Jenkins stays in championship hunt with second place finish at Phoenix
October 3, 2004. Phoenix, Arizona. Scott Jenkins loves ovals. In 2001, Jenkins captured the Star Mazda Series Red Line Oil Oval Championship, claiming victory in each race, so it was no surprise to find him on the podium with a solid second place finish in Round Nine of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship presented by Goodyear on the one-mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway.
"We're still in the championship battle with one race remaining," the excited Portland, Oregon native said following the event. "This is my first ever defeat in an oval race. I was hoping that I could gain an advantage with lapped traffic over the course of the race but Michael McDowell drove a great race and I wasn't able to exploit any weaknesses."
Driving the #31 Environmental Fibers International Mazda, prepared by Team Bucknum Racing, Jenkins would line up second at the start of the 75-lap event and would battle McDowell side-by-side early in the event. "My crew gave me a great car again this weekend and I was doing all I could to get around Michael in those early laps, but I also knew how important it is to finish the races so I didn't take a chance with a low percentage pass on the outside," Jenkins explained.
Jenkins would have several more opportunities to challenge for the lead, as the race was interrupted by two caution periods, allowing him to close up directly behind McDowell for the restarts but McDowell was able to defend his position. "Going back to the lapped traffic again, I really felt that would be my advantage and the caution periods cut down on the time that we would face that traffic," Jenkins explained. "Michael was able to get some laps with a clear track ahead of him for those restarts."
Consistency has played an important role in Jenkins' success in the 2004 campaign as he has earned five trips to the podium and finished in the top ten in each of the first nine races. "In the past I might've made a high-risk pass attempt and taken myself out of the race, but this season I have concentrated on driving smart and it has paid dividends," Jenkins related. "Combined with the team giving me a solid car week in and week out has led to a shot at the championship."
With one race remaining in the season, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on October 14-16, Jenkins sits third in the championship, 36 points behind McDowell. While he knows he's a long shot, he remains optimistic about his chances. "Anything can happen in the last race of the year, especially in a series as competitive as this one," Jenkins said. "Michael, Dan DiLeo and I are all going to do everything we can to win the race and the championship and we'll see where things fall."
Scott Jenkins returned to the Star Mazda Series in 2004 after a two year absence. In addition to the 2001 Red Line Oil Oval Championship, Jenkins was the 2001 Star Mazda West Coast Series Champion and finished fourth in the 2001 Star Mazda Series North American Championship.