy Rice , Jonathan Bomarito , Robbie Pecorari , Pablo Donoso , Rossella Manfrinato , Jonathan Klein , Matt Jaskol