Andretti and Smith drive through field at Road Atlanta September 30, 2005. Braselton, Georgia. Road Atlanta, site of Round Eleven of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, is sprawling 2.5-mile circuit that features numerous ...
Andretti and Smith drive through field at Road Atlanta
September 30, 2005. Braselton, Georgia. Road Atlanta, site of Round Eleven of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, is sprawling 2.5-mile circuit that features numerous twists, turns and elevation changes. Those same words could be used to describe the emotions of the MJ Motorsports drivers and crew as they battled through a challenging weekend to place both drivers towards the front of the field.
"I wouldn't want to go through a weekend like this very often, but it just confirms that I have the best crew in the paddock," Team Principal Michael James said afterwards. "The work that these guys did to get both cars together for the race was amazing, and both Marco and Ross drove like they were possessed!"
The difficulties would begin prior to qualifying, when it was determined that the engines on both cars needed to be changed. Despite the heroic efforts of the crew, Marco Andretti was only able to post one lap during the session and Ross Smith failed to turn a lap, leaving both drivers at the back of the 30 car grid for the event. Further challenges arrived when it was determined prior to the race that Andretti's #11 Vonage sponsored machine required another engine swap. "We didn't expect the second engine change, especially with the race quickly approaching, but the crew rose to the occasion and not only changed the engine but had run through the setup on the alignment pad in only two hours." James explained.
Their efforts were rewarded in the race. Andretti, who would line up 28th, and Smith, who would start in 30th, both started slicing their way through the field as soon as the green flag flew. Over the next thirty laps they raced up the charts with Andretti cracking the top-ten, finishing ninth overall, and Smith close behind in twelfth place, all without the benefit of a caution flag to aid their efforts.
"I'm really proud of Marco and Ross today because they both drove like champions," James said. "They could've let the problems in qualifying bring them down for the rest of the weekend, but they just put their heads down and worked that much harder to get back to the front."
"Sure it was disappointing starting from the back, but that's how racing can be sometimes," Andretti, who currently sits fifth in the championship, commented. "Once the race started I was focusing on how to keep moving forward. The car was working great and if we had caught a caution period to close up the field we could've finished even higher."
Smith, who now sits seventh in the championship, had the same sentiments as Andretti. "It's a waste of time to dwell on what happened in a previous session. Once the green flag drops you just focus on the cars ahead of you and how to get around them. The MJ Motorsports crew had my car working well and I have to thank them for all their hard work this weekend."
The series now heads to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the season finale on October 13-15. Round Eleven from Road Atlanta will be televised by Speed Channel on November 6th at 1:00 PM Eastern Time.
About MJ Motorsports
MJ Motorsports is a new team formed by Michael and Jennifer James from the assets of the 2004 Star Mazda Championship winning factory effort. The team will operate out of their new facility in Gardena, California, and is actively looking at additional candidates to fill out their four car effort.