Hearn Motorsports Takes Oval Top-Ten at PIR
LAS VEGAS, Nev., October 8, 2004 -- Hearn Motorsports made its oval debut Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR). The day was bittersweet for the open wheel team owned by IndyCar winner Richie Hearn. The 75-lap Star Mazda Series North American Championship event was the only oval event for the series which tours many of North America's greatest road courses. Hearn had both cars qualified and running in the top-ten before an incident eliminated the team's highest-place car. The lap 27 accident ended the day for the No. 70 Showtime/ Samsung/ Skip Barber Racing School Mazda of Raphael "Rafa" Matos of Belo Horizonte, Brazil as he ran in the top-three. The No. 77 Thienes Engineering Mazda of Huntington Beach, California's Brian Thienes took his best finish since joining Hearn Motorsports with ninth.
The Phoenix round of the Star Mazda Series can be seen October 23 at 11:30 pm (ET) on SPEED. The Star Mazda season finale will be held on October 16 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
No. 70 Showtime/ Samsung/ Skip Barber Mazda, qualified: 10th, finished: 23rd -- The Phoenix oval suited Matos' fast and precise style. The weekend started-out well as Matos was among the quickest in each practice session. The 2003 Skip Barber Formula Dodge Champion qualified tenth in his first oval event with a time of 26.482 seconds (135.941 mph) around the one-mile circuit. He was running well, passing five cars on the first lap of the race, three before the first turn. Matos continued to dismantle the field working his way to third by lap 27. Closing on the leader, Matos went to pass the lapped car of Steve Cook. Entering the second-turn, Matos had nearly cleared the No. 39 of Cook when Cook lost control of his Star Mazda spinning into the back of Matos. Matos kept the car out of the wall but the Showtime/ Samsung/ Skip Barber entry's damage was too great to continue. Matos would end the day 23rd. Entering the final race of the season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Matos sits eighth in the Star Mazda Series North American Championship presented by Goodyear.
Richie Hearn: "Rafa was one of the few guys out there that had never raced on an oval. We should have qualified better but he didn't push on that first lap as hard as he could have. Just a case of being inexperienced in how you qualify on an oval. He was running fifth by the end of the first lap. Rafa was by far the fastest guy, other than McDowell. He was catching second place when he went to pass Cook. He was pretty much around him and Cook just spun and clipped Rafa spinning him out. There was too much damage to go on. It's a big, big challenge on the ovals the first time. Rafa pretty much got nothing for all of his efforts. That's disappointing. I think we had a good run but we didn't get the results that we deserved."
No. 77 Thienes Engineering Mazda, qualified: 7th, finished: 9th -- Brian Thienes enjoyed his best weekend of the season since joining Hearn Motorsports. In his second career Star Mazda start on an oval, Thienes qualified the No. 77 Thienes Engineering Mazda in seventh with a lap of 26.365 seconds (136.545 mph). He ran a trouble-free race to take ninth. Thienes currently sits 14th in the season-long points chase, 24 markers from tenth.
Richie Hearn: "Brian drove a very good race. The restarts hurt us. He got bottled-up a few times on the restarts and that kept Brian from moving up more. This was his best race to date. He did a good job but Brian was disappointed. But, you have to take what you can get sometimes."
For more on Hearn Motorsports and its 2004 Pro Formula Mazda Series' effort please visit www.richiehearn.com. To learn about Raphael Matos, visit his bilingual site at www.rafamatos.com. More on Brian Thienes can be found at www.thieneseng.com. For information on the Star Mazda Series, please visit www.starmazda.com.